June 28, 2015




Yes, all the decorating magazines have had articles on guest rooms; how to outfit them, sleeping in them yourself so you know what the room needs.. blah, blah, blah… those stories are usually written by some wanna-be twits raised on a Cul-de-Sac in New Jersey.
Forget all that...
What'll make your house a special place for your guests?
A wonderful stay at someone’s home involves many things: Relaxed hosts, pleasant activities, enjoying the regions beauty and a comfy room to retire to. However, most importantly…is being the perfect house guest!

Funny you should ask…..
Here are some common sense rules to go by…

  1. DO arrive with a nice, well-though-out gift! Perhaps a half-case of wine, a plant or something they’ll enjoy after you leave. Don't bring something that requires immediate work like cut flowers or raw steaks.
  2. DON’T invade personal spaces: Home offices, master-bedrooms, kid’s rooms, and staff quarters.
  3. DON’T request too much of a domestic worker.
  4. DO make yourself useful; clear the table, walk the dog, fluff the sofa pillows before you go to bed, etc.
  5. DO defer to your hosts choice for TV or news shows when watching together.
  6. DON’T complain about anything; baby crying, lumpy bed, neighbors dog barking.
  7. DO put your coffee mugs in the dishwasher; don’t leave them in the sink rinsed out.
  8. DO treat to at least one nice meal when out to dinner with your hosts.
  9. DON’T take your pet without asking before hand. Hosts don’t want to remember your weekend with them for the next 10 years by Fluffie’s indelible pee stains in the center of the white living room carpet.
  10. DON’T arrive at awkward times, too late or too early. Ask your hosts what is the best time to show up.. and do it as they have most likely made plans.

(Anyone would be comfortable in either of these twin-bedded rooms)


Well, I just happen to have an answer for that too, imagine.

  1. DO provide the best accommodations that you can without being pretentious or showy.
  2. DO have a mutually understood time frame for your guests arrival and departure and be ready at the time you agreed on.
  3. DO make guests feel welcome even before they arrive.
  4. DON’T complain about other guests you’ve hosted in the past.
  5. DO give a quick, but comprehensive tour of your home so guests know where to find the laundry room, pool cabana, snack foods, bar, bicycles, alarm keypad, etc. Anticipate their needs.
  6. DO have snack foods prepared and ready for consumption in the fridge or pantry and tell them that it’s in there for them.
  7. DO ask when inviting your guests “do you have any allergies - food or otherwise, that we need to know of?” They may be allergic to cats and you have 15! Or seafood, or nuts and all your pre-planned menus involve one or the other…(cats taste nasty too!)
  8. DON’T rush your guests around to see everything in your area; let them relax and enjoy what they see. And, also don’t sit around the day they arrive trying to figure out what to do. Have a malleable plan which is geared towards their interests. Don’t take people to stand in line for hours to see the “First Ladies Gowns” exhibit when all they want to do is go to the beach…
  9. DON’T bring it up if your guests do something irritating,. Just don’t invite them again.
  10. DO STAY RELAXED the most horrible experience is to be around someone anxious or distracted. That may translate to your guests that they’ve done something wrong…then the whole weekend is amiss.

Vivid memories of being treated well, naturally in a comfortable unpretentious manner will persevere. Houses with simple guest rooms that arent luxurious but well appointed make the most impact! The lighting, sheets, pillows, blackout shades, bathroom, towels and robes should be offered in casual style. Nothing matchy-matchy…just super clean!
Luxury, by today’s standards is all about using super name-droppy-luxury goods with the obvious branding exposed so the guests will feel like their at a rich persons house. $100 candles, beds that look like displays, twenty towels, etc, etc….. Feh!!
All that overdone shit makes guests uncomfortable, they’ll stress about using anything and messing it up.


Create a typed list (saved on your PC!) of pertinent information for your guests:
Your mobile phone number(s), the house phone number, your exact address, the house fax number, instructions for the alarm (text them the code for security), how to use the TV or radio, gated community info, the maids name, where to park, where the pool towels are, where the laundry room is, where the bicycles and kayaks are, neighbors names, not to freak out if they see a one-armed man pulling weeds, etc.
This list accomplishes two things: 1.) It gives the guests better bearings and it makes them feel more comfortable and connected as you have shared all your “inside info” with them. 2.) It helps in an emergency if you're not around.

