Space of the Week: Sarah Sherman Samuel's Basement Guest Room Makeover—and the One 'Easy' Project She Always Leaves to the Pros

Her new guest room is a visitor’s dream. 

Warm wood tone guest bedroom
Photo: Design by Sarah Sherman Samuel / Photography by Nicole Franzen

By the time interior designer Sarah Sherman Samuel had decided to turn a space in her basement into a guest room, she had already gone through more than one major change in a short amount of time. Her family had recently relocated from California to Michigan, and she orchestrated the gut renovation of the common areas in their new home. Meanwhile, Samuel had given birth to a daughter, too. "We had a lot going on when we renovated the main living spaces," she says. "By waiting to update the guest room, I was able to tackle it with fresh inspiration and without a serious case of decision fatigue."

As it stood, the guest room was a blank slate—to put it nicely. "There was just the concrete subfloor, and the walls were clad in faux-wood paneling that was so popular in the 1970s and 80s," Samuel says. "The walls had been painted white, but the irregular texture was still prevalent."

Focus on the Good

And yet, in keeping with her personality, Samuel mostly focused on its potential. It had a sliding glass door on one wall and a large window on another, creating ample sunlight that lasted all day. Samuel wanted to make the most of those natural attributes, and envisioned a calm yet colorful hideaway where guests would truly feel like they were on vacation. She started by painting a purple abstract pattern on white fabric for a headboard, and built the rest of the room's saturated palette around it. New wood floors were installed, and the paneling was covered by new drywall. "We then carried the wood up three-fourths of the wall behind the bed, and painted the rest 'Panda White' by Sherwin Williams," she says.

Bed with green duvet and bedside light
Design by Sarah Sherman Samuel / Photography by Nicole Franzen

Play With Scale

Perhaps the biggest challenge of the design was figuring out how to make the queen bed look large enough to fit its designated spot. Given the longer-than-usual size of the window above it, the bed appeared to look smaller than it is. Thankfully, Samuel had an ingenious fix for that. "I made the custom headboard to be the same width of the window to balance it out," she says.

Call in the Pros

And there's one more tip she'd like to share about how this guest room became the latest happy shift in her surroundings: Sometimes the so-called "easiest DIY" is best left to the professionals.

"We did a lot of the work ourselves, like installing the wood, making the headboard, and hanging the drapes, but we hired out the painting," she says. "People often save money by painting walls themselves, but getting a professional to put on that final layer makes a huge difference. A quality painter who can fill in all of the holes, sand, and finish the room will make everything look more elevated."

Get the Look:

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Forest Green Duvet

Forest Green Linen Duvet Cover

In keeping with the rich, natural tones of the room, a dark green linen duvet pairs beautifully with the mid-tone wood paneling. Crafted from luxurious, breathable linen, this set will make your guests feel like they're at a five-star hotel.

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Moroccan Flatweave Rug

Sarah Sherman Samuel Flatwoven Rug
Lulu & Georgia

Part of Sarah Sherman Samuel's collaboration with Lulu & Georgia, this ochre flatwoven rug lays the groundwork with an earthy, neutral hue. It's available in a variety of sizes, including a slim runner for a hallway or a small 2-by-3-foot mat for an entryway.

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Stylish Nightstands

Black Side Table from CB2

For a guest room that doesn't need a ton of bedside storage, consider a side table in an interesting shape instead. The surface provides just enough space to perch a glass of water and some bedside reading.

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A Cozy Side Chair

Target Rounded Sherpa Chair in Cream

The faux sherpa chair featured in this space is the Huggy by Sarah Ellison, but to get this on-trend look for less, check out Target's barrel chair, designed in collaboration with Studio McGee.

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Stools for Extra Storage & Seating

Lulu & Georgia Wooden Stool
Lulu & Georgia

Durable wooden stools at the end of the bed provide guests with a spot to set their luggage, or a seat to put on their shoes in the morning. This versatile piece can serve as extra seating, a makeshift luggage rack, or a side table for drinks and snacks.

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