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  • Writer's pictureSarah Pence

How to Create the Perfect Guest Room: Military Family Style

If you've been hanging out here in my little corner of the internet for a while or if you've read my bio, then you know that military families are a specialty of mine. There's a long list of reasons that I hold them dear to my heart. One of them is because, well, I can relate. Though our time supporting my husband as he serves in the US Army is coming to a close this summer, we are forever changed from our experiences as a military family. Through the good, the bad, and the ugly, we've learned SO much about what it really means to be "HOME".

One of the biggest lessons (and there were MANY, friends) is that you've got to have a good guest room. For most military families, the "PCS" (permanent change of station) is something that brings a rollercoaster of emotions. It means picking up your life and starting over again (and again...and again...) somewhere else. The reality is that most of us are not going to end up close to the family and friends that shaped us as children and young adults. Each time we leave a place to start anew, we build new relationships with friends who become our family. It's a pretty special experience, but it's not for the faint of heart and oftentimes we find ourselves missing the loved ones from "back home" and the special friends we've met along the way "back when we were at Ft. (insert name of base here)". So, we NEED a good guest room. One that is always waiting with open arms. One that that will foster peaceful rest from travel and exciting "check out our new city" vibes when our long-awaited visitors come to see us. For this special family, one that I have had the pleasure of getting to know and love over the past several years, we did just that. We built a really good guest room - military life style. And I'm going to walk you through the process and give you a little glimpse into the HOW and the WHY for this design. Ready? Let's get started!




This project began like any other E-Design project, but I already knew there would be things to consider that the average client doesn't need think about. We started with my standard New Project Questionnaire where I gather all the information needed to begin the Concept Phase of a new project. However, for this particular project (and others like it), I have to ask questions like: "How long will you be at this duty station?", "Are the military movers handling your pack out or you planning a DITY move to the next base?", "What are your plans for after your ETS and out-processing is completed?", and other what-are-these-people-talking-about acronyms. Still following me? If not, it's ok. I've been a military wife for nearly 10 years and I'm still not sure what all of it means, but I've got a handle on the important stuff - like how to make anywhere feel like home.

In this case, my sweet clients were planning a relatively long stay (5-7 years...yep...thats a long stay) at this duty station so we knew we had some time. And with a decent budget to get some sturdy pieces for this space, I had a great jumping off point to get started. But, we also needed to consider the uncertainty of this life and what their possible future plans for this home might be (like possibly renting it out to another military family coming to this station when duty calls) so we needed to settle somewhere in the middle between cheap/thrifted (I still love a good thrift find, yall, so don't get it twisted) and custom high-end furnishings (I love those, too. But, only when it's appropriate and this wasn't the project for that type of design plan).

We reviewed the key points from the questionnaire we wanted to be sure to incorporate into the design plan and chose a service that best fit their needs:

  • Desired Style: Farmhouse

  • Desired Feel: Cozy, relaxing, welcoming

  • Preferred Color Palette: Nuetral overall with pops of cool-toned color (blues/greens)

  • Biggest Design Challenge: Lack of vision

**Did you catch that last part - "lack of vision"? That's why we chose the PCI Signature Service. Check it out here. **

Next up...



Guest Room Concept Board

This is where the real fun begins! But, when considering all the things mentioned above, it's not without it's challenges. Based on the room dimensions and the fact that my clients wanted something that felt permanent but still able to transition to a different house/state/station if necessary, I chose a standard queen headboard vs. a full bed frame. Why? Because it will take up a bit less space, it will come apart easily for moving and storage, and it's going to work in just about any room that will hold a queen sized bed. When it came to the bedside tables, I wanted them to have something that would work in the current space but would also work in other areas/bedrooms of their home so "matchy-matchy" was not an option here. I was also careful to consider the construction and material of these foundational pieces knowing what it's like to pack and move it all so going with a sturdy solid wood material with light distressing was a must. They also expressed wanting to possibly add some additional seating, but were unsure of how to do that without taking up too much space. My go-to for things like this is almost always a bench. They are great for smaller spaces and can be used just about anywhere in a home. So, if the guest room in the next house has them working with a different layout and it doesn't work as well in that space, it can easily be moved to an entryway or nook where it will still be functional.

