Can You Do A Guestroom Suite on a Shoestring Budget?

Hi Everyone,

How are y’all doing?

I know. It’s December. And, I know that some of you got some snow today. It missed us here, but we’ve had a lot of clouds, wind, and rain.


In other news, people are still looking at my apartment.


Although there’s a confirmed offer, there is no signed contract as of yet. But, hopefully, that’ll be happening soon.

Okay. I guess most of you know that I no longer take on new clients. However, maybe once a year, I will help an old client with a small project. You might recall this kitchen I worked on late last year and early this year.


Well, the other day a long-time family friend contacted me.


And, actually, I had helped them with some small things in the past. So, when they asked if I could help with their guestroom suite, I couldn’t say no. Okay, it probably isn’t clear why I couldn’t say no, but I can’t say any more than that because they have requested anonymity. Just know that this family is dear to me, and it is an honor to help them in any way that I can.


To get started with the guestroom suite, I discussed a budget.


At first, it was only $5,000, which would be difficult for a guest bedroom suite that’s a bedroom with a living area that’s almost 350 square feet. However, the budget has swelled to 15k.

But, here’s the thing about furniture in today’s marketplace. Most of it is either.


  •  expensive
  • cheap

Yes, there are some moderate-priced brands. Pottery Barn is probably my favorite in that category. Gosh, in our old townhouse, half of it was from Pottery Barn. No joke! There are also many moderate brands on Wayfair. Wayfair runs the gamut from super cheap to super expensive. But, they have a lot of super cheap. And, super cheap is fine as long as it holds up and doesn’t look super-cheap.


We also discussed the styling of the new guestroom suite.


Although, I already knew because I’ve been to this coastal New England home several times. Plus, they sent me a photo from Serena and Lily.

Well, of course, I would love to do a room filled with gorgeous furnishings from Serena and Lily. However, even on sale, their furniture is not inexpensive. It’s fully custom, made in the USA, and of high quality, however. Still, even on sale, a sofa and two chairs will run at least $8,000.00.  We need to keep a sofa and two chairs down to about $3,000.00. Why? Well, I went over what’s required to finish the room, and here’s the list in addition to the sofa and two club chairs.


  • two end tables
  • coffee table
  • four or five lamps
  • one, maybe two rugs
  • pillows for sofa and chairs
  • king-sized bed
  • bed linens
  • night tables
  • maybe a bench for the end of the bed
  • dresser
  • artwork/accessories
  • Maybe some window treatments

Plus, there’s shipping and handling and taxes for at least some of it.


So, how do I begin to design a guest suite? Who knows the answer?


Yes, Maggie, I believe you had your hand up first.


You make a plan.


Yes, that’s right! Very good!

So, did I do that?

No, of course not. Haha, I started looking at furniture.


And, you know what?


That’s okay. That’s because it’s difficult to make a plan unless you have an idea of what you’re going to put in that space.

So, I began the other day looking at furniture for the guestroom suite.

I started looking at beds, sofas, and chairs.

But, sometimes, I start with the space planning.

I didn’t do that this time because I could clearly see where the bed would go and the seating area. That doesn’t mean that this room is a no-brainer to figure out. No. In fact, it’s crucial to pay close attention to the dimensions of the furniture so that you don’t get into a situation of overlapping perpendicular pieces. OR, furniture that overlaps door or window mouldings.

This is where the 333 Decorating Rules and Tips You Need to Know will come in mighty handy. It’s like a cheat sheet for when you go shopping for furniture. It helps with the scale, sizing, and spacing of various furniture pieces in all of the major living and sleeping spaces in your home.


Okay. Do you know what is more difficult than designing a room?


It’s trying to design, source, and write about what you’re doing all simultaneously.

So, I probably won’t finish this today.

But, here’s what I have so far.


The Gallaghers (not their real name) sent me some photos of the room where their youngest is currently hanging out when she’s home from college.


They also sent me a floor plan, and I then created this scale schematic. floor plan guestroom suiteI did it in Picmonkey with a superimposed grid on my board to keep my scale accurate.

The room is almost 14 feet wide by 25 feet long. So, it’s a good-sized room. In fact, it’s the size of most living rooms.


And, below is the furniture layout for this guestroom suite.


guestroom suite remodel floor plan
At the bottom of the plan is a lounge area with a sofa and two club chairs. The Gallaghers already have a seagrass rug they like. Also, I added a 36″ round coffee table and two end tables, and lamps.


pottery-barn-carlisle-sofa - bench seat - guestroom suite


For here, I’m thinking of a deep, comfortable sofa like the Pottery Barn Carlisle sofa with a bench seat in the 82″ size. Oh, I am hoping there’s room in the budget for down cushions. I would rather cut back in other areas than the sofa. This is a terrific sofa because when the back cushions come off, it makes a pretty darned good spare bed– for one person, of course.

