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DECOR SCORE- Comfort Ye! Welcoming Guests In From the Storm PDF Print E-mail
Written by Rose Bennett Gilbert   
Thursday, 15 November 2012 07:18


Warm and welcoming, a designer’s own guest room features flea market fabrics framed like fine art.

Q: The refugees who landed on our doorstep during Hurricane Sandy made me realize how awful our guest room is. In truth, when our last child moved out, we merely cleared out the closet and closed the door. While it's on my mind, I'd like your thoughts on how to make a guest room hospitable.

A: Any port in a storm? True, but no matter how desperate the need, it's still wonderful to be welcomed into a space that is safe, warm and comfortable.

If you enjoy cultural research, look up the intriguing woman decorator who is still credited with "inventing" the world's first truly comfortable guest rooms. It was Nancy Lancaster, Virginia-born but British by choice, owner of the redoubtable English decorating firm, Colefax & Fowlar. She astounded the British aristocracy by offering them livable digs during weekends in the country.

Ms. Lancaster — who luckily brought boodles of money to her projects — had the thennovel idea of adding bathrooms en suite to some of those ancient stately homes, aka "stately piles." She also believed in convenient lighting, bedside tables, plush chairs for reading and other amenities that made people actually glad to be invited "down for the weekend."

Many of Ms. Lancaster's "eccentric" notions are now SOP in guest rooms, both at home and in hotels around the world. You can thank her for the bath just next door, light switches within easy reach and that double-helping of down comforters that make visitors clamor to buy their bedding to take home.

Less extreme but no less gracious gestures give the guest room we show here its warm allure. The room was created by internationally known designer Dena Fishbein in her own Northern California home and featured in her new book, "The Painted Home by Dena" (Stewart, Tabori & Chang).

Many of the furnishings come from Dena's own talented hands — hand-painted flowers on the plain closet doors, vintage flea-market-find fabrics made into decorative pillows and curtains and framed-like works of art of the wall. But Dena's commonsense advice about cordiality and comfort can be copied by anyone. "There should be room in the closet, empty drawers and a place to set a suitcase or duffle bag," she points out.

"Remember, if the space is cluttered with your personal items, it won't be nearly as welcoming or relaxing."

Best advice of all: try the room in advance. Spend a night yourself, so you'll know how well it works long before any guests storm your door.

Q: What's black and red and right all over?

A: A showroom designed by Alexa Hampton for the High Point Furniture Market that should soon be showing up in chic homes all over the country. Think shiny black and brilliant red walls, accented around the edges with white tape trimmed with metal nailheads.

"The East Coast response to Hollywood," Alexa called it. We called it the perfect background to her new collection of classic pieces for Hickory, including a drop-top secretary that can also conceal a flat-screen TV.

"I always love exploring how classic forms can be made modern and relevant," says Alexa, who is president of Mark Hampton, LLC, the design firm founded by her late father. But she's hardly resting on his laurels: Alexa has been named on the world's 100 best interior designers in publications including (Architectural Digest), America's Best 100 Designers (House Beautiful), and one of 12 "Fun, Fearless Females" (Cosmopolitan magazine).

Rose Bennett Gilbert is the coauthor of "Manhattan Style" and six other books on interior design.

Last Updated on Thursday, 15 November 2012 07:25