In this post: Looking for updated guest bedroom ideas? Don’t miss this account of how our guest room decor has evolved along with our style.⇒
Sometimes you have a vision that you carry around with you for a very long time.
It could be a photo, a place you remember, or a vague mashup of past experiences that you can’t really recall where they came from.
But the best of them haunt you.
In the best possible of ways.
Such was the case with a blue and white cottage style interior that I was smitten with for years. And in my case, I knew exactly where it came from.
When I was fresh out of college, one of my first design jobs was working as a print designer for Ralph Lauren. I worked in the women’s wear division, but as the company was expanding rapidly and running out of desk space, I was seated with the newly minted Ralph Lauren Home team.
At 22 years old, I hadn’t really ever thought much about decorating a home. But I was utterly taken with the aesthetic being created around me.
It was there that I learned how the design of a room could create a fantasy that you inhabit, in much the same way you could invent an identity by simply donning the right clothes.
As I peeked over the shoulders of my co-workers, who were developing Ralph Lauren’s first home furnishings line, I fell in love with the earliest iteration of a blue and white cottage collection which was inspired by a vintage china platter. (Yep, someone literally walked in with an ‘Asiatic Pheasant’ platter and said make a print pattern out of this. And that is where the Dauphine floral came from!)
I knew I wanted to incorporate this lovely style in my own home…
at some point.
Certainly it didn’t fit in my 1980’s, contemporary one bedroom apartment. But it took root inside of me and stayed there for years.
More than thirty years, in fact.
Oh, sure, there were a few false starts including a kitchen, in our first house, that was wallpapered in the pretty blue and white print. I also added the checked hand towels and ticking placemats that would eventually be sewn into pillow covers for our guest room, thirty years later.
Guest Room Inspiration
Which brings us to the guest room in our current home, our first proper guest room after all these years.
With our kids grown and out on their own, our empty nest is now full of guest rooms, but while the other two spaces are still dedicated to each child (meaning the closets are filled with their things… ;-)), this one has been a full-on guest room from the day we moved in.
From the start, I wanted this room to be as comfortable as the finest hotel room, equipped with all the essentials for that perfect guest room feel. But more on that in a minute.
It was also the ideal place to realize my vision of a blue and white cottage bedroom. For one thing, my parents were the visitors who stayed here most often, and my mother’s love of blue and white decor is almost legendary.
I picked a soft blue paint color (Benjamin Moore’s Sweet Bluette) and attended to the linens, mixing patterns in floral and check. I accessorized with chinoiserie and botanical prints and was delighted that I had created a comfortable space with a ‘countryside’ aesthetic.
I outfitted the bedside table with little conveniences like the wi-fi password and a carafe of water, and stacked inviting decor books on a pretty chippy bench. There was plenty of storage space in the empty guest room closet, filled with available hangers and a full length mirror. A sitting area across from the bed could function as a little reading nook with a useful table lamp on a nearby side table.
I was pretty happy with the outcome, feeling I had thought of all the extras.
Changing the Pillows
But over time, that cottage bedroom that I had envisioned for so long, began to feel stale. It’s remarkable that for more than thirty years, I never tired of the idea in my mind, but once realized, after a few short years, it started to look dated.
The first change was a very simple one which focused mostly on the linens. I swapped out the patterned pillows in hues of blue, replacing them with all white shams in varied textures. Next, I layered the blankets with a white diamond quilt underpinning, and reserved the floral pattern for the lofty duvet only.
The nightstand was still peppered with blue and white porcelain, but with crisp white linens everywhere, it felt a lot more clutter free.
The road to an updated space was underway and I suddenly felt a bit released from the past. But this was just the beginning.
Adding a Work Space
As more time passed, our needs changed. My parents got older and moved into an apartment nearby. They were no longer visiting from out of state and rarely used our guest room.
Then, the pandemic hit and hubby started working from home, and suddenly we needed two office spaces. While I wasn’t ready to give up the guest room altogether, I liked the privacy of a separate office and claimed a corner of the room for a makeshift ‘office alcove’.
I moved the bedside chest to the other side of the room and got a new desk to accommodate my work life. It gets bonus points for the mini hutch which provides an organized option for storing laptops and tablets.
Pro Tip: You can do a similar thing in your own guest room if you’d like a ‘craft room’ type corner.
The Move Toward Neutral
In the past couple of years I’ve lost both of my parents and our guests tend to be quite a bit younger. I started to experiment with the decor in the guest room, adding lots of organics and rustic textures. A burlap lamp, a rattan tray and textiles that exhibit a more casual vibe.
Still working around the blue walls, but with a neutral jute-style rug, I went a bit more indigo with the blues and added the beiges and tans that organic materials bring.
The creature comforts are still here, with robes for our guests, blackout shades for light control, and state of the art chargers on both sides of the bed.
But I didn’t stay with the darker colors for too long…
Where We Are Today
The most recent change has completely freed me from the room’s beginnings and I finally said goodbye to the blue walls. They were soft and lovely and upbeat and happy, but so is the new light palette and it’s so much more current.
The room is now painted China White, a pale greige color that can read white in a dark room, or more beigy-grey in a room that gets a lot of light, as this one does.
With the blue walls gone, I can go in any direction with my decor, and this is much the same strategy I’ve taken with most of our home. Neutral walls, flooring and key upholstered pieces leave the door open for accents in any color you like, easy to change out on a whim or as the seasons roll by.
For now I’m loving neutrals in all their glory, highlighting textures wherever possible.
The neutral desk space required very little change, but I love the infusion of a bit of rustic chic, with vintage natural pieces like the antique wooden mortar, playing nicely against the white ironstone pitcher.
The tonality is much more restful on the eyes and I just love working here.
The Swedish bedside chest has been here almost from the start, providing just enough space for guest storage and the perfect surface for a bedtime carafe of water. I’ve removed the alarm clock because our guests just use their phones, but the lamp is present for reading in bed.
The white linens have remained the same, but the toile duvet has been packed away in favor of a neutral linen waffle-weave comforter. A dough bowl functions as an amenity basket, with fresh towels, soap, hand cream and body lotion.
When all is said and done, the room is, at heart, still a cottage bedroom, not very far from its original rustic roots, which influenced my taste all those years ago. The blue and white is mostly gone, but could be restored in a snap with a duvet and some pottery.
After 30 years of pining over a blue and white cottage bedroom, that’s now been evolving since its inception over the past 7 years, you can be sure I’ve kept the elements in a nearby closet.
But for today, this is my new vision. It builds on the inspiration that has informed my style for decades, ever pulling from my new experiences and influences. It changes with our needs, along with our tastes. Where it goes next remains to be seen.
Perhaps some day it will accommodate a crib?
To get the look, click on the items below for direct links to the products. Where actual items were no longer available, I’ve provided similar options. If an item is out of stock but may be restocked, I left it on the list.
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