Decorating a guest room is easier than you might think! Learn how to shop your own home and create a warm, welcoming space on even the smallest budget. This basement guest room began as an underutilized space in our home and we turned it into a functional, welcoming retreat for guests.

As you’ll see, we started with dark and dated paneling, a dark brick fireplace and yes… blue carpet. With lots of paint and a positive attitude, we turned this room into a cozy, calm and clean space for guests to stay overnight!

A white bedroom with blue carpet and various knick knacks around on shelves.
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Originally published July 2nd, 2012 and updated with fresh details and content June 7, 2021.

I probably should have titled this “The Perfectly Imperfect Guest Bedroom.” Honestly, when we first purchased our Colonial Home (click through for the full before and after), we had envisioned creating a guest suite in the basement.  

But several times, I doubted we could make it work.  Sure, we had a four bedroom home and (at the time) only two kiddos, but we wanted to create a private space, away from all of our chaos, for our guests. A little retreat from the feet that wake at 7am – even on a Saturday.

Between the stairwell and the storage room, there was a room with a cabinet, pipes, and some poorly installed paneling.

We knew that somehow, some way… we could make this space work! And make it work we did, all while decorating a guest room simply and inexpensively! Check out these before photos.

A wooden wall
A wooden wall with a brick fireplace
A wooden wall

Want more guest room inspiration? Check out What to Include in a Guest Room!

Basement Guest Room Details

Given the paneling, lack windows, and dark blue carpet, painting the room and ceiling white was an obvious choice.  Two coats of oil based primer and two coats of paint and we were ready to proceed.

The blue carpet and white walls immediately spoke to a beach retreat, and the theme was easy to carry throughout the room.

We replaced the dingy outlets with fresh, clean white ones for just 35 cents each.  We also replaced all of the outlet covers and light switch plates, which is one of my most inexpensive tips for Making an Old Home Look New.  

The entry doors and the door to the storage room were painted white and we thoroughly cleaned the carpet and fireplace.  At this point, we were ready to decorate and furnish.

Rope and a striped bouy in a white basement guest room

Decorating a Guest Room Inexpensively

The first piece of furniture I purchased was a side table I found on Craigslist in black for just $25.  Click here for my easy DIY painting tips.  It doesn’t have to take countless hours and effort to transition a piece.

My mother-in-law gave us a traditional wash stand.  After months of moving it from room to room, it has found it’s home in the guest bedroom, painted white along with the hardware.

A bedroom with a small dresser

To make the room feel open, I wanted to avoid a solid headboard.  I found this metal headboard in like new condition for $25 on Craigslist.  It may get painted white at a later date, but for now, it matches the Pottery Barn Kids mirror in a soft, off white.    

That’s another one of my favorite tips, by the way… shopping at the kid stores for furniture and accessories! See more in How to Get a Luxury Home for Less.

A bedroom with a large white bed and white walls

I originally installed a white pendant light in the room, but as soon as friends of ours announced they would be visiting the Denver IKEA, (at the time, KC didn’t have one) I promptly replaced it with my first choice – the fixture below.  I just love it!  

A white bedroom with various things on walls and shelves


I like to use a down/down alternative comforter with duvet for easy cleaning.  I prefer white linens and towels because they can easily be bleached.  

Next, I selected a really soft, basic set that is relaxed and not fussy. I added a white blanket at the foot of the bed just in case guests get chilly.  A grey and white striped lumbar pillow was made from a body pillow case.

Decorating a guest room is easy when you think of how you’d like to enjoy the space yourself!

The view of a bed in a mirror

If you create a guest bedroom {or any room} without natural light like our basement guest room, I recommend utilizing a couple of mirrors to capture any natural light that may peek in from another room and make the room appear larger and brighter.  

A vase with flowers in front of a mirror

Below, fresh hydrangea fill a nautical rope vase {click here for the tutorial}. A Ball jar from my grandmother’s provides balance and a hint of color.  

I chose a photograph from our honeymoon, but one that didn’t include us.  I like to de-personalize the space, refraining from personal photographs, to make my guests feel more at home.

Flowers and pictures on a shelf

A store bought piece of coral from several years ago, serves as book ends to a couple of easy reads.

In each guest bedroom I’ve created, I’ve always incorporated a bedside carafe.  They are convenient for your guests and the glass rests on top of the “vase” when not in use.  

A glass of water on a side table

While I know this is an inexpensive table and am not concerned about rings, my guests may not realize.  To make them feel at ease, I placed the carafe on a thrift store tray.  

The sailboat continues the beach theme while masking the unattractive pipes that cannot be removed from the space.  

A close up of a side table with a candle, small boat figurine, and water glass.

A miniature wooden buoy and spare rope fill the void in the corner of the fireplace. An old basket filled with my favorite current magazines offer reading material to our friends and family.

The fireplace had non-functional electric logs in it and is not a working fireplace.  We cleaned it thoroughly and painted several additional coats. To fill in the space, I added a basket full of reading materials for guests to enjoy.

A close up of a basket with magazines in it
Books and small decorations on a shelf

Five years ago, we honeymooned in Hawaii.  We decided to frame an inexpensive nautical map without the glass for wall decor.  

A map on a wall

At our rehearsal dinner, my in-laws filled a vase with sand and had each guest add a seashell.  This is the perfect room to include it in, since many of our future house guests contributed to the vase.

Glass full of sand and shells

Basement Guest Room Storage

Since this room isn’t traditionally a bedroom, it lacked a closet.  I wanted to provide a place where our guests could hang their towels, and if needed, a few clothing pieces (from hangers).  

The answer was an easy DIY oar.  Click here for the tutorial.  I also included a wastebasket – all of the amenities of a hotel.

A close up of a paddle with hooks on it

I placed another tray on the wash stand for a convenient place to leave jewelry, watches, keys, etc.

A bedroom with a small dresser and a mirror
A vase of flowers on a table

If you can’t find me, I just may be escaping to this little hideaway in our home. I’d love to hear from you!  Anything you like to include in a guest bedroom?  Do you have a non-traditional basement guest room in your home?  

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