Guest Room Essentials

Story and photography by Meredith Coopman
How does the saying go? “In Montana we have nine months of winter and three months of company.”

People seem to flock to the Flathead Valley in the summer. Whether it’s an annual visit from a sibling and their family, parents who haven’t decided to move here yet, or the old college roommate you haven’t seen in 25 years, summers are jam-packed with activities and houseguests.

Guest’s quarters range from a guesthouse to a converted sewing room to a sleeper sofa in the den, or even a tent in the backyard. No matter what, there are easy ways to ready a space to make an enjoyable and easy environment for family and friends.

Even though it’s not like staying at The Ritz (mainly because if you wanted The Ritz, you wouldn’t be coming to Montana), it’s important to make your company feel comfortable and welcome. To start, try to think of anything and everything your guests might need before they need it. Be considerate. Use your own experiences to gauge what a visitor might like or appreciate. Or what might be inconvenient. There is nothing worse than having to wake up in the middle of the night only to ransack your host’s house looking for an extra blanket or a glass of water. Or even worse, speaking from familiarity, having to go to the bathroom first thing in the morning and holding it for what feels like forever because you don’t want to walk past your in-laws in the kitchen to get from the bedroom to the bathroom.

Ideally, the best, most appreciated scenario for your guests would be to have their own space and bathroom. Connected. This isn’t always the case, and by no means does it mean that someone won’t be comfortable somewhere else in the house (or backyard). Understandably, it also depends on your relationship with your houseguests and quite possibly how long they will be staying.

Guest rooms are often neglected when it comes to regular maintenance. If you’re lucky enough to have a spare room designated for guests, “Grandpa’s Room” in our house, be sure to take care of the obvious. Make sure the room is clean and dust free. Launder the sheets, bedding and towels so they are their freshest. Supply a robe and slippers for an extra cozy welcome. Make sure they are clean as well.

Guest home with all the accoutrements, including a bowl of fruit and coffee station

Guest home with all the accoutrements, including a bowl of fruit and coffee station

When choosing the layout or setting up a room or space for your guests, think about how they will use the space. Be practical. You don’t want your 85-year-old grandma to have to cross the room to turn off the alarm clock. If you have a great view of the Swan Mountains or a pretty creek, share that with your company. Our surroundings are an added bonus. Place a stack of local magazines (ahem, Flathead Living) or area-specific books on a table or nightstand. “The Night of the Grizzlies,” “A River Runs Through It,” “Best Day Hikes in Glacier,” etc. are good choices, as well as newspapers or maps. Don’t forget table lamps next to the bed so that your books can be enjoyed. Many people like to read before bed and this provides an opportunity to study up on the vernacular.

Consider black-out shades if the room is east or west facing. It could be an early morning or a hard time getting to sleep in the summertime. This is a good idea especially if there are little kids coming to stay. Mom and dad will thank you.

Don’t forget an alarm clock and a charging station or an electrical outlet, at the very least, for your guests to charge their phones, tablets, latest technology, etc. It’s also nice to have a flashlight in a useful place in case the power goes out. TV in the room? Make sure the remote is in a convenient place. Install a nightlight on the way to, or in, the bathroom. Tissues in the bedroom are also a nice touch. Save your friends a trip to the bathroom by placing a box next to the bed. Same goes for a wastebasket.

A carafe of water and a drinking glass next to the bed or somewhere in the room is a bit classier than a couple bottles of water. Add a few snacks, too, or a bowl of fruit, if you think your visitors might get hungry, and save them a trip upstairs to the pantry.

Make sure there is adequate space for clothes, jackets, shoes, etc. Clean out at least a drawer in the dresser or provide space in the closet with a few empty hangers for your guests, especially if they’re staying for an extended period of time. If that’s not possible, supply a luggage rack or a place for suitcases so they can stay off the ground and off the furniture. Add some hooks. Hooks take up very little space and are easy to use.

Your guests will gladly lay their heads to rest here

Your guests will gladly lay their heads to rest here

Place a mirror, full-length if you have room, on the wall. Add a chair or bench for sitting, relaxing or putting on and taking off shoes. A desk is nice for someone who might have to work while they’re staying with you. Go the extra step and add pens, pencils and some stationery. Fresh flowers or greens are always a good idea, even better if they’re from your own garden.

Most likely, your guests will be bringing their own toiletries, but it’s nice to have some extra things on hand in case anything was forgotten. Stash a hairdryer under the sink or in a basket, because that’s one nice thing to leave at home, and your guests will thank you for the extra room in their suitcase. Have a magnifying mirror handy or even attached to the wall.

When I travel I save sundries from hotels and pass them along to my own guests, especially the extra nice ones. Display them in an apothecary jar and let your guests choose their scent. Be sure to have cotton balls and Q-tips accessible, too. Just grab a handful from your personal stash and share with your guests in a nice jar or box.

Choose lovely scented handsoap for the sink and some hand lotion if you have room on the counter. Always, always make sure to leave extra toilet paper and keep a plunger in the bathroom to avoid embarrassment.

I like to leave a welcome basket on the bed or dresser with some local luxuries such as Eva Gates jam, coffee from the local coffee shop, locally grown lavender, you get the idea. My mom gives everyone who comes to her house a t-shirt from Bigfork. Offer them something unique that they can’t get at home and will serve as a charming reminder of their stay.