A pair of special guests are arriving this weekend to help us celebrate our first Thanksgiving in Portland. So, at long last, we’ve been busy putting some finishing touches on our guest room, hoping it will provide all the creature comforts they need, so they’ll hang their hat for awhile and come back again soon. This room, as you’ll see below in the Before picture, was a bit tricky for us to make homey. It’s in the basement, so the natural light isn’t very forthcoming, and while the heat works well down there, basement rooms can easily seem, I think, a little dank or cold or even spooky, just by virtue of being in the basement. I really wanted a feeling of warmth and welcome in there. I wanted it to be a place where guests felt comfortable — where they could sleep soundly, access their belongings, and feel happy reading a book by the window. I wanted it to feel, to guests, like a place they associated with sweet dreams — a place they could stay awhile and visit often.
So, here’s the Before picture. This is what the room looked like when I walked through this house (for sale) a year ago. (with other people’s stuff in it)
And here it is After. (After the rest of the basement underwent renovation, after it served as a storage closet for many months, and after finally putting a coat of paint on the walls and throwing together what we had for furniture.)
I’ve been reading a lovely little book called “Home Sweeter Home: Creating a Haven of Simplicity and Spirit” by Jann Mitchell. The book is about a lot more than creating physical spaces, but she talks about how well-crafted, “restful” spaces make life for the inhabitants easier, calmer, and more joyful. Well, now doesn’t that make sense?
I like Jann’s concept of “restful rooms” – she says restful rooms have four characteristics: beauty, comfort, meaning, and convenience. Beauty, of course, is in the eye of the beholder, and for us, it usually involves incorporating lively colors and old things. In the case of this guest room, we went for it on the walls, saturating them in a deep, rosy pink to give it warmth and flavor. We paired this with one of my favorite bedquilts — a red backdrop onto which my mother appliquéd a set of vintage quilt “squares” years ago and gave it to us as a gift. We didn’t have a lot of artwork or wall hangings left over, but wanted this room to have some meaning and texture, so we thought to bring in a bit of new and old — a painting of my grandmother, an old photo of Rob and his brother as a child, a framed drawing of my home when I lived in Spain, and some of Orlis’ most welcoming artwork. We scattered a few more quilts and hand-made pillows around, giving it all the extra warmth it will need, (as well as a sense of history). We cleared the closet as well as the drawers of one of the dressers, and stuck a coat-tree in there that serves just as well for towels, hats, or bathrobes. We set a few plants by the window, popped a few candles around the room, and called it a day, feeling very satisfied with ourselves.
And yet, still, after getting some furniture and knick-knacks pulled together in there, the walls were still looking a little bare. So, I decided to try my hand at some stenciling — also known as “poor man’s wallpaper.” I got my hands on some of Lotta Jansdotter’s modern and simple stencils and gave it a go in the corner by the window with some of our leftover wall paint. Admittedly, I don’t think I’ll become a pro stenciler — wow, it’s a little harder than it looks. But… I love the effect. I took Lotta’s advice and let that stencil travel all the way down the dresser. That thing (pulled from a street corner in Brooklyn years ago, no doubt) needed a little love too.
And you know, it’s not like this room is going to win any decorating awards or anything, but I think it accomplishes Jann Mitchell’s definition of “restful.” It’s beautiful, comfortable, meaningful, and convenient. (You do have to get yourself out here to Portland…but then it’s pretty convenient. The bathroom is just at the top of the stairs.) I’d like to think, guests will come, hang their coats, and stay a spell. We’ll have tea and cookies and listen to Stevie Wonder records. Oh, do come visit.