throwing in the guest towel

GirlybeddingOn a bedside table, place a single flower bloom in a simple glass, a nice clock, and a selection of books suited to your guest’s taste,” Martha says.  I wouldn’t know where to begin with books, beyond guides to Austin.  Be certain sheets are of the finest cotton you can afford, keeping them “starched and ironed for hotel crispness.”  Do people really do this, iron their sheets?  I read an article recently which detailed the misconception that thread-count indicates quality. In it, an upscale provider of linens (where I get mine) reveals that many of her clients have their bedding cleaned and pressed at Madame Paulette. These are the same people who get their meat ground at Lobel’s on Madison for their designer dogs.  I’m sure of it.  Who the hell has time to iron her sheets?  I can’t even imagine hiring someone and telling them to iron my sheets.  Would they raise their eyebrow?  My mother used to clean just for days when she knew the cleaning woman would be coming.  “It’s not fair,” she’d say, “to leave her with this mess.”  Maybe she was considerate.  Maybe she was afraid of what people would think of her.  Maybe it was a little of both.  Ironing sateen bedding is the only way to have the sheen reappear after washing, and let’s face it, a wrinkled top sheet is a little unnerving.  I can’t help but try to pull at it once I step away from a newly-made bed.  My gaze can’t escape it.  “Well I don’t have time,” I say, and then I leave the room, unable to look at it much longer.   Do you iron your shams and flat sheet?  I just want to know; no judgments here.  Maybe I’m living the wrong life. 

dsc 5578

It seems a life tucked behind starched Egyptian cotton is somehow a better life.  Your life is cleaner when things are stowed away into their neat labeled compartments.  It’s hard to procrastinate, or overeat, or make excuses when your bed is tucked into high-fashion order.  I’d be hard-pressed to complain if I always had a bed like that for the taking.  A crisp bed is a luxury, and I love the idea of providing it to the people I love as they stay in my home.  It’s a fantasy though, a life lived in catalogs.  It’s right up there with declaring that I’m going to make my own baby food and do my own sewing and darning of socks.  I just don’t have time, or rather, I make time for more important things.  Like writing.  Or breast feeding, soon enough.  Or for Grey’s Anatomy.

Towels tied with ribbon, toothpaste and a new brush tucked into a plush hand towel, embroidered with the word, “makeup.”  Guests get towels in Marthaland, and an assortment of pillows ranging from firm to soft, to accommodate for those stomach sleepers.  A specific towel alerting guests to keep their makeup where it belongs, off her hand-hooked white towels.  This is what ‘s become of me.  I’m obsessed with home decorating magazines, certain to create a luxe guest room with personality.  Model homes are best, really, for inspiration.  Though their rooms almost always feature a “horseback riding room.”  Paintings, tapestry pillows, mirrors framed in leather with horse-bit accents.  Even a pair of actual riding boots with matching hat will find their way into the room.  These things are merely for mood, staging really.  As a guest, I suppose I’d find it questionable if my host supplied me with my own whip. 

I’m determined though.  I think it’s all about the products.  If I offer guests a full line of Kiehl’s or Molton Brown products they’re going to be psyched.  A line of Fresh, Bliss, or Philosophy products will serve nicely, too.  The key, I believe, is selecting a single coordinated line of products within a single brand, offering your guests an upmarket liquid hand soap with a matching scented hand lotion.   No one likes to use a bar of soap in a guest room.  All I can ever think is, “how long has this been sitting here, and whose crack did it wiggle its way down last?”  I hate having to twist it from its holder, or worse, as a redhead, inspect it, only to find small curly dark hairs.  I’d rather not shower. Or wash my hands.  Or be there in that moment at all.

For one of our guest rooms—I fashion it “the spa room,” complete with steam room and sauna—I’ve supplied only Aveda products.  I love this shit. Rosemary Mint Hand and Body Wash.  A smoothing Aveda body polish with exfoliating gloves sit upon a shelf, for the taking.  Rosemary Mint shampoo and conditioner.  A few sprigs of fresh rosemary from our garden might just appear in a tissue vase beside the sink.  A soy wax candle might be appropriate, and it gives you an excuse to include some matches without saying, “please light one from time to time.”  Though I shy away from offering guests facial masks and pore-minimizers.  A girl’s gotta draw the line somewhere; it shouldn’t be at the ones on another woman’s face.