Pottery Barn Carlisle sofa everyday performance velvetI’m not expecting them to do white, although I love that, and it comes in performance fabrics that are super practical, even if white. But, this everyday performance velvet would be lovely too. It can be brightened up with beautiful pillows and a throw. Right now, Serena and Lily have all of their pillows, throws, and bed linens on sale!


Soma Mina club chair Pottery BarnFor the club chairs, they could do the Soma Mina club chair from PB.




Or, one of my other favorites, as many of you know, the Irving club chair. Even though the room will have a beachy vibe, I love to add some heft with a bit of leather. It helps to ground the space.


Let’s move on to the bed area of the guestroom suite.


The Gallaghers are all in for a king-sized bed. I love clients who know what they want. I asked them if they wanted the option to make it two twin beds, and they indicated not.


Now, here’s where the rubber meets the road.


Upholstered beds can run upwards of five large. And, we don’t have five large to work with. But, we also don’t want the Gallagher’s guests sleeping on a piece of crap. Right? This is when I rely on the reviews. Raise your hand if you do that too.

I love to check out Wayfair, and I don’t mess around. I make as a condition that the piece MUST have five stars. And, the more, the better. Well, I found some very nice five-star beds in dark blue.

Here’s one of them. It has 33 reviews, and 31 of them gave this bed five stars! That works for me!


I’m not linking to it because the stock is low. Sorry. If you have to have this bed or you’ll die, please contact me, and I’ll let you know.


I love this bed because it doesn’t have that gap you often see between the headboard and the mattress frame. I prefer this because sometimes it’s obvious that there’s a gap and I feel it cheapens the bed.


My other pet peeve about cheap budget beds is when they put those silly little legs on the frame.


It’s as if they think we won’t notice that they’re not real legs? Well, guys. Guess what? We do notice them, and IMO, they’re pretty pathetic. These aren’t the best legs, but they’re tall and tapered. And, I do love the rest of the bed. I think it’ll be quite lovely when made up. One thing I love is the lower headboard.


This room is only eight-feet tall, and I find super tall headboards can look out of scale in a room with a lower ceiling height. I like that the rails are a little higher off the ground, giving it a lighter look. And yet, this bed can hold up to 700 pounds.

- Raleigh Bed Pottery Barn 1199 before 20% off


Pottery Barn also makes an attractive upholstered bed with a variety of fabric options.


I thought it would be cool for a rug to do a Mark D. Sikes favorite and start with a seagrass rug and layer it with a flat weave blue and white stripe in the bed area. In this case, it’s an indoor/outdoor rug I found.


Soraya Blue and White indoor/outdoor rug.


I’d love to change the curtains and have them hung higher and with rings.


Ballard Design Bowen Striped drapery curtain - guestroom suite


These ready-mades from Ballard Designs are on sale. They’re 96″ and will need to be hemmed, however.

I’d also love to see some architectural embellishments like a small crown moulding and perhaps some applied wall mouldings.


Luxe architectural self-sticking mouldings

These are from one of my favorite sources in the new Best of Etsy Guide is Luxe Architectural. The guide is about 150 sources and only $29 if you get it alone. However, you can get it for free, along with the 333 Decorating Rules and Tips Guide, if you get any of my other guides. That’s only from now through the 30th of this month.

Anyway, those mouldings come already put-together with a ton of instructions. And, they are self-sticking! Luxe Architectural also does custom work. Or, you can do what I always do.

Hire someone. lol


Okay, of course, there’s more. However, it will have to wait.


  • Nightstands
  • lamps
  • bench
  • dresser
  • pillows
  • linens
  • art/accessories
  • TV


I’m very much liking the direction this space is going in.


I hope the Gallagher’s like it too. Or, at least some of it.




Please check out the newly updated HOT SALES and the HOLIDAY SHOP filled with holiday decorating ideas and gift guides.


27 Responses

  1. Love the Carlisle sofa! I found it on your blog and bought it this year. I even bought it in blue. You’re right with the bench cushion it makes a comfortable bed! I will say it is deep. That’s great for curling up but not so great for sitting if you’re on the short side like me. Their new tight back version was more comfortable but they don’t make a slipcover for it and that’s not negotiable with my furry ones.

  2. Oh dear Laurel, yes, YES you can be very proud of yourself. My post was not so much directed to designers with clients as to those with perhaps more time than $. I love your blog. You have especially made paint selection so much easier. Thanks to you, I chose Palladium Blue for our front room- so perfect in the Pacific NW, and Simply white for the exterior of our 3 story 1910 house. So perfect that people often stop and photograph it. We, (my husband is an architect) love your new place and heartily congratulate you! No doubt in Boston you will find those one or two antique pieces that will make your rooms sing! And yes, a blog on achieving a layered effect would be great. Did I mention I have Ikea dining chairs?

