Amy Vanderbilt, Ivy Alvarez and the Well-Appointed Guest Room

"Simple, isn't it?"

kdstylings1This weekend while Sperzie’s in Copenhagen I’ll be playing host to ex-Tasmanian and former Cordite editor Ivy Alvarez. We don’t get many visitors here in ‘s Gravenhage, and I’m keen to demonstrate the K&D Stylings ‘Well-Appointed Guest Room Styling’ module.

So it’s lucky for me that I have at hand a copy of Amy Vanderbilt‘s Complete Book of Etiquette: A Guide To Gracious Living (Doubleday, 1953).

This handsome and generous volume, featuring illustrations by the young Andy Warhol, contains a marvellous array of completely useless advice, from instructions on what to do should you have an audience with the Pope right through to what to do with the obnoxious guest.

“Best of all is to give the arguer something to do. If you have a game room, get someone to take him on at table tennis”, advises Amy.

Simple, isn’t it?

Amy is also fairly comprehensive in listing the range of ‘appointments’ to be found in the guest room of the well-appointed house. The following can be taken as a listing of the minimal requirements when hosting an overnight guest or weekend visitor:

Nightclothes, including bathrobe and slippers
Face towel, wash cloth, bath towel, soap
Razor, shaving cream, clean brush and comb
Adequate bed clothes – more than adequate if there’s any doubt
A bed light for reading
Current magazines, a mystery or any preferred bedtime reading
Facial tissues, cold cream, toothbrush and toothpaste
Enough pillows to permit reading in bed
Cigarettes and ashtrays, though put your foot down about in-bed smoking
Hangers for clothes, including trouser-skirt hangers
A bedtime snack
(Offer it anyhow but a dish of fruit, a plate, knife, and a paper napkin add cheer on a bed table)

Now, I think I’ve got most of those things covered, except for the last 85% or so. That’s why I’m thinking instead of going all the way and kitting out our guest room according to Amy’s supplementary list, which contains the following bonus accoutrements:

A full-length mirror with make-up mirror, attached or separate, that shows the sides of the face
Free drawer space, enough of it so a weekend guest needn’t dress from his bags
Shoe racks and trees, hat boxes or stands, clothes brush, spot remover, sewing kit
Manicure equipment
A well-equipped shoe cleaning box
A plug-in radio
Writing equipment of all kinds, including post cards
Hamper or laundry bag
Drop-down ironing board and folding iron
Luggage rack and bed tray
Aspirin, milk of magnesia
“Don’t Disturb” sign
An electric hot pad or hot water bottle
Scrap basket

If anyone happens to have any of these items in their possession, please let me know – I’d be happy to come to some kind of arrangement, but you’ll need to be quick.


  1. Hey D, I’m sure your guest room will be five-star quality! Looking forward to it, though, esp. the dish of fruit. 😉

  2. Dear Ivy,
    we await your review of the K&D Den Haag Stylings ‘Guest Room Module’ demonstration. Please use the Ratings form above. But seriously, hope you got home safe. I’m looking forward to reading your book! D

  3. Hi David,
    Congratulations! Haiku-nauts is a smash hit! Whoever had the brilliant idea of opening up the comments section in order to create a sense of vibrant creative community deserves a pat on the back. I’ll have to go back through the comments section and so who it was.
    My next suggestion is for you not to submit to Cordite. You’re in just about every other literary magazine in the country anyway now that you’ve got that David Prater name/brand recognition thing going so you don’t really need it. And whilst I know that the selection procedure has absolute integrity people coming after me may question it if you appear in the magazine too often.
    Yours in desperate love with the jumping singing what’s happening next art that is poetry in the 21st Century,
    Guess who.
    (P.S. Have fun, you rock, in a kind of muted electro new wave way.)

  4. How bizarre. I had just updated my FB status saying i had turned our dodgy spare room / study into a decent guest room, then in a half hour of boredom went lurking through FB, saw your status updates re guest rooms, visited you here which i have’t done in about 2 years, and find an EXTREMELY useful list of jest-room requisites. Rather keen on the spot remover (is this like a damp sponge? or clearasel?), milk of magnesia and scrap basket.

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