Ccstylistkit_1Waffle weave.  Say it with me.  I love this touch, offering your guests robes and fresh waffle weave slippers. I’ve rolled up white washcloths and layered them in a trifle bowl.  An Aquis super-absorbent hair towel.  Fresh cut flowers, bedside.  Lavender drawer liners. And somehow, I don’t know why, nothing says guest room to me like a wooden styling brush.  It’s just so spa.  My sister and I were raised on Mason-Pierson brushes, but there’s always hair to untangle and pull from its orange webbing.  A wooden brush always looks clean, even if the only use I’d have for it would be to brush it against the backs of my thighs.  Like brushing out a hickey, you can comb out cellulite too.  Okay you can’t.  I wouldn’t know.  I never bother.  However, no girly guest bathroom is complete without a stylist essentials toolbox.  Hollywood Fashion Tape, a lint brush, foot petals.  Your basic essentials.  Just add water.

Sleepmask_1How nice is it to arrive somewhere, where your room already includes a small bottle of polish remover, some cotton pads, a file, and a bottle of Nailtiques?  On your nightstand, beside a crystal tumbler and a carafe of fresh spring water, you’re provided with intense hand lotion, a pot of cuticle cream, and moisturizing gloves, not to mention, silk eye masks, all the better to sleep with my dear.  No, not a mitt.  If it were up to Phil, and maybe this is because he’s a man, or maybe it’s because he’s Phil, he’d leave guests with one pillow each, one towel each, and one bottle of Jack Daniels.  This is why the post belongs under the category “preening.” 



  1. Two weeks ago, my mother bought me 400 thread count sheets from Home Goods. I didn't expect them to be great because she bought them on sale, but they were so yummy that I literally spent that week (before the linens were changed again) in anticipation of crawling back into bed. She's spoiled me; I can never ride coach again (and yet, I'm a 23 year old law student; I'm thinking I just might have to).

    Last week I came home and found an ironing board open in my basement apartment (I live downstairs from the parents). I was annoyed that it was there; I go to school full time and work part time, and when I get home, I don't want to fall over an ironing board. My mother replied to my query, "it's the strangest thing; Magda (the woman who cleans once a week) suddenly decided that she wants to iron the sheets." Most of our sheets (or mine, anyway) are not "luxury sheets" and would not necessarily benefit from being ironed. I decided I'd rather have non-ironed sheets (I could see no difference) than stub my toe on an ironing board.

  2. LOL, this is exactly how I was when we were newly married! I just HAD to have the best looking guest room and guest bathroom.

  3. Maybe I'm in the wrong life too. Down here in the trenches of America wih an eleven year old and a new puppy, I barely make my bed and the only time I see any spa goodies is if I get a gift certificate for a massage at Christmas.

  4. Stephanie, I do iron my sheets – both mine and those of my 4 children. I can't afford many luxuries, but I can afford the time to give my children this small luxury of climbing between freshly pressed clean sheets. While all my children love it, my 11 year old daughter who is deafblind will spend 10 minutes running her hands along the entire bed, feeling the sheets. I can tell she likes them because she is smiling the whole time. Oh, and I also put their towels in the dryer for a few minutes just before they step out of their baths – another inexpensive luxury to make my special kids feel great!

  5. "If I offer guests a full line of Kiehl's or Molton Brown products they're going to be psyched."

    I am assuming that when you say "guests", you mean guests of the female (or extremely metro-sexual male) variety. Because I think Phil's guest room sounds way more appealing to me.

  6. I'm neverendingly fascinated by people who iron not only sheets (Deborah excepted), but also underwear and pajamas. The Tooth Fairy and the Sandman do not judge.

