Based purely on anecdotal evidence, I've determined that guest rooms were designed primarily to hold boxes of junk labeled "will deal with sometime in the future." And when that future comes — generally in the form of actual guests arriving any minute — it's an all-out scramble to get the space in order. Here's how we set up our guest room in 24 hours for less than $500.
The key to setting up this room was using what we already had — i.e. all the furniture we couldn't find a place for in other parts of the house — and figuring out how to make it all work together. We decided on a nautical theme because we wanted to pay tribute to our little Ocean State and it really just worked well with what we had. The only things we actually bought for the room were the PS LOVAS futon from IKEA ($399), the duvet cover from Homegoods ($30) and the bedside lamp from a flea market ($15). We picked up the dramatic screen/headboard in New York's Chinatown years ago and could never really decide what do do with it, the bedside table was created from a Target stool, and the rocker and sideboard were inherited from my grandmother's house. Most of the artwork, pillows and accessories came from our son's old room which was much larger than his current space and the curtains were leftover from our previous apartment.
Since we needed to get the room set up quickly for our guests, we didn't want to agonize about where the artwork would go so we used Command Picture Hanging Strips to mount everything on the wall, knowing we can easily take them down and rearrange them if the desire strikes.
And full disclosure: most of the boxes now reside in the closet where they are still waiting to be dealt with, but that is a project for sometime in the future.
Images: Sarah Rainwater