If your guests will be going out and about without you, make a separate list they can take with them showing shopping areas, museums and current exhibits, nice parks, and your favorite local restaurants with maps to and from. Make this list attractive and well thought-out as your guests may take it with them when they leave to remind them of their lovely visit with you and all they've done whilst visiting.
Place all the literature, suggestions, lists and items of interest in a small, open box or basket that’s kept in the guest room. This economizes on your time by anticipating their needs so you won't have to re-gather everything when the next guests arrive. Make a special ring of keys for guests that you will immediately recognize as the guest keys.

Outfitting the room


(These swanky VIP guest rooms are all so inviting)

  • 1. A comfortable, firm mattress is a must. It’s just not cool to assume they’ll be fine on that old worn out mattress that you used for 25 years...which says “we don’t give a rats ass about your comfort.”
NOTE: A good idea if you only have one guest room is to have a pair of twin beds as you can put unrelated people in the same room. They can be pushed together as a king (dual), but should be made up separately.

  • 2. A soft, good quality, cotton, quilted mattress pad. (Many people are allergic to down)
  • 3. Nice linens, they don’t have to be Frette, but good quality 400 count, 100% Egyptian cotton sheets. 
  • 4. GOOD pillows!!! Each guest should have three pillows:
  • a) 1 medium-density
  • b) 1 slightly firm-density fiber-filled pillow (allergies!)
  • c) 1 boudoir pillow for propping up the head, or between their knees (for side sleepers)
  • 5. One thin cotton blanket
  • 6. One thick blanket (Merino wool, cashmere, camel hair or silk)
  • 7. A medium weight down-filled duvet with a cotton washable cover in winter.
  • 8. A wool or cashmere throw; one person may like it warmer than the other person whilst sleeping. It can also be used for curling up in the chair with a book.
  • 9. Reasonably normal temperatures in the room; A/C @ 72-77 Heat @ 68-76
  • 10. Clear dresser or table tops for guests to spread out their own things, nothing worse then seeing an huge display of crap and nowhere to put your own things...
  • 11. Tissue box in bedroom
  • 12. Bottled flat/still water (or a carafe with cool water) and two glasses on a small tray with napkins
  • 13. Two bedside lamps suitable to read by, switched independently with 3-way bulbs (25-50-100)
  • 14. Comfortable reading chair(s) & ottoman with a soft throw pillow.
  • 15. An adjustable lamp next to the reading chair with a 3-way bulb (50-100-150)
  • 16. Luggage rack(s)
  • 17. Full length mirror (in bath, closet or bedroom)
  • 18. Closet options for long and short hanging clothing,
  • 19. Various types of hangers and a lint brush
  • 20. Two terry cloth robes in the closets with two pair washable slippers
  • 21. A waste basket
  • 22. TV, yes a TV is a must now days. A person may want to be alone for a while, or prefers to watch TV when they go to bed, or wake up. Make sure the remote’s batteries are new.
  • 23. An iPod dock/charger with clock is a good idea.
  • 24. WIFI capability with the router pass-code on your guest info sheet.
  • 25. A small writing table for laptop use, replete with pencils, pens and note pads which could be a double-duty bedside table as shown below.

  • 26. Accessible receptacles for recharging electronics. Guests don’t want to move furniture to plug in.
  • 27. Windows that open with screens; many people love the windows open at night.
  • 28. A small portable fan if the AC is not in use.
  • 29. Black-out curtains or blinds and a switchable night light
  • 30. A privacy lock on the door


(this sleep sofa above has its linens and pillows hidden in the ottoman with casters on the bottom to make it easy to roll out of the way)

  • Items # 1. through 10. from above
  • 11. If it’s a sleep-sofa, remove all the decorative pillows from the room so your guest. doesn't have to find a place to put them. Pull the bed out and make it up as if it was a regular bed, ready to get into.
  • 12. If the room is a private room, a library or home office perhaps remove as much stuff as possible for your privacy and places for them to put their things.
  • 13. Clear the tables next to the bed, or sofa-bed and provide a place to set up their luggage and a toiletry kit.
  • 14. Windows coverings with blackout ability.
  • 15. Remove some items from the closet; have various types of hangers so they may hang a few things up.
  • 16. If this room isn't that large or super comfortable make sure you have a small nook or private area elsewhere in the house for your guests to relax in and get away from you(!)
  • 17. A small vase with fresh flowers.
  • 18. If there’s space an iPod dock/clock.
  • 19. A switchable nightlight.
  • 20. A basket with the items # 9 through 14 from below.


