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A Soothing Sanctuary: Room Design That Works

by Janet Wolf of The B&B Team

A warm and inviting, well appointed and soothing sanctuary. Isn’t that what every innkeeper wants to provide for their guests?  How do you achieve that?  Interior design can be a daunting task and choosing the right style for your inn is a very personal and individual journey.  I have come up with a few basic guidelines to consider when redecorating a guest room or when you start the process of making your newly purchased inn your own.

o   Clean Lines

o   Classic Style

o   Balance

o   Absence of Clutter

o   Gender Neutral

o   Thoughtful

To help define these terms I have chosen examples of guest rooms from two different inns.  The innkeepers of these two inns were graduates of our Aspiring Innkeepers Seminar and have created some exceptionally beautiful rooms as well as becoming very successful innkeepers.  We at The B&B Team are very proud that we could play a part in their success.

Maury Place at Monument is a newly opened urban bed and breakfast in Richmond Virginia.  Innkeepers Jeff Wells and Mac Pence have lovingly restored and decorated their urban inn in a style they describe as “both sophisticated and refreshingly modern, while still taking cues from the dramatic neo-classical architecture.” Go to their Rooms Page, and while viewing the rooms read the following comments.

·         Their window treatment choices enhance the classic lines of the window frames by not covering up the beautiful details of the woodwork.  The shutters, shades and fabric have either vertical or horizontal lines which give the windows a streamlined clean look.  The use of less instead of more fabric in the window treatments emphasizes the architectural elements and the views.

·         Many of their major pieces of furniture are classic traditional reproductions or antiques. The beds, dressers, desks and chairs are all timeless designs, not trendy.  This classic style creates a stately quietness and a visual balance to a room.  The beauty of these pieces will be enjoyed for a long time without going out of style.

·         A good example of the use of symmetrical balance is found in the Fontaine Suite with the elegant elongated mirrors placed behind the bedside lamps.  The bedside tables are not a matching pair which is an example of the use of ‘near’ symmetry.  The tables are the same height and wood tone which creates equal visual weight and complement each other.

·         The bedding in all their guest rooms provides a neutral background for a few well placed accent pillows.  This is another example of creating clean lines.  The classic style of the beds is a perfect silhouette for the clean, fresh, crisp linens.  Their beds make a guest want to slip into their comfortable depths!

·         Another good example of balance is the wall prints that are placed in harmonious groupings in all of their guest rooms.  Many of the groupings consist of lovely, classic old prints that create interest and color to the neutral background of the walls.  You will also notice that the colors in the prints and paintings compliment the pillows, window treatments and coverlets.  The eye picks up on these accessories and helps bring the rooms together.

·         There is clearly an absence of clutter in these rooms.  An uncluttered environment is very conducive to a good night’s rest.  Using a few well placed decorative items that do not take up a lot of room on the bedside tables and dressers is also thoughtful.  Guests need enough space for their stuff!

·         Providing a desk or table with comfortable seating is also a thoughtful addition that guests appreciate and may require, especially in an urban setting where the possibility of having business travelers is higher.  You can see in the floor plans they provide that three of the four suites have desks.

·         When viewing these rooms you can see very clearly that they would appeal to both men and women.  The clean lines, neutral colors, and absence of clutter and inclusion of well-appointed accessories would appeal to all, thus the term gender-neutral.

2.       Addison on Amelia is a beautiful inn in the historic district of Fernandina Beach, Florida (Amelia Island).  There are three separate antebellum style buildings that surround a fountain courtyard with many architectural details inside and out.  Innkeepers Bob and Shannon Tidball have decorated the guest rooms in a style they describe as “Old Florida elegance with understated hints of the tropics.”  Again, view their rooms on their website while reading the following comments.

·         The neutral and occasional bolder accent colors in their rooms reflect the inn’s tropical location.  Corals, leafy greens, sky and ocean blues, sunny yellows, and sandy beiges are used to create a clean, restful, and soothing environment.  The color scheme is repeated in each of their guest rooms as well as the common rooms, which provides a common harmonious link from room to room.

·         The bed treatments in their rooms are very ‘spa’ inspired.  Natural textured cotton or bamboo coverlets and luxurious and tailored linens are used to create a clean and inviting effect.  A guest can definitely see themselves slip between these cool , crisp, and clean lined linens.

·         The use of ceiling to floor drapes in many of their rooms enhances the 11 foot ceilings, delivers elegance and adds accent color that is artfully repeated in other areas of the rooms.  The use of the drapes and the wooden blinds produces the vertical and horizontal lines that create the clean streamlined look that is so pleasing to the eye, allowing the guest clear and unobstructed views.

·         Not having everything in the room match does not throw off the balance.  As an example many of their rooms have fanciful tropical style bedside lamps that do not match.  Yet they are of equal visual appeal and weight and attract your eye which achieves a balanced look.

·         Some of the rooms at the inn have more traditional classic four poster beds, armoires, and bedside tables that are timeless in their design.  These pieces help create the “Old Florida elegance.”  Other rooms have more modern rattan and woven wood pieces which reflect the “hints of the tropics.”  They have done a wonderful job of blending these two styles to create an easy, relaxed atmosphere.

·         There is a definite absence of clutter in these rooms.  Their guest rooms are accessorized with a light touch.  A well placed orchid plant and jardinière on a mantel piece is just enough.  A potential guest can view these rooms online and picture themselves in the calm uncluttered environment that has been created.

·         Besides providing desks and comfortable seating for your guests, another thoughtful and often times neglected necessity is providing enough lighting in a room.  As you can see in these rooms there are always two bedside lamps, a desk lamp, and a lamp beside a seating area, at least four sources of illumination.  The height and size of a bedside lamp is especially important.   The illumination from the lamp must cast enough light on the bedside so a guest can read comfortably.

·         The successful use of cool, soothing, and restful colors, natural textures, clean lines, and uncluttered environment that has been created in these guest rooms would be pleasing to all, definitely gender-neutral.

Interior design is the art of shaping the experience of interior space.  When you have created a warm, inviting, and well-appointed (thoughtful!) soothing sanctuary you have succeeded in creating an experience for your guests that they will remember in their hearts and minds and return for more! As seen from their guest comments, I believe Mac and Jeff, and Shannon and Bob have most assuredly succeeded in creating sanctuaries any guest would come back to experience again and again.


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