Stay With Us, Please? My Quest to Design a Better Guest Room Than the In-Laws
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Stay With Us, Please? My Quest to Design a Better Guest Room Than the In-Laws

Determined to persuade her married daughters to visit—and lacking her rivals’ in-ground pool—our columnist decided to up her guest-room game. Here, her tips.

Sat, Aug 26, 2023 7:30amGrey Clock 4 min

I SUSPECT that most people’s so-called guest bedrooms are, like mine, giant closets. Once upon a time they were my daughters’ bedrooms. But after my kids grew up, their childhood rooms were almost immediately pressed into service as warehouse space.

My husband’s guitar amps? Store them in a spare room. Amazon packages to be returned? Guest room. These rooms also collect castoffs I’m not emotionally ready to part with, including 10-foot drapery panels with a songbird pattern I made with a sewing machine my husband magnanimously gave me on our 10th anniversary. I think I used the machine once, and if I ever need it, it’s in a corner of the guest room.

This situation is counterproductive for someone like me, hoping to lure home “guests” like my three adult children and their husbands and partners. So I recently resolved to fix the guest-room issue—and immediately realised this was a job for a professional.

“My problem is that now that my children are paired-off they have other options—in-laws with better guest rooms—who they could visit instead,” I said to Grey Joyner, an interior designer in Wilson, N.C. These rival accommodations include an enviable guest suite (I’ve slept there comfortably myself), with extremely high-thread-count sheets, a private bathroom and terrace access to a landscaped garden with an in-ground swimming pool. “Of course, I’m not trying to compete head-to-head against the in-laws,” I hedged.

“Of course you are competing with the in-laws—as you should!” Joyner said. “If you were my client, this is when I would tell you: Every room needs to tell a story.”

“‘High-end hotel’ is a nice story for a room,” I said. “Should I toss everything and start from scratch?”

“No!” Joyner said. “This is not a hotel, it’s your home, and it has to feel personal. I would create a story around things you collect or already have.”

I considered what our story might be. “A thriller about a hoarder with a songbird-drapes fetish?” I asked.

She ignored this.

Obviously, accessories designed to lure each of my daughters would be nice to have, including a luggage rack for the “heavy packer” in the family (Joyner likes the $225 foldable, faux-bamboo versions from One of a Find in Charleston, S.C.); wall-mounted reading sconces for my “low-brow-murder-mystery addict” middle child (my go-to is the bendable-arm gooseneck wall sconces from Etsy sellerDLIGHT); and perhaps a Sonos speaker for the family’s “promising-new-artists scout.”

“Maybe it’s the Southerner in me, but I have a ton of silver pieces,” Joyner said. “I might put a tray on a dresser for jewellery, and one in the bathroom as a soap dish. Guests say, ‘I love that dish,’ and I say, ‘That was my grandmother’s.’ Now it has a story.”

A plan took shape: First, I spent a few days painting a Louis-XVI-style caned bed with three coats of a rich, deep brown colour—Farrow & Ball’s Mahogany—so it would have a strong visual presence to anchor the room. Second, I painted the walls, to cover the pale Benjamin Moore Ballet White with Farrow & Ball Smoked Trout, a hue whose name got a rise out of my husband. “Wow, $150 a gallon for paint?” he said. “Is it made with real trout?”

The colour created a woodsy-tan backdrop against which a castoff pair of cloudy-mirror-top night tables suddenly looked glamorous.

What next? Window coverings, perhaps in a joyous songbird pattern? Or maybe not.

“You need blackout shades or drapes because you want your guests to get a good night’s sleep,” said Kelly Simpson, senior director of design and innovation at Budget Blinds, an Irvine, Calif., company with 900 franchises nationwide. “For your situation, personally I’d do a layered look, blackout shade with drapery panels on the sides. Adding draperies softens a room.”

Stephanie Moffitt, design director of the Mokum collection at James Dunlop Textiles in Australia, concurred, suggesting patterned fabrics on shades and drapes. “You can take more risk with bolder palettes” than in a main bedroom where you have to sleep (and look at the curtains) every night for years, she said.

Luring adult children to come home could get expensive. Does it need to?

I turned to psychologist Joshua Coleman’s “Rules of Estrangement: Why Adult Children Cut Ties and How to Heal the Conflict” (Harmony, 2021) for answers. But after skimming the free-on-Amazon excerpt of the book, I still had questions—so I phoned the author.

“I’m actually trying to prevent estrangement with adult children before it happens,” I told him. “The first pages of your book point out that they—and by extension, their spouses—aren’t obligated to spend more time than they want with their parents,” I said. “Can I convey that I respect that through how I decorate a guest room?”