**Pro-tip: Choosing lightly distressed pieces, especially when working with a farmhouse style, is a great way to take the worry of "what if it gets scratched in the move" out of the equation. Those of us who have done this a few times know there is a strong possibility that's going to happen...probably more than lots of things.

When it came to choosing a color palette, I wanted to consider the existing color scheme at the forefront. Sure, we could paint the walls and the clients were totally willing to do so. However, after talking with them a bit and hearing that they may want to rent this home out in a few years, I knew it would be a better decision to leave the neutral colored walls alone and work in the color pops with other elements. To do this, I needed a great rug to ground the space and give me the color palette I needed to bring those elements into the design. Working off of this rug gave me the inspiration to bring in other patterns/colors with elements like the artwork and bedding.

Speaking of bedding, here's another #protip: Using a duvet cover and either one insert with a high fill power or two lighter weight inserts gives the bed that full fluffy look that just makes you want to crawl in for an afternoon snooze, but won't break the bank AND makes it easier to strip and clean between guest visits.

Guest Room Concept Board

This room had a unique layout in that one of the four walls was all doors. Literally. All. Doors. - the entrance to the room, the walk-in closet, and the entrance to the on-suite/shared bathroom. So, I needed to create the furniture layout plan with that in mind. The other thing to consider with this space was that they didn't need a large amount of storage (thanks to door #3 leading to the large walk-in closet), but they did mention that after talking with me about my typical guest room "must haves" during our virtual consultation that they loved the idea of a coffee bar + welcome basket for their guests. We also discovered during our discussion about the functionality of this space and the rooms adjacent to it, that with a house full of kids and extra guests it would be great to have an additional place for guests to get ready for the day's adventures in order to avoid the choas of a shared bathroom. To this I said, why not incorprate something that can do both? Thinking outside the box is kind of my thing. I chose a sideboard in a fun color and added a large mirror above it to do triple duty: add color (pop of navy blue), functionality (a second vanity), and a personal touch (coffee bar + welcome basket).

To finish off the space, I added the final elements. I wanted to keep the look clean and easy with the window treatments so I chose a simple two-toned style in a machine-washable fabric. The chalkboard is an ode to the client's crafty side and another way to add a personalized and welcoming feel the room (who wouldn't want a personalized welcome and special chalk drawings from the kiddos when they come to stay?!) And the luggage rack is something I always suggest for clients wanting to set up a great guest room. They are SO helpful and because they fold up, they are easy to store in a closet or under the bed when they aren't being used.

When I had everything neatly placed and the concept was ready, it was off to upload it to the client's portal along with a presentation video explaining each part of the design. Next up - Feedback time! Within a few hours, they had approved nearly every piece of the design concept and were ready for the final phase. Woo hoo! Next stop, creating the rendered space!




I'll be honest, I love every step of this process but rendering the space and actually seeing it come to life may be my favorite. It just brings me so much JOY! I've been doing this for a while now and I still get giddy when I'm pulling things together and building a space from nothing to create that "wow" factor. Remember that part about the client expressing a "lack of vision"? This is where the "AH HA!" moment comes in and this project really shines! For most things I was able to re-create the actual products that would be found on the shopping list the clients receive at design completion. For others, the most important thing was to show the size, scale, color, and placement so that I could really give them the feeling of being in their newly-designed guest room. Then it was time to shop! With a clickable shopping list, all the clients needed to do is go to their client portal and click away!

Deployment/work schedules, school/activity schedules, and vacations were all a factor here, too. But that's the great thing about E-Design - YOU get to set the timeline. They loved that it was there for them to order everything they needed while still being able to manage when and where deliveries would take place. Easy, right?!

So, there you have it. A glimpse of military life, a walk through the E-Design process #militaryfamilystyle, and a few tips you can use in your home.

Check out the render gallery for this project below!


Ready to collaborate on a design plan for YOUR home?

Click HERE and let's get started!

Until next time,

Be Well. Stay Kind.

And Keep Dreaming.


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