This week we caught up with interior designer Mairead Turner to find out how to make the most of our spare bedrooms. Based in North Wales, Mairead oversees a rolling portfolio of about a dozen residential design projects and several commercial interior decoration projects at any one time, working in various contexts. Today, we’re with Mairead as she gets to work transforming her spare bedroom space.
“Like a lot of people, we have a lot of multi-purpose rooms in our home but the most ambitious and dysfunctional one was our downstairs spare room”, says Mairead.
“It never really worked and it was definitely the worst room for guests, home to the friends with dogs (they start to arrive around middle age), the teenage kids and the last arrivals at a big party”.
“Once we started Airbnb’ing our home I began to feel some serious guilt as it just didn’t feel as lovely as the bedrooms. I imagined the painful guest dynamics as people fought over who wouldn’t get it, the years of therapy that might ensue for that least favourite child…so the spare room overhaul began. Here’s how it looked by the end, and here’s what I learnt”.
1. Make the made-up bed the focal point
“I had worked out my scheme for the whole room with various Swyft fabric swatches, sticking them on walls and materials boards. I veered from the Elephant Grey Velvet fabric (my first choice) to the Model 04 Sofa Bed in Seaglass instead".
"This change from velvet to linen was really to ground the scheme and be more restrained as I went full steam ahead with wallpapering every wall, so the sofa had to be the sensible grown-up one in the room. This linen fabric brings a country, classic hit to this scheme and I hope pulls everything into the calm zone”.
“Just as in a bedroom you want to make the bed the focal point by dressing it beautifully, I’d do the same with your sofa bed once it's in bed mode. In this room, I pull it away from the walls so it feels spacious with room to get in from both sides and dress it as well as I would a normal bed. I mean, some would put chocolates on the pillow- but I draw the line there!”, she jokes.
2. Be brutal and declutter
“There’s a tendency to think “I can put all the rubbish furniture that doesn’t really fit anywhere and doesn’t really work in my house into the spare room because I might move house/suddenly fall in love with it/it might come in useful”, and so on. It's tough to declutter, but sell, give and re-purpose what you can to get that spare room as functional, spacious and calm as possible”.
3. Think about the conditions needed for a good night’s sleep
“Generally the most important things here are heat/light/sound as well as the obvious - a comfy bed”, explains Mairead.
(Pictured above) The Swyft Model 04 Sofa Bed has a 300 pocket-sprung mattress for the most comfortable overnight stays
“Some guests need blackout to sleep. I wanted blinds and curtains in this room to get a double-layered effect. This room is downstairs with one window looking onto the street so I really wanted it to feel more cocooned and cosy than maybe an upstairs bedroom needs to. I like some light to come into a room so I chose unlined blinds, knowing that the curtains would provide enough darkness needed for sleep”.
“If the budget is more pressing, choose either blinds or curtains and get them with blackout lining unless you go for shutters”.
4. Replicate the essentials and luxuries of a hotel bedroom
“I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s woken up in a spare room in the dark and has staggered around trying to remember where the light switch is”.
“I love the simple, thought-out luxury of a bedside table and wired-in wall lights. If this isn’t doable, always place a lamp on a table or stool next to the bed - your guests will have that lovely sleep knowing that they can just flick a light on if needed. You don't need to stop there - take inspiration from hotels and put other things within reachable distance”.
“Ideally, you would provide a wardrobe and a chest of drawers but as space is everything in these hard-working rooms it may be more practical to provide a pullout option and a few baskets”, she explains.
5. A space to sleep in should feel calm
“No doubt your spare room will need to store other stuff - bikes, ironing boards, boilers, who knows. In my case, I wanted to store some of my work samples, books and a cupboard for my kid’s toys and craft stuff. It sounds obvious, but either keep it behind closed doors (toys and craft stuff in my case) or style the life out of it!”, jokes Mairead.
“I hope I've given you a few things to think about if you're about to upgrade your spare room, and I hope you have fun with it!”
Swyft's tips for spare bedrooms
What should I put in a small spare room?
When you're working with a smaller space, it's worth investing in furniture that folds away neatly. Sofa beds offer up a comfortable place to sit in the daytime and can be easily transformed into an occasional bed for guests at night.