Build the Perfect Guest Bedroom Suite for Just $500

When your boyfriend casually mentions on the way to the airport that he’ll be returning from Spain with a European houseguest (who will be staying for TWO weeks), you pretty much go home, take one look at your guest bedroom and panic.

I bought this house 13 months ago. It was filled with filthy mattresses and abandoned iguanas. Smelled like a pet store and a dentist office had a baby. The only way my real estate agent could keep me from going catatonic at signing was by whispering the mantra, “It’s just carpet and paint. It’s just carpet and paint.”

Only this house has turned into so much more than carpet and paint. In the little more than a year that I’ve owned it, the basement has flooded 4 times. Once when a pipe burst in the ceiling, twice as groundwater seeped in through a crack in the foundation, and only once with sewer water. Believe me, once is enough.

We’ve renovated 2 bathrooms, 1 kitchen, the countertops and flooring. Steadied the deck. Rewired the electrical boxes. And replaced one furnace. The other one is on it’s way out.

It’s been a revolving schedule of dust and drywall. At a late afternoon picnic last week, my general contractor walked inside, grabbed a hot dog and beer, mentioned casually that we needed to recover the can lights above the kitchen sink, then headed outside to hang with the fam. A year ago I didn’t even know the guy. Now he attends family parties and calls to check in on random Wednesdays.

Which is all to say: it’s been quite a year.

The things that needed the most attention have received it. Wet carpet and wet paint. Staving off leaks and making sure toilets flush. So you can imagine everything else has been a lot neglected.

Which brings us back to the guest bedroom.

The guest bedroom sits in a quiet corner of the basement. And has become a receptacle for all random furniture and linens that I can’t yet bring myself to drive to the thrift store. Thrift store donation drop-off and post office line-standing, two things I will avoid until the end of time.

We’ve had a few random guests stay in that room. Mostly family. All of whom have received the apologetic “please forgive the decor” tour. The room has been an mash-up of casual and contemporary modern furniture. Flea market finds and a few poorly picked pictured from my “maybe birds on every painting is a fun idea” phase.

In sum, in the spirit of Marie Kondo, little of anything in that room brings joy. It’s a discolored and sad and cold and unwelcoming mess.

In sum, in the spirit of Marie Kondo, little of anything in that room brings joy. It’s a discolored and sad and cold and unwelcoming mess.

So with countdown clock on, and a European guest arriving in no time at all, I set out to make the space modern, cozy and welcoming.

5 Space-Shifting Tricks

When renovating on a limited budget (or any budget, for that matter), having a few priorities helps you spend money on the smartest items. Here are a few of the styling ideas I kept in mind as I selected room accessories.

1. Pick a 3-Color Palette

Our guest room already had a giant king-sized bed. And as much as I wish I could start fresh, I didn’t have time or budget to toss it. So let that piece become the base for my color palette. The grey quilting on the backboard is clean, slightly formal and modern. So I limited my accessories to pinks, whites and grays with a gold accent. Narrowing down the options to a 3-color helps you limit the creative madness, and select basic items that coordinate on the color wheel.

2. Mix Textures

Forget the old-school approach to bedrooming, where everything must match, coordinate and be part of a set. Embrace your inner boho and select an eclectic, natural mix of woods, textures and patterns. A simple rule: purchase opposites. Large furs pillows pair nicely with simple burlap textures, big stripes pair nicely with teensy pinstripes, grey woods look beautiful with natural redwoods and big woven baskets. Don’t be afraid to combine a variety of items to create a cozy look.

3. Go for Greens

Instead of nailing frames to your wall, keep it simple and hang shelves, then decorate with succulents, greens and other plants. Greens always add welcome organic lines to a room. As with the rule above, pair big pots with little pots. Some with texture, some without, but keep plant holders mostly coordinated with your color palette.

4. Build a Bar

Give your guests the comforts of home by creating a sidebar of essentials. Snacks, drinks and a single serve coffee machine, so they don’t have to come rustle around in your kitchen whenever they want to nosh.

5. Hang Curtains

Forget the pricey drapes and try this trick: 15’x4’ painters drop cloths from your local home improvement store can be draped over a curtain rod (or pinned with clip-on drape hooks) for a super cheap, no-sew, beautifully natural looking curtain.

60 Minute Makeover

Total time lapsed: 67 minutes. From removing everything from the old room to tucking in the edges of the new duvet, this quick room renovation took just over an hour. T-minus 5 days until the guest arrives, and I’ve got plenty of time to sit back, relax and celebrate.

Now that’s my kind of renovation.