    On the rare occasions that I've been a guest in a home with the standards you describe, I have felt uncomfortable and somehow indebted. It's one thing to get the fancy shmancy at a hotel or inn where you're paying for it; it's something else altogether to know your friend or friend's housekeeper (even more uncomfortable for me) went to such lengths. I must, in return, be the perfect houseguest: witty at mealtime, not cranky no matter how late it is and definitely not make a #2 in the spotless guest bathroom.

  7. In the days before PermaPress, there was a homemaking tool called a "mangle" (my mother had one when I was a wee toddler). With it she could (relatively) quickly iron sheets, pillowcases, towels, and even pants & shirts if you were careful.

    It consisted of a large roller, about 10" in diameter and 4 feet long mounted on a horizontal axle and covered with the same type of silvery smooth material you can cover a modern ironing board with. Pressed against the backside of the roller was a curved metal panel filled with heating elements and mounted on a hinge-type device so it could be lifted away from the roller surface by about an inch. As I recall, there were knee controls to start/stop the roller action and to lift the heating panel away or onto the roller surface.

    It did a great job of taking the wrinkles out of broad expanses of cloth — quickly.

    I don't think I've seen another of this device in over 40 years. Too bad.

  8. Stephanie, i'm with fill Phil. If you provided me all that I would never leave. You don't want your guests to move in.

  9. Doing laundry for a family of five is enough work as it is, so no, I do not iron our sheets. I don't need to make more work for myself. I am in desperate need of a vacation, though, so when can I book your "spa room"? It sounds perfect!

  10. OK, I admit, I can't stand it when the "touchpoint" (top hem) of the sheet is wrinkled, so I iron that part. Then, since the iron is hot and all, I do a modified pressing (sheet folded at least in half, if not quarters, iron both sides). I wish I had time or space for a guest room. I just have kids' rooms with giant monkeys and giraffes painted on the walls.

  11. Oh man, you know how I feel about Bliss. Love that shit.
    My mom used to clean before the cleaning man came because she wanted it to at least be tidy. I used to be anal about my bedroom and sheets etc. but then I went to college and since then, things have gone down hill.

  12. "If it were up to Phil, and maybe this is because he's a man, or maybe it's because he's Phil, he'd leave guests with one pillow each, one towel each, and one bottle of Jack Daniels."

    The Jack Daniels is because he's Phil, but the rest of it is because he's a guy. We get up in the morning, we take a shower without inspecting the soap, we dry off, and we're done.

    I'll just file this under the 'women are crazy' category. Does it really matter if the soap is new? 10 seconds into the shower and the outside layer of the soap is gone. And you could actually put a used towel in the dryer and not one person on Earth would notice. And ironing the sheets? If I made a list of all the things that I would prefer over ironed sheets, the list would consume every tree in America.


    this room sounds utterly delightful and ANY guest would be so very lucky to have you as a hostess.
    somehow, i love your house more and more every time you post about it.
    you better get working on all of these projects soon because, come babies, these will be the LAST things on your mind!
    thanks for your time

  14. Can I stay in your guest room? Sounds so realxing and wonderful. Aveda products are my favorite. And no, I don't iron my sheets!

  15. I don't iron my sheets. But my guest room always has 600 thread count sheets on the bed, a basket of toiletries next to the sink, thick towels, robes in the closet and flowers on the nightstand. Before bedtime I run upstairs and set out cookies, chocolates and a carafe of water. It's girly, it's way too Martha, but I don't care.

  16. Wow.

    With all this talk of guest rooms and pampering your guests, and what not…you're really homesick, arent you?

    Your focus seems to be on making your guestrooms the best they can be for the guests who will soon visit. The guests you're missing a lot right now, I take it?

    Sorry, you're so homesick. It'll pass when the babies get here.

  17. Loved this post and the whole idea of guest room designs. FYI- You don't need to preface anything with whether you're getting kick backs for having links. More power to you! You're giving them free promotion!

  18. I think you should buy a Bed and Breakfast once your kids are grown. It would be something fun to do during retirement. You could be there when you wanted to be, and have a staff to handle things when you were travelling, etc. You would be great at it!

  19. I use a steamer on my sheets and pillowcases (and on most of my clothes, too!) It is -so- much better than an iron. Mine was made my Conair and I bought it for less than $100 on Amazon – you should consider it!

