- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Arlene Mirkin of Potomac has a special suite in her home designated as “the admirals’ quarters.” Every year, on New Year’s Day, her husband’s three friends who are admirals in the Navy come to visit. Since they need a place to stay after celebrating, Mrs. Mirkin’s guest suite becomes their temporary home.

“There’s a totally separate entrance for privacy,” Mrs. Mirkin says. “It’s so good when guests have their own kitchen or bathroom, especially if they need to get up in the middle of the night.”

Some homeowners set aside a room or suite for guests, while other people transition a spare room into a guest room. With a larger budget, some people might even build a free-standing guest home apart from the main house.

Guest wings and rooms are a growing trend, says Tom Hazzard, director of design/build operations at Natelli Custom Homes and Renovations in Gaithersburg.

Many of his clients are concerned about how to accommodate guests during the year and throughout the holidays, he says.

Mr. Hazzard worked as the builder on Mrs. Mirkin’s guest suite, which was constructed on top of her garage. Mrs. Mirkin wanted to expand the existing structure to a three-car garage, which would give her daughter, Jordana, a place to park her car.

Even though the garage and guest suite are attached to the house, Mr. Hazzard needed to install new electric, plumbing, heating and cooling systems in the space. The guest suite has one bedroom, a sitting area, kitchenette and full bath.

(Before construction begins on an addition to a house, the owners should check with their local jurisdictions to be sure all permits are in order.)

The flexibility of a guest space is appealing to those homeowners interested in raising the market value of the house, Mr. Hazzard says.

“It can serve as an in-law suite or nanny suite, for live-in help, if you have younger children,” he says. “It also could serve as a home office, since a lot of people are telecommuting. It’s really a home run.”

Since older homes usually have smaller rooms, homeowners often like to renovate their houses and add guest space, says Scott Kestner, president of the Apollo Group in Clifton.

“Space is a big thing nowadays,” Mr. Kestner says. “It’s the lifestyle of people now. They need more room. They want guests to have their own bathroom, so it’s their own little area.”

Mr. Kestner worked on adding a guest suite for Margaret Straub of McLean. Originally, it was supposed to be extra space for Ms. Straub’s mother, who died before the suite was completed, Mr. Kestner says.

Previously, the area in the basement had been a recreation room and a bedroom with a bathroom. For the addition, Mr. Kestner built a guest suite with a bathroom, walk-in closet, and coat closet. The previous space is now a library, a recreation room with a bar and renovated bathroom.

Although Ms. Straub’s mother never used the room, other people enjoy it, Mr. Kestner says. For instance, Ms. Straub’s brother and her housekeeper make use of it. Further, Mr. Kestner says the house’s value probably went up.

“Whether it’s a young or old family, everyone wants an extra room, so guests don’t have to sleep on couches or pull-out couches,” he says. “It’s very inconvenient for guests.”

If a family doesn’t have the money for an expensive addition, there are simple things homeowners can do to make a guest room, says Marjaneh S. Adell, owner of Drawing Room Design in Great Falls.

For a lower budget, she suggests buying a metal bed and placing a cloth over a table, instead of buying an expensive nightstand. Placing glass over the cloth will preserve the fabric and keep it in place. A table lamp and plants also are nice touches. A bouquet of fresh flowers in the bedroom is always complementary, Mrs. Adell says.

“You need a guest room, at any rate,” she says. “If you are a young couple, you will have friends coming over, and the parents coming over. You will need a place for them to stay. If the kids are gone, they are going to come back with even more people.”

With a larger budget, she suggests buying a bedroom set and providing other finishing touches.

Mrs. Adell says to use soft colors and coordinate the drapery with the comforter and dust ruffle. Sage green, soft yellow, ice blue or cream are options, as long as they are not vivid, she says. An area rug also is a way to add color.

Adding a small television or phone line in the room are other suggestions, she says.

Tissues are a given, she says, with bath towels and a free-standing towel rack. If money allows, monogrammed towels are fitting, as well as a gilded mirror.

Also, painting the ceiling above the bed in faux finish as an imitation of the sky is a favorite choice, she says. She suggests illustrating the dawn or starry night.

Having a comfortable space for guests is important for business purposes, especially in the metropolitan area. The guest room reflects an image of the owner of the house, Mrs. Adell says.

“You can’t have a nice foyer and a shabby guest room,” she says. “It shows how much you care.”

If a child has moved out of the house and left an empty room behind, simple steps can be taken to transition the room into guest space, says Max Cohen, interior designer of Maximize Decors in Northwest.

“For any kind of room that does dual purpose, storage and organization is the key to it,” she says. “In the city, places are not that large. You need your rooms to do double duty.”

Many clients have called her at the last minute before the holidays, asking for help preparing for guests, Ms. Cohen says. She has created slipcovers for couches or chairs upon demand.

With a short deadline in sight, she has rearranged furniture for a better traffic flow and changed the lighting in a room. Shelves, baskets, cans and ottomans can be used to store items and provide a unified look for a room, she says.

“The biggest mistake people make is that they wait too long,” she says. “One of the biggest ways to help guests feel relaxed is to give them a private, organized space, so they sort of feel held by you, in a sense.”

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