11 Tips for Small Guest Houses—From Kitchenette Designs to Living Room Layouts

Spanish bungalow guest house

 Design: Wrensted Interiors, Photo: Sara Ligorria-Tramp

If there's one architectural style that's synonymous with Los Angeles, it's the Spanish bungalow. Characterized by rounded arches, red-tile roofs, and white stucco exteriors, these homes are the hallmarks of a Southern California neighborhood. So it should come as no surprise that it's exactly this style that interior designer Shaun Crha and his husband wanted to evoke when designing a guest house to complement their own original 1930s Spanish bungalow home.

Meet the Expert

Los Angeles-based interior designer Shaun Crha is the founder of Wrensted Interiors. He started his firm after a 13-year career in investment banking.

And while Crha and his husband wanted to build a welcoming guest house, they didn't want to give up their entire backyard in the process. The resulting addition—complete with a full bathroom, full kitchen, and a living and sleeping area—tops out around 345 square feet, making it the ideal cozy space. "Nothing in the space is too precious," Crha admits. Naturally, in keeping with the guest house's welcoming vibe, the décor is effortless and easy-going. "This is a place to put your feet up on the sofa, sit at the counter, and have coffee," explains the designer.

Keep scrolling to step inside this stunning 345-square-foot Spanish-style guest house and prepare for a master class in small-space interior design.

01 of 11

Work With Natural Light

guest house kitchenette ideas

 Design: Wrensted Interiors; Photo: Sara Ligorria-Tramp

"The ceilings are over 9 feet tall, which immediately opens up the space and makes it feel so much larger," Crha explains. Between the windows and the iron doors, the guest house receives an abundance of natural light—and the kitchenette is no exception. "I'm just so happy when I'm in the kitchen because it has such beautiful natural light all day," Crha gushes.

The high ceilings and natural light help make the kitchen feel much larger than its modest 70 square feet. To make the most of the space, Crha selected a kitchen island that serves double-duty as a dining table. "I originally had my eye on an antique butcher block table to use as an island, but I hesitated, and when I went back to the store a week later, it was gone," confesses Crha. "Lesson learned: I should have listened to my gut and pulled the trigger."

02 of 11

Mix High and Low Finds

Guest house kitchen ideas

 Design: Wrensted Interiors; Photo: Sara Ligorria-Tramp

Although some pieces in the guest house are vintage and others are custom, there are budget-friendly buys in the mix as well. "I bought the kitchen cabinets and closets from IKEA months before we broke ground because they were having their kitchen sale," Crha divulges. He adds, "I'm never one to pass up a good deal," and it's proof that high-low decorating is always a good choice. Plus, we all know you can never go wrong with IKEA storage.

03 of 11

Save Valuable Counter Space

Guest house kitchen inspiration

 Design: Wrensted Interiors; Photo: Sara Ligorria-Tramp

In the kitchen, Crha masterfully juxtaposes Spanish-inspired architectural details with modern décor. "I had always wanted to do something special with RadWeld Customs, and the custom shelving unit was the right project," Crha explains. "It's clean and modern but feels right at home in the room. I love playing with the styling on the shelves before guests arrive by changing out different art or accessories."

An added benefit of floating shelving units? You get to save valuable counter space.

04 of 11

Go Bold Where You Can

guest house entryway art ideas

 Design: Wrensted Interiors; Photo: Sara Ligorria-Tramp

One of Crha's most impressive finds is on display in the entryway. "I was shopping at a vintage store in Long Beach, California, and came across the vintage silk screen printing panel hanging in the entryway," the interior designer explains. "It has a great industrial quality, and the aqua color was still so vibrant, even though it had been stored outside for some time. I drove home so carefully with that strapped to the roof of my car."

When it comes to statement-worthy art, don't worry about matching it to your furniture. Art is generally the one exception when it comes to decorating: Just get what you like, and you'll find a fabulous place for it.

The best way to make a serious impact in your entryway is with a piece of art you love. After all, the entryway is your guests' first introduction to your home and style, so why not wow them with something big and bold?

05 of 11

Scale Your Space

guest house studio ideas

 Design: Wrensted Interiors; Photo: Sara Ligorria-Tramp

When it comes to furnishing a small space, you don't necessarily need to scale down, as Crha demonstrates here. "Many people struggle with an instinct to put multiple smaller pieces of furniture into a small space, which ultimately can make it feel cluttered," the designer says. "So I opted for the extra deep roll arm love seat knowing that guests would want a comfortable place to curl up and unwind without getting into bed."

06 of 11

Don't Forsake the Floor

guest house living room ideas

 Design: Wrensted Interiors; Photo: Sara Ligorria-Tramp

Crha made a point to incorporate vintage finds into the décor to lend personality and charm to the space. "I think it's so important to use vintage and antique items when working in new construction; they're needed to add credibility to the rooms," he notes. "When Sheba at Blue Parakeet Rugs pulled these rugs, I was ecstatic with the life, history, and color they brought."

07 of 11

Separate Each Area

guest house living area ideas

 Design: Wrensted Interiors; Photo: Sara Ligorria-Tramp

Creating distinct rooms in an open floor-plan home can be challenging, but Crha was more than up to the task. "I used the loveseat's high back to serve as a visual separation between the sleeping space and the living area," the designer says.

Meanwhile, pillows and throws in similar hues help create cohesion between the two spaces. "I'm a textile hoarder. Whenever I travel or go to the flea market, I find a fabric that speaks to me," says the designer. "My husband was happy to see some of my collection put to use for the pillows in this project."

08 of 11

Get Crafty

guest bedroom ideas with built-in storage

 Design: Wrensted Interiors; Photo: Sara Ligorria-Tramp

One of the benefits of building from scratch is incorporating custom storage solutions into the space. "Creating the built-in closets on either side of the bed anchored the sleeping area and created a cozy nook while adding much-needed storage," Crha explains. Plus, we're huge fans of moody and dramatic dark paint in a bedroom.

09 of 11

Use a Variety of Textures and Finishes

guest house bathroom ideas

 Design: Wrensted Interiors; Photo: Sara Ligorria-Tramp

"It can sometimes be hard to make a guest bathroom feel warm with so many hard surfaces," Crha confesses. "The patterned floor tile added some visual interest and Spanish charm." Additionally, details like the chrome shower head in the bathroom evoke classic Old World style. "I scored the vintage French bamboo style hat rack at a flea market and decided it was perfect to use as a towel rack instead."

10 of 11

Seek out Storage

guest house bathroom ideas

 Design: Wrensted Interiors; Photo: Sara Ligorria-Tramp

When designing a small guest bathroom, one of the biggest design challenges is figuring out ways to incorporate plenty of storage. "One way to add extra storage to any bathroom is to add a mirrored medicine cabinet," Crha offers. "There are so many beautiful options available now; you don't have to sacrifice form over function."

11 of 11

Know Your Audience

guest house exterior ideas

 Design: Wrensted Interiors; Photo: Sara Ligorria-Tramp

While the guest house is, as you'd guess, intended for guests, Crha also had long-term plans in mind when designing the space. "From the beginning, I knew that the guest house could be a place for our parents to live one day; somewhere they could age with dignity near family," the interior designer says.

"It's one of the reasons there isn't much overhead storage in the kitchen; everything is so much easier to reach in the lower cabinets," he adds. "The walk-in shower already has bracing in the walls, so we can install grab bars easily. All the way down to lever handles on the sink faucet, which is easier to operate if you have limited mobility in your hands."