  20. The sheets in my house are always pressed, and no, the cleaning lady doesn't raise her eyebrows when she's told to do them. It only takes her an hour to do all the sheets so it's not really that big of a deal. And we don't clean before she comes over either. There is no need, since she can do it all in the time that she's here. Actually, now that you mention it, I can't imagine having sheets that HAVEN'T been ironed.

  21. God, I would love to iron my sheets if I had time. But fitting them on the ironing board means 3/4 of the sheet would be on the floor while I'm ironing the other 1/4. Emily mentioned a steamer….hmm….

  22. My grandmother ironed her cotton sheets. Back in the day when they all came with a high thread count and smelled like summer from hanging out on the line. She had a dryer, but the sheets had to go out on the line, along with my grandfather's cotton shirts. And then get ironed just so. She also tried to teach me "hospital" corners when tucking in the flat sheet. I've never ironed a whole sheet though. Only the fancier borders on the flat sheets when they refuse to straighten and want to curl at the eyelets or embroidery. I did buy the linen spray from L'Occitane in Vervaine. I spray it on the sheets, but not to iron them. It does make a crisp cotton shirt smell wonderful though. And on vintage linen damask table cloths. Those get ironed before every use. Which is a couple of times a year, when we have parties. It just looks so "right" to have a crisp tablecloth with a large vase of flowers on it.

    But if I'm not ironing my guest room sheets, I am putting out the luxe products! I love going to my SIL's house. It's straight out of Martha Stewart or Domino. She's the only person I know whose rooms could be photographed at any time of the week for a magazine and not need straightening or cleaning. I dont' think she irons her sheets though. She doesn't have time with her job. Maybe her maid service does it!

    Though I aspire to have a home like hers, decor-wise, it' not going to happen, except in the guest room. I like bringing along travel sizes of spa products when I travel, so I make sure I have them in the guess room as well. With one of those waffle weave ultra absorbant hair towels. And a carafe with matching glass on the nightstand. I have a mix of Aveda, L'Occitaine and Neal's Yard. I used to bring back Neal's Yard from London, but now I can get it here.

    Nope I won't iron the sheets though.

  23. Stephanie,

    Do you use the Aveda Skincare products? Just curious. I have been thinking about trying them and saw you mentioned loving Aveda in this post. If not, what's your current skincare regime b/c your skin appears flawless in your pics?

    Let me know!

    Best wishes on the guppies!!!

  24. While I am not over the top, I am fussy about guests coming over – not to mention that I love a well put together home for myself!

    When I have a guest coming to stay, I pull out one of my top sheets from the guestroom closet and take it to the cleaners along with my weekly load. It costs $11 to have it starched and ironed. I do the pillowcases myself! It is a small price to pay and everyone notices and looves my comfy spare room.

    On the bedside tables there is always a card to welcome them. A small arrangement of fresh flowers and a small glass bottle of water and a glass.

    The guest bathroom has fluffy white towels, extra toothbrushes and toiletries in case they forgot something and bath products by Roger & Gallet in the Winter and Bulgari in the Summer. Both are unisex so the men can indulge too! I have a little collection books in the bathroom ranging from Children's Letters To God to The Little Bity Book of Art….letting them know that it is fine to "sit" there for a while and relax! Candle and matches are in place…

    I don't agree with the person who wrote that they could not relax as a guest if the room were well appointed. The tone is always set by the hostess. If you provide a relaxed, warm environment – they will exhale and follow suit.

    Also, I never enter the guest room once company arrives. They have their nest and their privacy for the duration. If they need something, they just ask me for it.

    I am a busy professional with a lot going on in my life…but I make the time to extend that special treatment to my guests. After all, they are not merely guests – they are my friends and family!!

  25. Long time reader, first time poster. Love your site.

    I used to iron sheets before I got the Maytag energy efficient washer and dryer. The dryer does the ironing and it looks a lot softer and neater than if I iron it flat.

    But before that, yep, I was an ironer.

  26. Anyone who irons sheets has way too much time on their hands… Usually the finer quality sheets are great right out of the dryer. I want to be on your guest list,, Stephanie!!

