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Special touches create a welcoming guest room

Items that make a guest's stay more comfortable. Dave Wallis / The Forum1 / 4
Items that make a guest's stay more comfortable. Dave Wallis / The Forum2 / 4
Items that make a guest's stay more comfortable. Dave Wallis / The Forum3 / 4
Items that make a guest's stay more comfortable. Dave Wallis / The Forum4 / 4

FARGO -- Fluffy robes, soft slippers and thoughtful details welcome guests to Julie Alin's home.

Alin, the visual display leader and design consultant at Scheels Design Studio in Fargo, outfits her guest room with the comforts of a boutique hotel. It's a hosting skill she learned from her parents.

"I think it makes people feel like they're welcome, and you want them to stay a while," she says. "You want them to feel like they're special and they're being pampered. It's part of their vacation experience."

Millions of people will travel for the holiday season, and many will stay at the homes of friends and family. With a little prep, any guest room can be transformed into a cozy retreat.

Alin and Hailey Goplen, who recently purchased her first home in Fargo, share their tips for creating a blissful environment for houseguests. Lifestyle blog The Glitter Guide and tips from entertaining guru Martha Stewart's website also provide inspiration for a well-appointed guest room.

• Choose the right room. Ideally, a guest room is a bedroom with a bathroom attached, according to Stewart.

Although Goplen has a spare bedroom, she plans to use her recently remodeled basement as a guest space since it's private and there's a bathroom.

"It's nice, when you're a guest, to feel like you have privacy. You're not walking on eggshells the entire time," Goplen says.

The room should also have shades so guests can sleep in.

• Be guest-centric. A room overloaded with family photos and decor can make guests uncomfortable, Alin says.

"You don't want it to look like you've stored all your leftovers in the room. You want it to truly feel like a guest room," she says.

Instead, decorate sparingly and keep the decor gender-neutral (think of how hotel rooms are decorated). The Glitter Guide suggests colorful, cheery artwork like pieces by Georgia native Teil Duncan or prints from

• Appoint the bed. Nothing's worse than an uncomfortable night's sleep. A memory foam mattress pad or feather mattress topper can add a luxurious feel to not-so-great mattresses, Alin says.

Stewart suggests four pillows for the bed - two medium or firm and two soft. Make sure the pillows are clean (many pillows can be washed at home and dried thoroughly in a dryer).

Soft, clean sheets, an assortment of blankets and a duvet cover or quilt top off the bed. Alin leaves a throw blanket for extra warmth.

• Accessorize the nightstand. Keep nighttime necessities in reach and top a nightstand with a novel or two, an alarm clock, a lamp for reading, a pleasant-smelling candle (don't forget the matches or lighter!) and a water carafe. Hand cream and lip balm are extra special nightstand treats.

No nightstand? Use a chair that's about the height of the bed.

• Stock bathroom essentials. A basket of toiletries (think toothbrush, toothpaste, lip balm, special bar soap, etc.), and large, soft towels keep Alin's guests in a boutique hotel state of mind.

Don't forget to leave extra toilet paper and soap so guests don't have to awkwardly ask for it.

Alin also likes to leave fuzzy robes and slippers for guests to wear around the house.

• Pretty up a tray. A freshly cut bloom and a cup of hot coffee or tea served on a tray makes guests feel like they're at a B&B, according to The Glitter Guide.

Leave a few fun trinkets, seasonal items and magazines on the tray for extra flair.

• Keep them caffeinated. One of Alin's favorite guest room touches is a single-serve hot drink maker, such as a Keurig.

A French press would also work if guests have access to boiling water.

• Make room. Alin leaves drawers and closet space free for guests so they can unpack and keep their garments organized and wrinkle-free.

• Create a sitting area. A chair or bench at the end of the bed is useful for guests as they put on shoes, Alin says. A bench can double as a luggage holder.

• Furnish the desk. If the guest room has a desk, Stewart recommends stocking it with pens, paper, note cards, envelopes and stamps.

A list of favorite local restaurants, shops, museums and movie theaters is a thoughtful addition to the workspace.

• Don't overdo it. "That makes me uncomfortable, when people try too hard," Goplen says.

She hopes her guests feel like she did as a kid visiting her grandparents for the weekend.

"You walk barefoot on the carpet. There's a big comfy chair. You can snuggle up with a blanket. That, to me, is comfort," she says. "I like people to feel like my home is their home."

• Stock snacks and meals. A few snacks (granola bars, chocolate, fruit, etc.) left in the guest room keep late-night munchies at bay. Goplen grocery shops before her guests arrive and invites them to eat whatever they like when she's not home.

Stewart recommends stocking special food if guests have any food allergies and giving them a tour of the kitchen so they know where to find glasses, silverware, etc.

• Provide directions. If the guest room has a TV, radio, thermostat or other electronic device, leave an easy-to-understand guide for each, especially if they're tricky to operate.

• Relax. If guests feel like they're going to break or stain something, they'll never unwind, Goplen says.

"I'm not comfortable in space where I feel like I'm going to get things dirty. When people walk in my house and feel like they have to take off their shoes, I'm flattered, but I don't think I'll ever have a house where people need to worry about taking off their shoes," she says.

• Add holiday cheer. For the holiday season, Alin adds a small lit tree and other festive touches to make her guest room feel like a "winter wonderland."

Candles (she prefers fake candles that give off a subtle glow) and some garland around the mirror help evoke merry spirit.