(keep the sink top clear except for a tray of guest toiletries)


  • 1. Two bath towels, two hand towels and two washcloths per person, NO bath sheets, they’re too big to hang up and they don’t dry quickly. Include a black washcloth for a lady to remove her makeup with.
  • 2. A ‘lightly scented’ room spray/deodorizer.
  • 3. Extra good-quality toilet paper in an obvious place, within reach of the toilet.
  • 4. A toilet brush in an attractive holder (or under the sink) and a plunger under the sink.
  • 5. A rug in front of the sink and toilet.
  • 6. A non-slip tub mat (if needed).
  • 7. A bath mat.
  • 8. Exposed receptacle.
  • 9. New soaps…NO used soaps, ever.
  • 10. Good quality, (full) shampoo and conditioner, small tester bottles are fine.
  • 11. Hairdryer.
  • 12. Tester sizes of: deodorant, mouthwash, disp. razors, toothpaste and floss, few tampons and panty-liners.
  • 13. Two new tooth brushes (in their packaging)
  • 14. A waste basket.
  • 15. A small LIGHTLY scented candle, with a pack of matches.
  • 16. Deck space for two toiletry bags.
  • 17. Small vase with fresh flowers.


  • 1. through 11. from above
  • 12. Remove as much personal stuff that you can, practically.
  • 13. Waste basket.
  • 14. Either a towel rack in the bathroom for the guests towels only, or a rack in the bedroom for their towels.
  • 15. Night light, lit.


- Provide a plate or basket with an assortment of: Apples, bananas, candy bar(s), mints, nuts, a pack of cheese crackers. Also a knife to cut the apple and a few cocktail napkins. It keeps them from wandering through your house starving at 3:00 AM, looking for snacks.

- 3 or 4 of the latest magazines; Vogue, el Décor, Time, or People, a national newspaper and a local paper with ‘goings on’ in your area. A few old Decorating magazines are always good somewhere in the room too.

- Fresh flowers! Not a huge funereal arrangement but something nice, fresh and colorful. It needs to be movable as many people (yours truly) have allergies to cut flowers.

- A book or two that maybe you've read, or think your guests might enjoy. Let them have it, don’t hock them about returning it.

- A photo of you and that guest from another time. It can be in one of those wire clips or take a framed one from another room and place it in their room for the weekend.

- A small rug next to the bed if you have bare wood floors.

- Space for a guest’s doggy bed

- If you have space in the room or in a walk-in closet put a baby fridge in it outfitted with water, soda’s, cold coffee beverages, single-serving-size applesauce or fruit-cups.

- I think a guest room (and most bedrooms) should have wall-to-wall carpeting for acoustic purposes.

- A simpler décor is best, neutrals, etc. It is always interpreted as restful.

- Soft or dimmed lighting in the hallways, left on at night.

(These lovely, large guest rooms above have a work table in the room which is a great touch)
These rooms above were all done on tight budgets from lower-price retailers

Mark Twain once said house guests are like fish- they are only good for three days.

As a kid I often stayed over at my maternal grandparents house; a charming hodge-podge of collections from a life well-lived, arranged modestly with good taste and charm. Their guest room, which I loved, was the coziest place on earth to me! Its walls were covered in large lilac-patterned wallpaper; the trim and mouldings were painted dusty rose. There was a bed so high you needed a special stool to get in and out. Clipped over the top of the headboard was this wonderful light for reading with a silk and lace shade. The sumptuous bed pillows were various sizes and plentiful; the fancy sheets were always fresh and deliciously slick with starch. The blanket and cover choices were always appropriate for the season. Mostly cotton & wool blankets, or quilted silk comforters. It had a huge Empire chest-of-drawers and on top was my great grandmothers Limoges “suite d’toilet,” on a beautifully embroidered dresser scarf. Adjacent was a dressing mirror the size of a barn door. On the floor lain a threadbare Persian carpet; the window had lace curtains installed behind old gilded valances and a blackout “roller-shade” with a silky pull-cord. There were several glass lamps with lace appliquéd silk shades and a small arm-chair upholstered in pink silk moire - staged with needlepoint pillows and a frizzy, off-white mohair throw. That room also had a big walk-in closet which was filled with every amenity one could conjure for comfort, e.g.: luggage racks, more pillows, padded hangers with big satin bows, and even more comforters.