“Probably not—and keep in mind there’s a risk that they don’t want you to update their rooms and will feel displaced by it,” Coleman said.

“But their spouses don’t want to look at their old prom photos,” I said.

“You said you have daughters?” he asked.

Three, I confirmed.

“Daughters tend to be more powerful arbiters of time spent with parents than sons, so I would be more conscious of displeasing them. Husbands will fall in line.”

Really? It was the reactions of the spouses and partners I’d been fearing—all three of my daughters had given a thumbs-up to more-comfortable décor and had in fact unanimously suggested a mattress upgrade (the old one dated to 1985).

“So no expensive furnishings are necessary?” I asked.

He could hear my disappointment. “Look, if you want to justify it to your husband, you can say you talked to a national expert and he said you absolutely need to buy nice furniture,” he said.

That faux bamboo luggage rack will soon be mine.


This stylish family home combines a classic palette and finishes with a flexible floorplan

35 North Street Windsor

Just 55 minutes from Sydney, make this your creative getaway located in the majestic Hawkesbury region.

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Hotel experience at home in Castle Hill
Hotel experience at home in Castle Hill

A new development in the Hills District sets a new standard in buyer expectations

Wed, May 22, 2024 3 min

Castle Hill is set to be home to a new hotel-like development, with the announcement that the 94-apartment Astrid site is just weeks away from completion.

While the penthouse apartments across the two buildings have already been snapped up, there are still one, two and three-bedroom residences on offer. The development comes with a gold star iCIRT rating, guaranteeing it has met quality construction standards. The iCIRT rating system has been developed by Equifax in partnership with government, industry and market and rates projects from one to five stars following a rigorous and independent review process.

Steve Harb from developer CBD Core, said it’s the best indicator would-be buyers could have that their investment is safe.

“The iCIRT rating gives people the assurance that we’re trustworthy and have integrity as a developer,” he says. “Our service is complete from start to finish, from developer to builder. 

“As a buyer, you have one point of contact, there’s no shifting responsibility or passing the buck so if anyone has an issue, it can be sorted out as soon as possible.”

He said Astrid has proved popular with locals interested in upgrading without leaving the convenience and amenity of the Hills District. Surrounded by some of the best restaurants, clubs and recreational facilities in the area, it is also just six minutes’ walk to the new Metro station and a seven-minute drive to Castle Towers Shopping Centre. Schools and tertiary education options are also within an easy drive. In addition to some of the best parks and reserves in Sydney, it’s an attractive option for families on the move.

Mr Harb said the concept for the development, as with all his projects, was to create a hotel-like environment.

“I only do boutique projects and when I say ‘boutique’, I mean hotels without the concierge,” he says. “The quality and integrity is built into it.”

The infinity edge pool is surrounded by leafy gardens in a resort-style environment.

Leisure facilities include rooftop gardens and entertaining spaces as well as a fully equipped gym on the ground floor overlooking an infinity edge pool surrounded by lush landscaped gardens. Mr Harb says beautiful landscaping is a signature of all his developments.

“I have lived in the Hills District for more than 15 years and the reason I live here is because I love the leafy environment, the greenery,” he says. “I always like to emphasise that in my developments with strong landscaping.”


Recognising the ongoing desire to adopt a hybrid working model, Astrid provides a dedicated on-site working environment suitable for exclusive use by residents needing focused work time, as well as those seeking professional meeting rooms to receive clients, with wifi enabled work desks, as well as more casual seating. 

Mr Harb said the pandemic taught him that, while working from home was convenient, having breakout spaces within a wider residential development was highly attractive.

“You’re not stuck looking at the same four walls,” he says. “The shared work space at Astrid has comfortable lounges, chairs, coffee tables and more than a dozen cubicles,” he says. “It’s more like going into a meeting room in a hotel.”

The apartments are characterised by light-filled interiors.


The apartments are light-filled living spaces with seamless access to balconies, through to integrated joinery secreting storage. Finishes have been chosen to last, from the Michael Angelo Quartz benchtop and Char Oak Polytec Ravine joinery in the kitchen to the stone splashback and custom-made joinery in the bathroom.

Access throughout the buildings is via a swipe card, providing a secure environment. 

For more information, see Astrid Castle Hill.


This stylish family home combines a classic palette and finishes with a flexible floorplan

35 North Street Windsor

Just 55 minutes from Sydney, make this your creative getaway located in the majestic Hawkesbury region.

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