Why I Love my Guest Bedroom

by Katy on July 18, 2009 · 10 comments


I grew up in an enormous house. With four stories, six bedrooms and yes, four bathrooms.

There was always room for extra people.

Fast forward to my adult life and a long series of apartments in Oregon, New York, London and New Mexico. There was always room for all our stuff, but houseguests had to rough it on a fold-out couch or worse. And we certainly hosted many people, especially when living in such tourist friendly cities as London and New York City.

When house hunting in 1996, I really wanted to find a house with enough room to host the myriad of visiting friends and family. This was important to me. More so than a fancy kitchen or even a second bathroom.

The house we ended up buying had 4 + bedrooms and a single small bathroom. Perfect.

Because we do have this spare bedroom, (which incidentally is the nicest and most completed room in our will-it-ever-end-fixer-upper-of-a-money-pit.) we’ve been able to provide a haven for our friends and family. But even more interestingly, we have had the opportunity to play host family to two different Japanese teachers, two Japanese children and four different British soccer coaches.

Don’t even get me started on the countless kid sleepovers the spare bedroom has born witness to.

Had we bought a house with three bedrooms or fewer, we would not be able to host all these great people. Sure, we would have opened up the couch for close family members, but that’s probably about it.

Is having my house overrun with extra people frugal or even simple living?

Absolutely not.

It’s loud and messy, with lots of extra meals to prepare and then clean up from. But I enjoy getting to spend more than just a few hours with my out of town guests. Having friends come visit me strengthens my social reserves and helps me keep the bonds of friendship that might otherwise weaken through the years.

I’ve had friends come to visit who would probably not have come had I not had a spare bedroom to offer.

I certainly ooh and ahh over the small house movement with its deliciously simply little homes. So cleverly designed, so smart and restrained.

But I always have this question — where do the house guests sleep?

Do you have a spare bedroom that gets more action than . . . um . . .  well, you get my drift? Please share your experiences in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

This column is dedicated to Ed, Dan, Jessie, Nate, Emma, Neil, Jennifer, Tom, Stuart, Michiko, Kenji, Daiji, Seinosuke, Kathy and everyone else who has partaken of the guest bedroom that could.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Fairy Dust July 18, 2009 at 7:39 am

I love the idea of having room for visitors, but we have so few that I confess we’ve mostly turned them into store rooms – one holds mysecond freezer and pantry “stockpile” (yet still has room for a queen size aerobed when necessary), the other (our grown son’s room) has become our new kitten’s room – LOL!

But I could never live without a second bathroom. When we finally decided to buy a house a decade or so ago, that was the top of my list of must-haves.


Lisa July 18, 2009 at 8:29 am

Our house is comfortable for the 4 of us at 835 sq. ft. plus a 500 sq. ft. guest house. The guest house (with a full bathroom) is used as a family room, exercise room, office and music room.(Not all at the same time of course.) It also houses additional pantry space, the washer and dryer and has a sleeping and storage loft. The perfect place to put the few overnight guests that we do get.

We are wanting to add a kitchenette to the guest house. Once the kids are launched and own their own we’d like to rent out the house, live in the guest house and travel. That’s the dream, anyway.


Angela July 18, 2009 at 12:55 pm

Oh, how I would love a guest room. We have 3 bedrooms, but both work at home some of the time, plus my husband has a lot of interests that involve equipment. So incredibly, with 3 bedrooms and no children we have no room for guests except on the couch or aerobed. I hate that. I want our home to be a welcoming place and it is a #1 priority for me. Like you, we have only one bathroom, and even though that would affect me directly every day, it doesn’t bother me as much.

Lisa’s situation sounds perfect. Here’s my retirement dream (at least 25 years away): all our friends are spread out all over the world in lovely destinations (partly true already) and everyone (including us) has a lovely guest house. Then we all travel and visit each other, and stay up to a month at a time, because of the separate guest house.


Julia July 18, 2009 at 7:37 pm

I’m with Fairy Dust on a 2nd bathroom being non-negotiable. We are a family of 3 living in 1475 square feet, so that qualifies as small in this land of 4500 square foot McMansions, I guess. We do have an extra bedroom, but I confess, as an introvert I can’t stand having guests in the house and so it never gets used for that purpose. I like my peace and quiet and just the comfort of my husband and son around me. Now a guest house, that would be great. Then I could send my guests there for the night and recharge with some down time. When I was a teenager, my best friend’s family was similar to yours, Katy, and they hosted many exchange students and once a Japanese teacher. I always thought that was cool and that I’d be a host when I grew up. Well, maybe when my son is older and more self-sufficient…
interesting post, thanks


thenonconsumeradvocate July 19, 2009 at 12:56 am

The one bathroom thing is a bit of a pain in the tuchus. I just remind myself that people have been living in this house since 1914, and if they can do it, so can I.