However, my very best memories are olfactory, not visual or fiscal – they are the congeries of scents; barely noticeable aromas produced by open bowls of my Great Aunts home-made pot-pourri, made with the rose petals from her Palm Beach rose garden.
Just outside in the upstairs hall was a fabulous antique Moroccan light fixture with multi-colored glass jewels - through which the dim light projected its colors all over the upstairs hall all night... THAT was magical!
The huge old-fashioned bead-board bathroom walls were painted white. A large enameled cast-iron pedestal sink was surmounted by an antique mahogany mirror, which was flanked by glass sconces with those ubiquitous lace and silk shades. The footed tub had no overhead shower - only a rubbery hand-held one. There was blue wall-to-wall carpeting (it was the 70’s after all) and a wonderful chaise-longue, slip-covered in white polished chintz with an African violet pattern. In one corner stood a coat tree hung with lots of old-fashioned straw hats and white terrycloth robes. The light scent of lavender from soaps and bowls of purple lavender blossoms drifted from the linen closet which was ‘staged’ with toiletries, towels, odd sized silver-lidded bottles, seashells, etc. The closet door was always purposely half-open.

My waxing poetic about overnights at grandmothers is exactly the point of this missive….send them away with a memory, not an impression....

You can do it, I'm here to help

June 3, 2015


N  A  U  T  I  C  A  L     R  O  O  M  S
And, what makes them nautical!


A "nautical room" is one that looks and feels like someone who actually knows a port hole from a bung hole lives there.  It can be in the architecture, the accessories or even the vista's.  Ralph Lauren's quasi-successful attempt at the "nautical" interior is always over tweaked, over romanticized...and to real sailors it looks especially twee.

(Gary McBournie)
A nautically inspired home is also different from a home at the seashore; it's saltier, less chintz - more canvas, less floral - more durable, less feminine - more masculine.

As a lifelong sailor myself I've always been attracted to anything "boat-ish;" an errant oar in a corner of the porch or the use of old time-worn charts applied as wallpaper, those are things that feel comfortable to me.   


 Here are some photos of Nautical rooms which I've been collecting as I think they give the essence of what I'm talking about.

L  I  V  I  N  G     R  O  O  M  S

Isn't this an awesome room? Everything about it is perfection!
The rich blue walls with the large-scale nautical charts, the mahogany furniture and simple textiles all contribute to a very smart looking room.

(Joseph Paul Davis)
This is a room I decorated for House Beautiful Magazine  a few years back and I chose a nautical theme.  The telescope, a framed chart, sailboat photos and the brown "Tall-Ships" transferware are all modest acquisitions.  There are four different check-patterned cotton fabrics, simple painted floors, and sloppy slipcovers on everything creating a totally chillaxed look.

(Coastal Living)
What makes this small townhouse (somewhat) interesting is the "star compass" on the floor, otherwise, it would be a another plain blue and white room.

(Joseph Paul Davis)
This home I did for a couple who are major boaters. We added a few pieces of "nautical" decor to give this house a Nantucket feel.  The large globe-like fixture is a nod to Ferdinand Magellan; the wall sconces have large scallop-shell backs; the ships wheel centered on the balcony (or bridge) above adds charm and makes the home specific to the owners.

(Coastal Living)
I'd freekin' live on this porch, right?!?!?!

This bad-ass mish-mosh is made of all sorts of bits and pieces from here and there. The old surfboard and the blue palate make it feel nautical and beachy.  A place that screams don't worry about your sandy feet.

(Joseph Paul Davis)
This was actually my own boat, a 1939 Trumpy, which I totally restored. For the interiors I didn't want the "red, white and blue bit" that most boaters choose, so I went with red, white and tan which complimented the black walnut panelling throughout.

(Joseph Paul Davis)
This is the library of a "boating" client of mine.
I used narrow tongue-and-groove with the mahogany caps on the ceiling and or the walls I used horizontal (ship-lap) mahogany wainscoting with flush mount brass pulls and accented it with the hand carved mahogany rope detail on the chair railing.

(Herlong Architects)
This totes-cray billiards room feels as if it's inside the hull of a glorious sailing vessel. The teak and panelling with the holly and teak floors are what gives it individuality.

(Lisa Creegan)
The is the perfect, casual, seaman's house!
Casual, bright and not overdone.

Here's an old house done up with a nautical theme for a sport fisherman. 
The horizontal wood paneling is the perfect background for the crisp blue.

(Keller Donavan)
This handsome Nantucket home feels nautical and simple. 
The beautiful faux-wood wallpaper on the walls gives a drift-woody effect to the space. The use of solid, clear colors is what works here. Pastels suck for implying "nautical."

(Suzanne Kassler)
This wonderfully fresh version of nautical is so welcome!  You don't have to "do" old-fashioned when you "do" nautical.

