How to Turn Almost Any Space Into a Guest Room

The Hardworking Home: Murphy beds, bunk compartments and more can provide sleeping quarters for visitors in rooms you use every day

By Laura Gaskill  /  Courtesy of Houzz.com

A dedicated guest room is a luxury that not all can afford. But even if you need to use every inch of your home for your own living space, a guest room may still be in the cards. From combination home office–guest rooms to living rooms that do a disappearing act, these ideas are here to help.  

Hardworking space: The guest room.
The challenge: Hosting occasional overnight guests is a fact of life for many … but not so many of us have the square footage to spare for a guest room that rarely gets used. Make your guest room work just as hard for you as it does for your guests by combining it with another space.
Good to know: A ceiling-mounted curtain is an easy and budget-friendly way to give your guests privacy in a shared space.

Design idea: Murphy bed in the home office.

Why: A Murphy bed neatly folds away when not in use, providing room to use a desk and store home office necessities. When guests arrive, just tuck in your desk chair and pull down the bed.

Extras: Seek out a Murphy bed with built-in storage or a fold-down desk on the other side.

Planning tips: You will need about 6 or 7 feet of space, including the cabinet where the bed is stored and the space for the length of the bed when extended. If you have a longer wall but not as much floor space, you can choose a Murphy bed that extends horizontally from the wall instead of vertically. 

In addition, plan to have room for a guest to walk around the bed  if one side is not accessible because of space constraints, that’s OK, but at least one side and the foot of the bed should be easily reachable.

Cost: From $1,000 (for a no-frills twin-size Murphy bed) to $3,000 plus installation for a ready-made unit. For a custom or semicustom Murphy bed, plan to spend $5,000 and up.

Alternate idea: Incorporate a Murphy bed into a home library, complete with library ladder for accessing high shelves. To get the most out of the space, have a drop-down desk or book stand installed on the other side of the bed.

Design idea: Loft bed over desk.

Why: If you don’t have room for a Murphy bed in the home office but want to include a place for guests, a loft bed is a great option. Choose a twin size (or larger if you have the space) and place a desk and shelving below. 

Planning tip: This style bed will work only for guests able to climb a ladder to reach the bed, so it may not be the best choice if your most frequent visitors are older or have limited mobility — unless you want to offer guests your own bed and take the bunk yourself. If younger kids will be staying in the guest bed, add a safety rail.

Cost: Bunk beds are widely available at all price points, used and new — look for a top bunk and desk that coordinate in color or material for a cohesive look. A custom or semicustom bed and desk system can be purchased and installed for around $2,000 and up.

Design idea: Living room transformed into guest room. 

Why: When a separate guest room is not an option, consider working guest space into your living area. In this smart space, a fold-away bunk bed and desk combo provides sleeping space for two, while a ceiling-mounted curtain can be pulled shut at night for privacy.

How: Assess your living room to determine if you have room for a Murphy bed. A twin Murphy bed — or bunks positioned horizontally, as shown here — requires less floor space but will still likely take up all of one living room wall. If a Murphy bed won’t work, choose a quality sofa bed and add a flexible room divider.

Custom option: Integrate your entertainment center and living room bookshelves with a Murphy bed for a seamless look that takes advantage of every last nook and cranny. 

Cost: Expect to spend at least $5,000 (and possibly quite a bit more) on a custom design that includes a Murphy bed and an entertainment center. A custom-cabinet maker or an interior designer should be able to work with you to create a system that fits seamlessly with your home’s architectural features.

Design idea: Hidden bed compartment.

Why: Like a ship’s bunk, this sleeping compartment hides in plain sight during the day — open an accordion door to reveal a snug guest bed that young (and young-at-heart) visitors will adore. A built-in design like this one also allows for ample storage opportunities.

How: This is a job for a pro cabinetmaker or interior designer to tackle, not something to try doing on your own. If you are already working with an architect, you could also ask about integrating a built-in bed into the design of your space.

Design idea: Curtained guest nook.

Why: Easy to install and friendly on the budget, a simple floor-length, ceiling-mounted curtain is a great way to section off guest space in a room. During the day a daybed with cushy throw pillows acts as extra living room seating; at night, make it up with bed linens and pull the curtains shut to give your guest privacy. Alternatively, make a built-in daybed nook in the living room or den work for overnight guests by adding a curtain rod above.

How: Ceiling-mounted curtain tracks are available from many retailers and can be installed as a DIY project or by a handyperson in about an hour. Some curtain tracks are flexible (so you can hang curtains in a curve, as shown here), while some are straight. For a crisper look, use stiff curtain panels designed to be used as room dividers.

Cost: Curtain tracks cost around $5 (for a basic version from Ikea) to $50 per piece, depending on length and materials, plus the cost of curtains or panels.

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Design quandary: How to disguise a Murphy bed? When a Murphy bed is put away, the wall where it is stored tends to be a great big blank spot. You can’t use it to store books or hang framed artworks, since they would just fall off when you open the bed. 

Wall mural. As a creative custom touch, these homeowners had a photographic mural applied to the entire wall where the bed is stored.

Textured surface. Give that Murphy bed wall more visual interest by applying cut-to-fit boards of weathered wood or a textured or wood-look wallpaper.

Hire a pro or DIY? Either of these effects can be achieved by homeowners with some DIY savvy, but it’s certainly not a project for everyone. If you don’t feel like spending hours precisely matching borders or measuring and sawing wood, hire a paper hanger (for wallpaper) or a carpenter or trusted handyperson (for boards) to get it done.

Cost: Expect to spend between $100 and $300 per roll on wallpaper plus installation. Weathered wood (like old barn wood siding) can cost around $3.50 to $7 per square foot — try to find a local source to avoid high shipping charges.

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Small-space layout tip: Keep your Murphy bed hidden in plain sight by using that wall space for a dining table, console or sofa. As long as the piece is relatively light (or better yet, on casters), it shouldn’t be too hard to move it aside when guests come. And in the meantime, you can feel good knowing you’re putting every inch of your space to work.