06/11/2013 03:00 EDT | Updated 08/11/2013 05:12 EDT

Be our guest: Five ways to create a welcoming space for overnight visitors

TORONTO - Outside of the holiday season, the summer is a prime period to welcome guests at your main residence or perhaps a home away from home at a condo or cottage.

"Guest bedrooms are a good space to push the envelope a bit or have some fun, or be a little bit more outside (the box) than you would be in your principal bedroom," said Trish Johnston, a Toronto-based interior designer and prop stylist.

"It's such a great area to really incorporate all of those luxuries, so when you do have a guest come, you've thought of everything...the stay is just that much more enjoyable."

Johnston teamed up with HomeSense on summer decor ideas blending both traditional and contemporary touches aimed at helping enliven a guest bedroom during the warmer months.

Whether it's a couch in the living room or a dedicated spare room for visitors, Johnston shared five ways to design a welcoming space for overnight guests.

1. Create a space for everyone

It could be the in-laws one weekend, a younger cousin or family friend the next. Regardless of who will be inhabiting the guest room, the space should be amenable to all — which means creating an inviting environment that steers clear of being too gender-specific

"I would say keep a lighter hand and don't go over the top to make it too feminine or too masculine," said Johnston. "A guest room is really a transitional space that will have any number of people going through it. Just try to keep it more uniform."

2. In with the old — and the new

Whether it's a cosy quilt knitted by Grandma, stacks of your favourite reads or another cherished possession, heirlooms and keepsakes can team well with fresher additions into a guest space.

In her own take on guest-room style, Johnston channelled the great indoors — namely the cottage — for decor inspiration. She tapped into nautical style with navy blue and white hues, opting to accent fresh linens with colourfully patterned patchwork quilts and cushions.

To further bolster the homey, beach-inspired feel, she suggested incorporating natural materials, like rope, wood, jute and rattan, showcased in accessories like lighting fixtures, rugs and baskets.

"For me, I like the bold colour... but I always ground all of my rooms with a natural element because it gives that warmth and that texture."

3. Lay out the welcome mat — with a tray

Hosts can bring a taste of the hotel experience to their guest room by drawing on similar elements that make visitors feel at home during short-term stays. Johnston said a welcoming tray is one way to put a personal stamp on the space and help put guests at ease as they're settling in.

Johnston recommended assembling a collection of soaps, hand towels, a scented candle and perhaps even a small assortment of flowers, as well as a local map to help visitors feel more connected and acquainted with the community they're visiting.

A keepsake journal, a collection of favourite snacks or even having an extra toothbrush at the ready are all small touches that can go a long way in making guests feel pampered, she noted.

"They're just thoughtful little things of: 'What would they like?' And you can specialize it for the guest that's coming because you know them, too, and add that special uniqueness to it."

4. Illuminating alternatives

Desk lamps are all well and good, but Johnston has another option for those seeking to light up their guest rooms in stylish fashion.

Lanterns offer an alternative to conventional electrical lighting, with some models featuring LED battery-operated candles that are portable and can dual as a flashlight, Johnston said.

5. Multifunctional furniture

For those hosting guests in smaller surroundings where they may not have a dedicated room for visitors, Johnston said dual purpose furniture is essential.

Rather than opting for a pullout sofa, consider simply transitioning a daybed during the evening hours. "It's just as comfortable as a couch and then also serves a purpose as being a bed."

Baskets can be used to store extra bedding, towels or other essentials that a guest may need. "It keeps it tidy and it also adds to the texture of the room," Johnston said. The same approach can be applied to woven bags which can be tucked away when not in use or double as a tote for the beach, she added.

Selecting dual purpose pieces doesn't have to mean solely incorporating miniaturized items to accommodate smaller quarters. Rather than a conventional side table, consider opting for furniture that's slightly larger in scale — such as a chest of drawers — that can also serve as a desk or vanity, Johnston suggested.

"(There are) things that have a multi-purpose that look great in the space when it's set for that purpose, and then when you do have guests come over, it still gives them that luxury and the useability of the space as a guest room."