  27. Stephanie,
    This is such a girlie post and I totally dig it. I too, want to be in your guestroom! It sounds so relaxing and fun and comforting and girlie and everything about it has a special touch.

    Wow, no- I don't iron my sheets. Sheets and me don't get along. I'm constantly waking up with them all over the place- and among one of my top most dreaded things- seriously- it's putting clean sheets on my bed. I do it, often, but I HATE it.

    This post makes me think of an eqiquette question. You know how some bathrooms you go to- and maybe it's me, but it seems like it's in a random place that you wouldn't always expect it- there is a lady in there, displaying a large basket with lipstick, gloss, body lotion and splash, soap, hairspray, bobypins, elastics, bandaids, razors?!, etc. The works. Who actually uses this? And, if you do, what's the "tip" you're supposed to give for using them? Are they really serious in thinking people will use a community lipstick?

    I'm just wondering…

  28. Hi Stephanie,

    Last month I finally opened up a couple of packages of sheets that have been in my Mom's cedar chest for years. They were expensive sheets with high thread count from back in the 60's. They washed OK but came out of the dryer looking just awful. I didn't iron them because blankets would cover them on the bed. Maybe for guests I would. Love Aveda shampoo, had Keils lip balm, smells great, tasted horrible. You mentioned Grey's Anatomy, love that show.
    Take care of yourself.

  29. My grandfather is 70 years old. Born and raised in West Virginia, he still lives there. In one of the poorest counties in the country. Not part of the Schweitzer & Co group to be sure. He launders and irons his bed clothes (linens) every other day. He's done this…ironed EVERYTHING…since he was 12…when he had to use a cast iron heated on the fire because he had no electricity.

    So he doesn't understand people who don't do this today. With electricity and all.


  30. Interesting. I don't think I would use products that I found in a guest bedroom or bathroom, except the soap of course. Would seem too weird to me and I travel with my own full arsenal. But then again, I'm not a big fan of guest bedrooms. I prefer hotels myself.

  31. Hmmm… not an ironer, myself, although I am addicted to silky high thread counts.

    Maybe because I prefer the slightly distressed softness they seem to have out of the dryer to the rather stiff crispness of hotel-style bedding? Or maybe because I never iron anything. Ever. The poor boy does it all himself. :) Whether my guests feel deprived must depend on their habits at home, I suppose.

    As for soap– liquid is more posh and more sanitary. Why? Bar soap can transmit skin diseases like ringworm. Say it with me, "Eeeeewwwww!" (Admittedly rare, but still: eeeww.)

  32. When I packed up for college, my mom tossed an iron into one of the boxes. Four years later, I handed my mom back the iron. It was still sealed in the original box.

  33. A quick note to the men who aren't into products – my dad, who probably would be delighted with Phil's guest room, recently complained about his face being dry from working outdoors. I hooked him up with some Kiehl's, which he had never heard of, and within a month he was asking me how he can get more of that "face stuff." So they may not know what brand it is, but they like it when they have it!

  34. 1. I only use a fitted sheet, pillowcase and a blanket. The end. No flat sheet. No bedskirt. No pillow shams. Each morning I smooth out my blanket before leaving for work – it helps with my depression and helps get my room started towards looking clean. Even when it's not.

    2. May I suggest that in your guest bathroom(s?), you also leave some tampons?

  35. What timting! My "Future-Mother-in-Law" arrives from New Zealand Sunday for a two week visit. I'm going to do the Full Stephanie Klein treatment and am nearly out the door to Aveda as I type! I'll spend $50 on guest goodies, but you'd never catch me ironing bed linen. There's a line between lived-in and hotel room…a little rumple keeps it real.

  36. in response to green's comment above about leaving tampons – i taught my single male friends to leave a small box of tampons in the bathroom cabinet. we've all had emergencies and gone desperately searching through someone else's cabinets hoping beyond hope that there will be some form of feminine hygiene product in there. i know that the downside to this is that some female guests will assume that there's an unmentioned girlfriend, but it is still worth it in that moment of white pants-wearing panic.

    i never learned to iron. my mother wasn't an ironer either and i guess these things are maternally hereditary.

    if that was my guest bedroom, i'd probably have to test it out by being a guest in my own home.

    immensely jealous of you having a new house to play with. i've been in apartments and in grad school (painful salary) for five years now. so i'm living vicariously through you somewhat. so enjoy it, dammit!