  3. My entire house has been furnished pretty much off Craigslist and other finds. For example: pencil post queen bed (we splurged on a local made mattress), a gorgeous 1880’s yellow mahogany console for $40 found in an old barn, dining table, $75 which is absolutely perfect, Swedish console from thrift store, small drop leaf table from salvage yard (just needed sanding), beautiful Hickory Hill chair for $15, re-upholstered my unique and well-built Drexel club chairs for $1000, another gorgeous antique console table a neighbor put out on the curb (again just needed sanding to reveal the beautiful wood), an incredible carved fireplace surround and mantle someone ripped out of their house and did not want. A lovely Swedish style mirror and loveseat a friend no longer wanted (she was going modern). I could go on and on! My point is you don’t need to buy all new furniture, in fact you shouldn’t. It will lack character and will look as though you just rushed out and bought all new rather than having a layered, collected over time appearance. Plus, you will save a bundle of money and you’ll be proud of yourself.

    1. Okay, can I be proud of myself, anyway? :]

      No one is ever suggesting that anyone buy all new furnishings. When did I ever say that? However, I can’t spend 100 hours trying to source furniture from Craig’s List for a blog post, or for clients, either. In addition, even with new furniture, it’s possible to create an eclectic collected look. That could be a terrific blog post.

  4. “and then they will demand that you get them more cows”

    This made me laugh and it was much needed, after a death in the family, so… thank you, Laurel, for giving me some light on this dark day.

  5. Another reason that space between headboard and mattress sucks is because pillows always wriggle their way through the gap. VERY annoying if you sit up in bed, propped up by pillows, as much as I do. Was constantly tugging them back out and into place. Incredibly vexing. I bought a bed frame* without the gap and my quality of life immediately improved 100%.

    * From AllModern, one of Wayfair’s associate stores, great stuff there with nice clean lines but not severe. Joss & Main is great, too.

  6. Thanks, Laurel, for yet another interesting and well written article. I find it really helpful how you lay out your process. I particularly admire your floor plans!
    I’d just like to know why, if the budget is tight, are secondhand pieces of furniture not considered? I feel that a well chosen, older piece of furniture can bring a certain richness to the room. It may also be less expensive and of better build quality than a new item.
    I know you prize original architectural features, and you have some very nice older furniture pieces in your own apartment … so are you choosing ‘brand new’ because that’s just what your client wants? I ask respectfully!

  7. Hi Laurel – thanks for continuing to share your decorating ideas. One comment on this guest room layout… it doesn’t have anything that could be used as a desk. Nowadays, most folks travel with a laptop or notebook, and sitting on the floor beside the coffee table doesn’t work with these old knees. I love the bench at the end of the bed – make sure it is long enough for two standard-sized suitcases. Enjoy this little project!

  8. If you don’t want to use a box spring, you can get a “bunckie board” (also called bunky or bucky board) which is an upholstered large plywood board that sits on the slats and supports a spring or foam mattress.

  9. Hi, Laurel!

    I love the curtains you shared and think they would really elevate my own guest bedroom. I currently have plantation shutters in that room (Souther girl here). Is it ever okay to put curtains on top of shutters like you might with Roman shades?

    Good luck with the move! I am excited for you. Long time blog reader here.

  10. Be sure to Google the bed and manufacturer. I found a couple of sites where the King bed was cheaper than Wayfair, plus free delivery. Be quick, only one left at one of the sites.

  11. I recently re-did my living room and I have to say I was very happy and impressed with furniture from Ethan Allen
    sofa, swivel chair, fixed chair, leather ottomons, coffee table
    All very reasonably priced

  12. Just wondering about the Wayfair bed shown here. The multiple slats makes me think there would be no box spring on this bed. Would you use a box spring, or not?

  13. This is my favorite type post. Perfect floor plan. I like upholstered headboards but are they practical? I imagine having to vacuum daily to get rid of dust. And if f you have allergies? Maybe this isn’t a problem; I do love the look.

