Friday, September 02, 2005

The guest room

When we were looking for a new home, one of the things that got our real estate agent really excited was the fact that the house she was showing us had a guestroom.
“Look,” she said, opening the door to a very nice bedroom. “Here is a lovely little room where your guests can stay. Isn’t it nice?” Well, sure it was nice. In fact, it was nicer that some apartments I have lived in. The closet alone could have been rented out as a bachelor.
Anyway, apparently buying a house with a guest room meant that we had somehow “arrived,” never mind the fact that in some 20 years of living in houses without guest rooms, what few overnight guests we hosted were perfectly happy sleeping on the roll-out bed in the family room.
But now we were ready. The real estate agent had been so excited about the guest room that we were starting to feel as if we were opening a bed-and-breakfast for visiting foreign dignitaries. We bought a four-poster bed for the guest room, and had a designer come in to create something called a “window treatment,” which actually looked very much like what I used to think of as “curtains.” (Small joke: what’s the difference between a window treatment and a curtain? About 300 bucks). Then we went to an antique store and paid more for a “primitive” Quebec nightstand than I paid for my first car, after which we drove all the way to a lighting store in Toronto so we could take out a second mortgage in order to buy a lamp for the aforementioned nightstand. The wallpaper we imported from France at a price that allowed the child of the importer to attend university, and the throw rug we put on the floor next to the bed was hand made by a group of Shaker women at a small commune in New Hampshire. It was the only rug the women made all year, and the income from the sale of the rug bought the commune a new barn.
The painting we hung over the bed was the crowning touch, but by this time the bank was starting to make nervous noises using words such as “overdrawn” and “repossession,” so we had to settle for an original watercolour by someone who just paints an awful lot like one of the Group of Seven.
When the room was finally finished, it was just about the most perfect thing I have ever seen. Five star hotels in New York would have been envious. People would have paid to sleep in there. The duvet on the bed was as warm and fluffy as only the hand-picked down from 150 Avon swans could make it, and although no human head had yet rested on the pillows so lovingly enfolded in Italian linen, just looking at them was restful and calming.
With the room completed, ready to enfold any overnight guests in an embrace of soothing luxury, we closed the door as tenderly as one closed the bedroom door to the room of a newborn child. It was everything our real estate agent could have hoped for. We had even bought a leather-bound guest book.
Time passed. The children grew older. The guest room remained in its pristine condition since most of our friends live within easy driving distance and, with children of their own, are not inclined to stay overnight. Our children had plenty of friends for sleepovers, but the guestroom was absolutely out of bounds to small, chocolate-covered fingers and Play-Do stained pets.
Then one day we bought a new couch, and the inevitable happened. The question of what to do with the old couch was finally resolved by our reluctant decision to put it in what was suddenly no longer the “guest room,” but the “spare room.” I’m not when the demotion happened, but putting the ratty old couch into the “spare room” was not as painful as putting it in the “guest room” would have been.
The couch was the slippery slope. A few weeks after the couch it was the blanket box with the broken lid I hope to get around to repairing sometime after I retire. Then, a couple of months ago, we found the kids, their friends, our cat, and a dog we had never seen before, building a fort in the spare room.
That was the end of the guest room. After being a show-piece guest room, it became a sort of spare room/storage area/hobby room and children’s playground.
When we finally did have a guest come to spend night, he slept very comfortably on the fold-out bed in the family room.
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