  37. "So he doesn't understand people who don't do this today. With electricity and all."

    1-A lack of time.
    2-Environmental reasons

    I'm stunned by the number of people that do this. During my bachelor days, I would wash the sheets and dry them and fold them. The fitted sheet pulls tight, and the top sheet is almost perfectly flat as long as you take it out of the dryer right away. Ironing probably improves it maybe 10%.

    It's stunning that people use two valuable resources (time and oil) to iron sheets and underwear.

    Q-When you stay at someone's house, do you actually check the sheets to see if they've been ironed? I don't think I'd do that in a million years. Isn't someone providing you with a place to stay, and clean sheets and towels enough?

  38. I don't iron my sheets. My parents iron (yes, my father likes to iron) with lavender spray. Even when I do obtain a spare room, I cannot imagine ever having the time to iron.

    As for the whole line of products… a little showy. Do you do the Tourmaline face cream as well? . Still, I'd squeal if a host went to such an effort for me. It is thoughtful in the end. Nice soap, a candle and lotion are always appreciated though. I am not sure I'd use a hairbrush in the guestroom. Ewww.

    Dear friends of mine have a ranch out in Montana complete with its own guest cabin. To die for. Also comes with a stocked bar, cheese, crackers, and cookies. The cabin has its own porch… Bliss.

    Martha leaves me completly cold; though I used to read her magazine. A true hostess/tastemaker should come across as more genuine.

  39. Wow, I'm way off here. The furthest I go is a freshly cleaned room and bath towels. Kiehl's, Molton Brown, Fresh, Bliss, or Philosophy? I'm going to steal some of your ideas. I'd probably end up stealing the goodies for myself.

  40. I attempt to do things like this for my guests…even if I have to keep my bedroom door closed because I didn't have time to make my own bed. There's something very satisfying about making others feel comfortable and happy in your home. I'm with you, Stephanie.

  41. I think y'all are nuts! I consider myself a girly girl and people are always saying how feminine I am, but I have never ironed a sheet, and I actually kind of enjoy ironing (maybe it's because I do it so rarely…) It seems pointless, to me. I've never noticed whether sheets were smooth or wrinkled when staying with friends or family. It just DOESN'T MATTER. There are far more interesting and important things to consider. As for products, don't you think guests should bring their own shit? You aren't the Ritz, after all. Fine if they forget something, but if my offering is not up to snuff, there's the door, hit the store. With all your responsibilities as a host (namely good meals and entertainment despite your busy schedule), I think providing expensive toilettries and fresh flowers bedside is just over-the-top. But women (myself included, in some ways) are so obsessed with perfection and being all that to everybody, they scurry about ridiculously doing these things to replicate what, exactly? A hotel room? Oprah or Martha's guest room? But this is not a hotel, you are not being paid to ensure a "perfect experience," and none of us has the resources, financial or otherwise, of Oprah or Martha. Girls, your guests are there to see YOU (and maybe save some bucks on accomodation) and DO NOT expect a single perfect Gerbera daisy poised in a crystal vase. Come on, now.

  42. Who the hell do you have coming to stay at your house? Your guest room contains more supplies and lubes than my bedroom.

    When guests stay at La Casa Dana, they are happy that they get a room that has a bed, despite the fact that the bed and sheets are from my high school days. And those sheets? Have never seen an iron. Those sheets are a step above the strawberry shortcake ones from middle school.

    And there's no Keils or Aveda. My guest room houses my doll collection from age 8.

    I wouldn't shove a toothbrush in a rolled towel if the queen was coming, let alone my college roommate, who was privy to witnessing me piss my pants in our apartment living room after a particularly rough night.

    You are too funny. There are times when I read your site and think, Oh, I have diarrhea too; she's my people. And then there are times like this, when we could not be further apart.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.