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How the Guest room has been terminated by Millennials

No more guest bedroom

I have slept on air mattresses, sofas, sofa beds, and even on someone’s floor once. Although we don’t talk about that! I’ve been an occasional guest at friends’ places throughout the years. While hospitality is always present, the idea of having a guest room, a temporary room of one’s own, feels as luxurious as it is improbable. It falls into the category of aspirational interior design elements, like a pantry or a teacup set. Which I fantasize about but seem more fitting in an English cottage or seaside residence than in my 550-square-foot rental apartment in Berlin.

A fading memory

Although the guest room may be a thing of the past, the memories of it are still fresh. You can still find rooms ready to host overnight guests in the homes of grandparents or family friends. It serves as a reminder that the concept was popular not too long ago. According to design writer and author Sarah Archer, the guest room as we knew it emerged in the 20th century. She explains, “Before the post-World War II housing boom, it was rare to have enough extra space to keep a bedroom ready for visitors at a moment’s notice, and mostly only the wealthy could afford it. Postwar suburban houses offered more room, which made guest rooms more common for the middle and lower-middle classes. The guest room became a sign of modest but serious wealth. What’s not there—storage, a real person’s bedroom, a workshop—says as much as what is there.”

Guest Room & Its Popularity

The reasons for the popularity of the guest room are the same as those contributing to its decline. Homeownership has been replaced by rental agreements. Shared flats have become more common than traditional family units. And spacious suburban homes have given way to small city apartments. Sarah adds, “Today, space is at such a premium that having a guest room feels like a luxury from the Gilded Age.” When you get less space for your money, prioritization becomes crucial. Design advisor and WeIncontro founder Helena Agustí understands this well. Her keen eye for decoration has made her homes Instagram-worthy. When she searched for a new rental last year, a space to host guests was high on her list of priorities.

“I wanted a place that felt cozy and warm and had outdoor space,” says Helena. “My current apartment ticked all the boxes except for the guest room, but I realized that the other priorities were more important. You can’t have it all! My home feels perfect for me right now—but if there was an extra room, even if really tiny, I would never ever move again.”

There’s more to it than just being a guest room

However, those fortunate enough to have a spare room often repurpose it in ways that deviate from the traditional guest room. Especially due to the lifestyle shifts caused by the pandemic. Sarah explains, “Even post-pandemic, we’re doing lots of things at home. Starting with making art, playing music, exercising, working, cooking from scratch. For sure we need storage for all the gear that goes with that. In my experience, that often means sacrificing space for guests.” Not only have we brought our offices home, but also our leisure activities. Glam rooms, sex rooms, and private recreational spaces have become the new norm. This idea extends beyond small city dwellings to larger homes as well.

Alex Delaunay, founder of architecture firm Sabo, has worked on various projects, ranging from small apartments to larger ones, with a focus on adaptable spaces. In a recent commission for a 3,000-square-foot property, the designated guest room had a broader purpose. “It’s conceived as a multipurpose room. The client wanted to use it as an art room, so we designed a Murphy bed that flips up. The use of the space is flexible and less purpose-driven, which makes it more appealing.”

Transforming a spare room into a unique space can be a bonus for guests who stay there. Alex adds, “An extravagant art room or retreat can be a quite special place to sleep in as a guest, and even more attractive than a standard bedroom—especially if you’re also thinking of renting it occasionally on Airbnb.” At the end of the day, it’s not so much about where guests sleep but how welcome they feel. Helena, who shares her bed when hosting guests, says.: “We’ve become more flexible with our expectations as guests and more transparent with what we can offer as hosts. Although my place is tiny, it feels like a real home, so when people visit, they don’t want to leave! It’s about making them feel cozy.”

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