(Gary McBournie)
OMG, this is the best nautical kitchen I've ever seen!
The grate-fronted cabinets, mahogany tops and knobs are authentic and practical.  Don't you totally dig that ceiling left exposed? 

(Ralph Lauren)
This is the aforementioned Ralph Lauren advert and a perfect example of what I mean by "too twee," it just isn't genuinely nautical as it's way too feminine and too staged looking.  
Queue the fishnets with glass balls and styrofoam mermaids and crabs

D  I  N  I  N  G     R  O  O  M  S

(India Hicks)
Whaaaaat? Inexpensive furniture in a crappy room looks this cool?
Uh yahhhh...
Paint everything bright white
Add an inexpensive online/catalogue table
Add el-cheapo directors chairs with white covers
Hang charts of the local Bahamian waters on the walls... 
Geeeeniiiiuuuus! (Oprah voice)

This casual feeling is accomplished by using classic elements in a casual manner;  the Irish console painted white, the English dining chairs in a canvas stripe, and so on.

B  E  D  R  O  O  M  S

Anyone who knows me will know I luvs me a room that looks great and doesn't cost anything, and this one kicks-ass!  Old charts as wallpaper, yard-sale furniture and wall-to-wall carpeting (which is always cheaper than refinishing floors and buying a rug) 
Dontcha wanna spend the weekend here?  aiight then.

(House and Home)
I love the crispness and clean look of this space.  Remove the small toy cars on the wall shelf and it's perfect for any age. 


(Patrick Sutton)
The formula doesn't get any easier than this;  strap a kayak to the ceiling, hang up some oars and bing-bang-boom, you're done!  No cutesy lighthouse lamps, or boring, fake boat prints on the walls...

I've shown this image before, it's so freeking perfect for a nautical theme!  Mahogany framed beds with white tongue-and-groove panels are a shipwrights Viagra!

(Phoebe Howard)
This ship-shape room implies an antique patina by using the dark Victorian style beds, but its totally freshened up with the textiles and accessories.

B  A  T  H  R  O  O  M  S

This wicked-cool sink has a top made from a mahogany ships wheel. It's awesome with the chrome accents.  A brass sink would look like hell as it never looks clean.

(Sig Bergamin)
This Tommy Bahama number is definitely working for me.
It doesn't scream nautical - but nautical shouldn't scream nautical anyhow!

Arrrgh matey, I'm gonna take me wooden leg off and soak me personal parts in this mahogany tub while lookin' at me frigate thar yonder in na harbor

Porthole in a shower...cool as shit, riiight?

Ahhh yes, a dinghy to soak yer dinghy!
This, while being totally over the top is also way cool. Notice the backgrounds are kept simple to allow the tub center stage.

B  A  D     N  A  U  T  I  C  A  L     R  O  O  M  S

Dontcha think this is just a slight bit too staged looking?  Nice view, but all those made-in-China gift shop accessories are nasty! 

 Stamped pony-hide zebra and pre-teen throw pillows??  Let's hope this is a rental unit somewhere.

They did a 30 minute sweep through Pottery Barn and now be feelin' all nautical.....riiiight, as if...

Little Jimmy's nautical bedroom...in Idaho.
OK, just how totally dorky can you get???

A  C  C  E  S  S  O  R  I  Z  I  N  G  

The use of yachting trophies and awards are always fun; a collection is even better.

(Joe Nye)
An American holiday table dressed to impress the Commodore, indeed!

These andirons are such a good way to add some nautical flavor to your room.

What a cool way to give a little maritime flavor to your home.  The "lines" could be a bit thicker but the idea  with the brass cleats is great.
ogany newel posts; the painted ship-lap walls.

(Designer: Phoebe Howard)
This boring hallway is made interesting by using brackets to show a series of model boats

(Coastal Living)
This scrappy, old room with the tired knotty-pine paneling is fun and beachy with the use of some lobster-pot buoys, a Sailfish and a few found shells sitting around.  Honest and charming.

Simple is as simple does!

Just the addition of a fixture like this will add a fun touch. If you're crafty you could easily make something just as smart looking.

Accessories like these pillows can be great fun in a kids room or on a porch, but will look totally lame in the living room

I wish you clear skies and smooth sailing!

You can do it, I'm here to help!

Ph: 202.669.8669
E: jpdsodpb@aol.com


THE DECORATING STAPLE THAT'S ALWAYS IN STYLE SISAL!! (Source: Phoebe Howard)    Since sisal's introduction to the interi...