Home & Garden

How to decorate your spare room

A spare room can pose something of a dilemma. Nice to have, but what do you do with it? The answer is glorious: anything you blooming well like. From the best guest room in the west, to the all-out fantasy space you’ve always dreamed of, spare rooms can really be whatever you want them to be.

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Last updated and fact checked:
How to decorate your spare room
  • Spare rooms are enormously common and can be really useful features in the home
  • Most spare rooms tend to be used as guest bedrooms and can be seriously simple or as funky as you like
  • Other possibilities exist, from studies to workshops: the golden rule is to use it as you want to
  • Spare rooms are where we can work, rest or play, and are a lot less calorific than a Mars

How to decorate your spare room: FAQs

  • How to decorate a small room on a low budget?

    One of the beauties of spare rooms is that they are small. This means that you don’t have to spend a fortune on paint, for a start. Economise further by just having one wall painted in a feature colour and the rest in some paint you might already have. 

    Then see about re-purposing things from elsewhere in the house. Finally, check out jumble sales. You’ll be amazed at what you can find.

  • How can I make my spare bedroom look awesome?

    Decide first of all what’s important to you. Do you want to have an over-riding theme throughout the house? Or do you revel in variety? A London bus shade here? A French chateau vibe there? Once you’ve decided, then go for it. 

    The big thing to remember is that nobody is the final arbiter here apart from you. If it looks good to you, then it’s ace!

  • What furniture should I buy for my spare room?

    It’s all about deciding on the function of the room. If you want it to be a handy guest room, get a good bed and make it all about everything your guest needs for a great stay, so a bedside table and clothing storage are musts. Or, if it’s going to be a disco, then you need, ranged around the dancefloor, plenty of collapsing space. Your guests might not be as energetic as you.

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A spare room can be a terrific bonus that you can use in all kinds of ways. It can be the ideal office for the home worker. It can be a making room for the crafter or hobbyist. Most often, it’s used as a guest bedroom. 

But it can be pretty much whatever you want. OK, it probably won’t make much of a swimming pool space or real tennis court, but you may well be surprised at what you can turn your spare room into with a little imagination. 

So, if you don’t know what to do with it, don’t let your spare room drive you spare. With the right furniture and decor, your spare room can be a fabulous asset. Let’s open the door on what you can do with it. 

Room to spare

Here’s the deal with spare rooms: in the UK, over 50% of homes have a spare room. By ‘spare’, we mean a room that’s not designated as the lounge, or somebody’s bedroom, etc. On average, each room in the UK adds £40,000 to a house’s value, so a spare room is an asset that’s far from negligible. It follows then that we should really be making the most of them. A makeover might make sense.

The problem with spare rooms is their very name. If Harry felt ‘spare’ hence a little surplus to requirements, how do you think spare rooms feel? You can put that right by giving your spare room a purpose in life beyond a dumping ground for stuff awaiting a proper home. 

What is it that you could really do with? Most people decide that it’s a guest bedroom they need more than anything else. So, let’s start there. 

Guest bedrooms

Some people love not having a guest bedroom. ‘What’s that? You and all your kids need somewhere to stay while you’re in town? If only we had a guest room, you’d be more than welcome here…’. Get yourself a guest bedroom, and that excuse is all over. 

Most people, however, are not quite so curmudgeonly. To these lovely people, a guest bedroom allows them to pay host to their friends and family, giving comfortable accommodation without anybody having to kip on the sofa or crawling off to sleep in the bath, a la John Lennon.

When you’re deciding how to decorate your guest bedroom, you have two basic choices. Go neutral, so that everyone who uses it finds it agreeable and nobody can take issue with any taste choices. 

Or you can go wild! It might be the case that you refrain from splashing some seriously bold colour elsewhere in the house, for fear of it outstaying its welcome or being too much for you to cope with when you’re trying to brush your teeth first thing in the morning. But in the guest room, you can indulge in some passionate pigmentation and give it some style. 

Low-key and lovely

So, in the neutral camp, we have all manner of calming and enchanting off-white shades, none of which will upset anybody, no matter how picky your guest. 

When opting for this kind of neutral or white bedroom scheme, it’s important to choose furniture that will sit well in this soothing space. So, think about your colour palette and consider light woods, such as light oak chests of drawers and ash bed frames. Combine these kinds of materials with natural flooring made from rattan and jute. 

White is right?

Most guest rooms are a little on the small side. This makes sense: if they were huge, they’d probably have been snaffled up by a house-dweller as their bedroom. So they can be a little limited in size. There’s sometimes a temptation to maximise bedroom space by opting for as much white as possible. White furniture, white walls, white carpet - you get the idea. 

But this is rarely a good idea, unless you’re trying for the ‘Imagine’ look - yes, we’re never far from Mr Lennon, are we? But it’s not for everyone, Ono. (Just try and find your white iPhone in there. And who wants to have to do all that shutter opening every day?)