Don’t forget I only have one bathroom to clean this way, which is a major bonus in my book.

Katy Wolk-Stanley
The Non-Consumer Advocate


Susan July 19, 2009 at 10:18 am

I live in a 2400 sq. ft. house and in the first week of Aug. will move to a 1300 sq. ft. house. We have 7 people at the moment living here. My brother is getting his own apartment, my 24yo son is going back to college for his PhD. and my 18yo is leaving for the Navy soon. That leaves my husband and a 16yo, 11yo and me.
When reading this blog and others I have learned to be alright with downsizing and that it will give us a smaller footprint on this already overwhelmed planet. So, our goal is to one day when the children are all set up in their lives, to live in a one bedroom or even a loft apartment, to be more efficient. If I were to have guests I would always find a way to make room for them. They are there to see me not my guestroom and bedrooms are just for sleeping right?
Downsizing in GA,


Kristie-ND July 19, 2009 at 1:47 pm

Sounds like a great guest room 🙂 To be honest, it was difficult to move into this house. The first house we bought, was a 2800 sq foot house with 3 bathrooms. We had 4 bedrooms, the only “extra” bedroom was used as an office and my homeschool library, BUT, our basement was 1400 sqft and finished, so we had tons of room for guests, both family, and even the Canadian family that spun their car out into a ditch on the highway in front of our house, in the middle of a blizzard. My husband and 3 neighbors pulled their car out, and we were able to put them up for the night…5 people and a dog. It was much more relaxed to have enough room to move my kids out of their bedrooms and move them in w/o them feeling uncomfortable. They had the privacy of their own bathroom and shower, and it just was a better situation, particularly for perfect strangers, comfort wise.

The last house we lived in was a brand new base house with 3 bathrooms. Moving here to our cabin with 1 bathroom has been challenging. Like you, I only have 1 bathroom to clean, but it would be nice to not have to use the restroom while somebody was in the shower, so you think “HURRY UP” lol We have a garage bathroom, but really, it is scary. Only my son will use it, as it isn’t finished and is in the dark, dank, water heater/septic tank drain room…SCARY!

Our house is 1750sqft, so not tiny, but we don’t have an extra guest bedroom. We only have 2 bedrooms. My son’s room is in the loft. What we do have is the state park cabins 3 miles away. Last summer we put up my step-sister and my kids and my parents at the cabins, while my brother,sil/nephews took the loft and my grandmother took my daughter’s bedroom. A bit crowded to have that many people and one bathroom, but being at the park took care of an extra shower.

What I do have is a view for my guests of a lake with the badlands behind it. So far, that has been the biggest draw..lol

More family coming in 2 weeks. Hopefully things will run as smoothly as last year, but I would love another bathroom and a guest bedroom


Francine July 19, 2009 at 1:55 pm

1427sqft, 3BR, 2bath. Would not EVER do without two bathrooms. Since there are only the two of us, we have the master “suite”, one bedroom is our “office”, and the other bedroom is the guest room. We have a wall-bed (used to be called a Murphy Bed) and it’s a piece of furniture attached to the wall and looks neat. When it’s “up” the room can be a reading room, extra TV room for grandkids, sewing room, whatever. We don’t have a lot of company (friends and family either live in the same town here, or live far enough away that they don’t visit very often) and it’s no trouble to move the sewing machine etc. to let the bed down. And it’s a very comfortable bed, too! ~~~ Works for us …


Alison Wiley, Portland Oregon July 19, 2009 at 2:47 pm

Hi Katy,
Our spare bedroom is also our office and also where my husband keeps his clothes (the bedroom closets of houses built in 1940 are tiny, at least in my neighborhood). We love hosting guests; ours seem to self-select for being comfortable in small spaces.

And like you, we have just one bathroom, while also liking to build community. It works out; people simply build their ‘consider others’ skills. And the spare bedroom also gets used for . . . . we both get the drift. 🙂


Barb McMahon July 23, 2009 at 3:12 pm

I’m a bit late joining this discussion, but I just found your blog today (yay! I found your blog!)

My husband and I live in a two bedroom house (I haven’t actually measured the floor space). The second bedroom is our office.

We have a really comfy sofa-bed in the living room. Most of our guests are very happy to sleep in there. When my cousin and her husband visited us at Christmas, we slept in the living room and gave them our bedroom. It worked just fine.


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