An elaborate headboard is also eye-filling. In the photo we show here, borrowed from "Bringing Paris Home" (by designer Penny Drue Baird and published by the Monacelli Press), the valance and curtain hang inside a frame that's mounted almost as high as the ceiling. It creates the effect of a lit clos, a classic French "enclosed bed," that is furnished with an antique wood panel headboard and a pair of sconces for reading in bed. A duo of matching framed drawings completes the little world within, bringing a welcome coziness to the bedroom at large.
Q: What to do with a guest room that really lacks character and charm? It's just a 12-foot by 14-foot square with a window and small closet. There is no architectural distinction, unless you count the old hardwood floors.
A: Lucky you to have such an empty canvas from which to conjure hospitality.
Try sensible furnishings, all calculated to add up to the main ingredient: comfort. Something we take for granted today, making guests comfortable is actually a relatively recent notion. Many people credit legendary hostess Nancy Lancaster, the American who was affronted by the stiff and cheerless quarters routinely assigned to guests in many English manor houses. She rocked the social set of the mid-20th century by offering guests such shocking luxuries as attractive color schemes, conveniently located bathrooms and plush towels.
As you think comforting thoughts for your future guests, get out the old legal pad and make a list of what you need to become a gracious hostess a la Lancaster -- later partner in the renowned design firm of Colefax & Fowler. Here's the easy list: a delicious bed, good lights for reading in it, an area rug, a convenient bedside table and a window treatment that softens noise and controls light. And if space permits, a reading chair.
There are two ways to go with color schemes. Stay neutral, which will suit -- and maybe bore -- guests of all kinds. Or be more adventurous, which gets my vote. A personal favorite guest room is totally wrapped in toile de Jouy -- blue and white and just right for wallpaper, curtains, bed covers and accessories. It might be in the home of a friend in Richmond, Va., but it's like spending the weekend in France.
Rose Bennett Gilbert is the co-author of "Hampton Style" and associate editor of Country Decorating Ideas.
Copyright 2009 Creators Syndicate Inc.