This kind of minimalist interior design works best if there’s an element of contrast somewhere. Your crisp white bed linen and elegant calico walls will be set off beautifully by restrained splashes of individuality, such as a small but striking painting or a well-chosen house plant, which will operate as a tasteful focal point in a small bedroom. 

Luxe and lively

So, on to the other end of the spectrum. To some with really bold bedroom decorating ideas, a guest bedroom represents the chance to try some ideas they may have seen or read but felt a little reluctant to use elsewhere in the house. 

A guest bedroom can be a place where fantasies can really take flight, with strong colours creating dramatic moods and bold bedroom furniture lending character in spades. 

Daring wall colours may not give the space feel that light palettes do, but it’s not always about the space, is it? Sometimes you want to go cosy or just make a statement. 

Of course, you may actually want your guest bedroom to be a space conducive to sleep, so a slightly more restful tone might be in order. The good news is that you can be both restful and definite, because Bensons for Beds has everything you need to create an opulent and vibrant spare room. 

Pair up your paint with some unusual wall decor, such as some modern wall art. Perhaps a geometrictastic piece of Kandinsky, or an ethereal slice of Klimt. Or an unapologetic picture of some dogs playing snooker. You can always claim you were being ironic. 

Bold beds

Usually, the foremost piece of furniture in a bedroom design is the bed, and you can really go to town with these babies. How about a magnificent Ottoman TV bed (with Dolby Atmos surround sound to give your guests an immersive treat)? With an eye-catching upholstered headboard, you can really dial up the luxury feel. Or, for that Henry VIII vibe, think about a four-poster bed. 

Why not go the whole hedonism hog and hang up a chandelier? Consider boho touches such as individual flourishes of artisanal tastes and bespoke furnishings. Source what you can from markets and antique shops - you never know what you might find when venturing through piles of old bits and pieces. 

However, don’t eschew your trusty bedroom shops. You might be surprised at what characterful pieces you can find, such as upholstered bedside tables and bedroom storage ideas with oodles of personality. 

Theme it up

In fact, with a little creativity and an open mind, you can stuff a sleep space with interesting features. Want more Graceland than grace-and-favour? You can go all-out Elvis, from a GI Blues window blind to a King-sized Vegas years wallcovering. 

Fancy going Nordic? You can have horned helmet table lamps and soup up a sleigh bed with a stag’s head hung over it (note: faux heads are available. And to be preferred). 

Finally, if you’re doing up your guest room primarily as a kid’s room, you can really go radical, with design ideas centring on pirate themes. Or make it all about Disney princesses, with pinks and golds everywhere, from dressing tables to soft furnishings to sumptuous wall panels. Or why not go with superheroes? The more Incredible(s), the better!

It’s not all about sleeping

So, you have a spare room but don’t need any more sleeping accommodation, thanks. In that case, you can really turn your imagination loose. 

Study as she goes

How about a library or an old-style den? You can source some great-looking bookcases, or if your DIY’s up to it, you can erect some shelves for useful storage. 

Every den needs one thing above all else. No, not a lion. A globe bar. It’s an absolute must-have and will garner more praise than any number of tasteful paint colours or window treatments. 

Next thing? A nicely upholstered leather chair. Whack in an Ottoman storage box, all the better to pop your feet up on as you leaf through a much-loved old book, and you have a den of dreams, capable of cocooning one in classic comfort for hours, nay, days at a time. 

Getting crafty

If you’re patently a leatherworker, shine at jewellery making, or have hand stamping all hammered out, you need a space to hobby it up and bring your creations to life. A spare room can be that place where you make the magic happen. 

You’ll want plenty of illumination in there, perhaps with pendant lights or a standard lamp, and to make the most of any natural light you have. You’ll also want quite a stripped room feel so that you’re not distracted from your efforts by a pile of mags or a big tin of biscuits. 

Most importantly of all, though, you’ll need a large table to do your work on. It doesn’t matter if it dominates the space. That’s the beauty of a spare room - it’s not earmarked for any other activity, so you can jolly well hog it for whatever you want. 

Dare to spare

So, what have we learned? A spare room can be as fun as you fancy or as strictly functional as you need. Whether you just want it to be a space that’s all about offering your guests a good night’s sleep, or a room that will be a perfect parlour for your pleasurable pursuits, from pumpkin carving to dog grooming, a spare room is just waiting to be shaped by you. 

The rule is that there are no rules. In home decor, it’s sometimes the case that people feel a little unwilling to give their real tastes unfettered expression. But with a spare room, all shackles are off. 

You can go all out modern bedroom with clean lines and no clutter. Or you can veer into Victoriana with heavy pictures in gold frames, stuffed owls and smoking jackets. It’s up to you. The owls thing might be going a bit far, though.

Image Credit: Spacejoy at Unsplash

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