If you're expecting visitors over the festive season, Gabrielle Fagan reveals some smart and simple solutions for stylish spare rooms.
There's nothing like an occasion to spur us into action and make us look afresh at decor. And with Christmas only weeks away, there's no more pressing task than the spare room.
If there's a good reason why you keep the door to this room permanently closed (magnet for clutter/dumping ground for surplus possessions/last on the list for a makeover) - don't despair.
Sorting the spare probably needs only a few hours - simple DIY tasks, painting a feature wall or re-upholstering a headboard can work wonders. Add in a shopping trip for new bedding and a few accessories, and you'll complete its transformation. Make it even more painless by browsing high street and supermarket home ranges, which offer a brilliant selection of bargains.
"Focusing on a spare room's well worth it, because you can end up falling back in love with the space. Even a simple revamp could make it into somewhere you'll enjoying using long after the guests have gone," says Claire Hornby, creative stylist at Barker & Stonehouse, encouragingly.
"It's essential first to think about the space and layout that you have to work with, especially if you plan on buying new furniture, so you choose the right size and shape to suit the room's dimensions. All too often, the style of this room is an after thought and it ends up with play safe but dull decor, and a selection of mismatched furniture.
"To create a fashionable feel similar to a 5-star hotel, ensure the bed is as large and comfortable as possible, and complement with two bedside tables and a mirror. Last but not least, have sufficient lighting - a table and a floor lamp will give guests a choice of ambience they wish to create - task lighting or soft, overall lighting. Give a priority to the room just as you would to your visitors."
Red, traditionally the keynote colour for the season, is perhaps an over-bold choice for a bedroom, but perfect for an occasionally used spare room. This rich colour instantly has a cosseting, warm effect and adding luxury textures, like velvet and faux fur, will make it even more snugly.
"A spare room should be a homely haven for guests, where they don't just sleep but can also retreat and unwind occasionally - something which will be especially welcome in a busy household at Christmas," says Katie Watson, interior designer for furniture chain, Fishpools.
"Splashes of deep colour always give a lift and if the room's well equipped with ample free-standing furniture, it can be re-arranged to double as a restful homework/hobby area or den, for the whole family, once the festivities are over.
"Essentials, space permitting, are a chest of drawers (the top surface can work as a dressing table), blanket box, bedside table and a wardrobe - or at least a hanging rail. Don't forget a generous layering of throws on the bed, cushions, and personal details, such as a selection of books and magazines."
TIP Choose throws and embellished cushions in a rich festive colour palette, such as ruby reds, burnt oranges and greens. Add details such a bowl filled with red glass baubles, a tiny tree and maybe a framed collage of photos of family and friends taken last Christmas, to evoke memories.
STYLISH SPARE Give the wall behind the bed a facelift with Colours Feature Wall Classic Red Matt Emulsion, £9.98 a litre, B&Q. A padded headboard's a luxury touch and Tesco's Henley Headboard, upholstered in Caramel Linen, is a snip at £150 for a kingsize (currently reduced from £199). Its Watercolour Floral Duvet Cover And Pillowcase Set, £15 for a double, is fresh and pretty, with red roses splashed on a white background.
Echo the botanical theme with Marks & Spencer's Rochelle Floral Small Chest, £379, and accessorise with a Peony Ruby Cushion, £57, In Spaces. Lighting's key and the Mitford Pendant, a cluster of three shades, £39, Tesco, couldn't help but catch the eye, while a Copper Daisy Task Lamp, £50, BHS, would bring a fashionable metallic touch.
A bedroom decorated in pale blues conjures a light, harmonious atmosphere - ideal for a room where you want guests to instantly relax and feel at home.
"Transforming a chaotic spare bedroom into a calm and peaceful guest bedroom may seem like a daunting task, but with a few simple changes, it's easy to create a homely space," says Kate Tansley, creative director, Multiyork.
"Make a list of all the possessions crowding the space and decide which can be moved either into under-bed storage or stowed away in the loft.
"Once the clutter's out of the way, freshen up the decor with a coat of paint on at least one feature wall, and follow the colour theme with bedding. This will enhance the feeling of space by bringing cohesion to the scheme. Don't forget finishing touches, such as guest towels, scented candles, and bathroom products for a hotel-style room."
TIP The Bedding Company bursts with products to make a spare room special. Breathe new life into an old mattress with a Sealy Classic Memory Foam Mattress Enhancer, £170, or allow guests to personalise a pillow with Silentnight's Perfect Pillow, £12.99, with three inner pads making up to seven pillow combinations.
STYLISH SPARE Guarantee cheerful awakenings by painting walls and ceiling in B&Q's Blue Silk Emulsion, £8.98 for 2.5 litres. Bring on more blues with Asda's new George Home Heirloom range, featuring a Postcard Duvet Set, from £10, a Teal Acrylic Droplet Light Shade, £17, and useful storage boxes, starting from £8 a set. Complete the look with a Butterfly Bath Towel in Nile Blue, £6.
A comfortable seat's always welcome and a Bergen Chair in Sky Blue, £185, from Next, is a beauty, with three pale yellow feature buttons. Bedside lamps needn't be predictable, as a Ben de Lisi Designer Turquoise Wire Lamp, £50, Debenhams, amply proves.
We're all greedy for more space but can unwittingly waste it by not using every inch - and that's most common in spare rooms. Fitted furniture solutions and space saving pieces can make all the difference.
"In many households, the spare room needs to serve as a multifunctional space," says Claire Hornby.
"If space is limited, consider a sofa bed, so you retain maximum floor space during the day. Flexible storage, if you can't afford fitted solutions, will help give the impression a room is larger, because clutter will be minimised and floor space maximised.
"Storage trunks stacked in a corner look great, as do wire baskets, which are currently very on-trend. Drawers or boxes on wheels are also a wonderful option."
TIP Re-upholstering a headboard generally takes only a few metres of fabric, and sourcing it in remnant sales at a local haberdashery or department store can save money. Use a staple gun to fix. Alternatively, make a simple frame of wood for behind the bed and stretch fabric across it, then use a matching fabric for curtains or a blind.
STYLISH SPARE For a streamlined look, it's hard to beat a fully-fitted room, which incorporates a foldaway bed. Bespoke fitted furniture specialist Neville Johnson has a 24-hour room concept, allowing you to work, rest and play all in one room. Bed and storage starts from £3,000.
Sofa beds are a popular solution and my two top choices are Ikea's bargain Hagalund Two-Seater Sofa Bed, £375 or Multiyork's Naomi Medium Sofa Bed, £1,929 (currently reduced from £2,569).
Splurge on an off-beat Sidney Eight Drawer Wood Chest, £495, or save with a Grid Two Shelf Storage Unit, £60, both Oliver Bonas. A leafy pattern decorates an Autumn Floral Cushion, £10, Tesco Direct, and a George Home Black Woven Lamp, £30, Asda, with brown shade and black base, would complement it perfectly.