I was not raised in a family that had guests. Growing up in an apartment in New York City meant that any houseguest went from being lovely and charming to a bit of a burden overnight. Sofa beds needed to be closed every morning or else no one could get into the living room; guests clothes were everywhere; and the house became entirely too small.
Now, even though my apartment isn’t much bigger than the one I grew up in, I welcome any and all guests and love the little bit of chaos that a guest brings. And I’m always wondering: what easy and affordable bells and whistles could make a guest feel right at home in my home? Here are a few ideas.
It All Starts With a Great Bed.
It's music to my ears when an overnight guest says they slept like a baby! And that starts with a comfortable bed; a too-short sofa bed or foam pad just won’t do. If you can’t afford a new or good used bed, think about getting a quality air mattress. I use a double height air mattress and it’s always a hit! They’re really quite comfortable and can be placed on top of a box spring, over a sofa bed mattress, or on the ﬂoor.
No need to over pillow: four pillows along with two to three decorative ones should be more than enough. It’s a pet peeve of mine to have to throw 20 pillows off the bed before bedtime. Make sure that you stock the bed with just enough pillows for sleeping and propping up the head while reading.
Whether the Weather be Hot…
Everybody likes to sleep a certain way in bed. Some people like to be toasty warm while others get too hot at night and like things light and airy. Because of this, it’s important to outﬁt your bed with both light and heavy blankets.
Also, always have an extra set of bed and bath linens available for your guests. Accidents DO happen. They’ll feel especially welcome and it’s an easy thing to do. Don’t pull out your family leftovers if you don’t have to. Clean, comfortable bed linens in soft neutral colors are a must.
And don’t forget a cozy robe and slippers. A kimono style works well for both men and women. Washable slippers are an added plus for those who don’t like to walk around barefoot.
Throw in the Towel.
Here is another way to pamper guests: provide them soft, ﬂuffy towels. Give each guest a set of one bath towel, one hand towel, and one washcloth. You can embroider guest towels with your monogram or a single word like “Welcome” or “Guest.” Fold and bundle towel sets with wide ribbon for a neat welcome.
Also, choose a color for guest towels that is different from your family’s everyday towels. This way, guests will know which towels are theirs in a shared bathroom. If you have multiple guests over at once, a quick and easy idea is to sew on colored loops to the corner of each towel so that when they are hung from a robe hook each guest know which towel belongs to them.
Finally, set out essentials and little luxuries. Fill a basket with all of your mini toiletries from hotel stays such as shampoo, conditioner, lotions, tissues, toothpaste, razors and a fresh toothbrush. Finally, place a small hamper in the room for guest use.
A Place to Set Down a Suitcase
Creating a space for guests to set a suitcase really makes them feel comfortable. You can purchase a luggage rack or use a small table or a bench in the room so guests can rest their suitcase on it. No one likes to have to stoop over to the ﬂoor to pull out a clean pair of socks. Even a chair is better than nothing. Another option is to designate a large bath towel for guests to place on the bed before they put their luggage on it.
You should also clear out at least a foot of hanging space in the closet or purchase an inexpensive over-the-door hook that can accommodate some hanging clothes. A simple hook on the wall or behind a closet door can hold a robe, coat, or a purse. Don’t forget a supply of six to eight hangers. And if you have an extra chest of drawers, clear out one or two for small items. Both you and your guest will feel better with odds and ends out of sight.
Let There be Appliances
If you don’t have an extra iron and ironing board to offer, be sure to tell your guest where they can ﬁnd yours. A hair dryer for guests also makes a nice addition. I love having a lighted clock next to my bed. An alarm clock or clock/radio is even better.
A Place to Read and Relax and a Place to Work
Place an upholstered armchair and ottoman or side chair in the room with a table and lamp close by. Some people don’t like to sit on beds while they work and your guests shouldn’t have to. You may not want to be entertaining your guest all the time they’re with you, so it’s important that they feel they have someplace to get away for a little private relaxing time.
If you’ve got the space, a small desk and chair is a great addition to any guest room. Provide paper and pens or pencils, scissors, tape and tissue. I love to provide local post cards or stationary for my guests with postage. If your home is wired, great! If not, provide a phone cord or cable connection to hook up a computer. If you have a wireless network, write your network name and password on a card for them to use to log on.
It’s always nice to have a light control near the bed, so your guest won’t have to stumble around in the dark just to turn a light on. If nothing else, provide a good reading light near a chair or over the bed. Another ﬁxture or lamp near the desk is also great. A small night light is helpful and a lighted magnifying make-up mirror is a real luxury.
Local Tourist Info
If your guests will be going around town without you, they’ll appreciate area maps, brochures highlighting hot spots, and bus/train schedules and directions to your home. Make a list of the best shopping areas, museums, parks, and your favorite restaurants. Mark special locations and print out directions from major roadways and laminate them or place all the items in a three ring binder with sheet protectors; you won’t have to re-gather everything when another guest arrives. Also, post important phone numbers so your guests have easy access. Include the house phone number, your cell phone number, and emergency contacts.
Snack and Be Merry
Houseguests get “the munchies” in the evening, just like everyone else. Place wrapped snacks, fresh fruit or cookies, and a bottle of water in the guest room. When your guests are up late at night reading the book you left for them, they’ll be able to put together a tasty snack without sneaking down to your kitchen.
Add Some Welcoming Touches
Leave your guests a personalized welcome note with pertinent information they may need and place a framed picture of you and your guests in their room. Add a few ﬁnishing touches like fresh ﬂowers, a scented candle, and a small dish of chocolates, candies or mints. To make guests feel extra special, turn down their bed in the evening, dim the lights, and light a candle.