  14. Hi Laurel,
    I’m redoing our guestroom right now, and after talking with my college-age kids, decided to do two twin beds and a desk set-up instead of a living space. They felt like it was more likely that guests would need to do online classes and have a quiet space to set up their computer than to need a seating area.
    They also thought two twins was more practical for us because two college men won’t sleep in the same bed but they will happily share a room with twin beds. So I’m doing twin extra long beds.
    I’m just sharing that because you said the family had a college-age daughter, and I didn’t know if any of those concerns could also apply to her. Hope that’s helpful! Thank you so much for your blog 🙂

  15. Hi Laurel,
    I haven’t priced new bed for many years. When I clicked on the link for the PB bed I experienced some sticker shock! No wonder the initial budget wouldn’t suffice.
    I love the direction this space is headed. You had me at blue & white. 🥰

  16. Laurel, thank you for all you share. I trust you in you! Not only have I learned so much from your sharing posts, I absolutely love your wit and you make me burst out laughing everytime I read your posts. I love all of your posts and your gifted ability to design. You are incredibly gifted!!Thank you for sharing your talents with us…

  17. Hi Laurel,

    I love your blog and look forward to the daily offerings. I am wondering if you can specify, maybe in bullet form (?) exactly where I should splurge. And maybe more importantly, where to save. I would greatly appreciate it as I work in my MBR and breakfast areas right now. Wishing you a happy holiday season!

  18. Dear Laurel,
    I love this post. And honestly pretty much all of them. We’ve been slowly redoing our home and on the “save or splurge” topic I’ve been debating whether to splurge on ten (yes ten 🤦🏻‍♀️) custom drapery panels in Colefax and Fowler’s Bowood. I love it and have for years but you can imagine the price tag that goes with this potential splurge. It’s for our family room which is where we live and I think it would make the room so inviting. We’ve already got lovely furniture in the space so this is the icing for the cake. Just don’t want to end up hating myself for investing the amount of a used car in curtains. Ha.

  19. I am not an interior designer, but it’s one of my fave hobbies along with garden design.
    I just wanted to tell you that I always read your blog, not just for the advice, but because you always make me laugh! Your sense of style and humor are perfect. Great start to the day!

  20. Laurel, love this post! Check out the Painswick (what a name!) End Table on Wayfair. It’s navy blue raffia and would go with the Serena and Lily vibe of this guest room at a fraction of cost! Maybe add glass on top to protect the finish.

  21. Dear Laurel,
    I can’t wait to dive into my new copy of the Best of Etsy Guide to find those architectural wall moldings you pictured! Wow! I had no idea they made self adhesive ones. We just put up a self adhesive wall mural from Etsy and it was a piece of cake to install and it’s stunning. Thank you for all the hard work you do researching and sharing beautiful ideas for home decor. I recently purchased your paint guides and they are a true game changer for me. I’m finally getting somewhere on redecorating my home. Why didn’t I get these last year?!!

  22. Hi Laurel,

    I love the way this Guest Bedroom is shaping up and how the space plan respects the natural flow of circulation.

    I’m currently designing a Master Bedroom for a client who is hard to pin down in terms of style.

    Do you have any tricks of the trade to share on how to tease out the budget and the homeowner’s style preferences?

    In my case, they lean towards modern but the wife will send very ornate pics that look like Versailles knock-offs.

    The husband seems totally dictated by price and prefers modern/contemporary.

    After showing several beautiful beds from RH, Arhaus, and Wayfair, the response was: “we have seen nothing so far that wows us.”

    I admire those designers (like you) who seem to hear what’s not being said and can pinpoint a client’s style even when they can’t.

    I guess it’s a skill that’s honed over time with much experience.

    Thank you for letting me “talk shop” here in the comments section.

    Happy decorating!


    1. I feel your pain, Tara, more than you’ll ever know. But, let me ask you. How would you feel if these folks just magically disappeared from your life? If the word that comes to mind is something like “ecstatic,” then please take my advice and cut these vipers out of your life, before they suck you dry.

      Please understand. Nothing is EVER going to “wow” them. How do I know? I know, because humans generally fall into certain categories. These folks fall into the whiny and entitled category. You will also find them at school board meetings complaining that there aren’t enough guidance counselors and their child isn’t getting the attention they require. On and on… This is how they conduct their lives.

      Run, Tara, run!!!

      Save yourself!!!

      So, how do you get rid of these clients? You fire yourself by telling them that you are sorry, but because of private family matters [your sanity-lol], you are stretched beyond capacity and don’t feel that you can give them the time and attention that they deserve. All true. You can’t give them the time that they deserve. You have no time for folks like this. That is, because they will waste your time until the cows come home, and then they will demand that you get them more cows. You can soften it with a couple of referrals. But, if you value these colleagues, please contact them asap to warn them!

      Yes, you may have to give them back some or all of their design fee. It’s fine. You are going to lose it anyway in the time and attention they are requiring that’s taking away from your other clients or potential clients. And, then there’s your mental well-being and physical health.

      So, when you say you admire designers who can pinpoint their client’s style. Actually, I believe it’s the other way around. We work with clients who trust, appreciate us, and love most everything we show them. That’s the skill. At least it was for me. Amen.

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Hi, I’m Laurel, and Laurel Home is the website and blog for Laurel Bern Interiors.
I’ve been creating new-traditional interiors since 1988. The blog is where I share all.

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