With the increase in square footage that home builders are now offering, and the number of us who quickly pick up the phone or click our mouse to grab the latest airline seat sale to get a change of location and break from life now and again, having guests in our houses and a fully-dedicated guest room is more common now than ever before. Living in southern California, we have guests often and I'm always looking for ways to make their stay even more comfortable.
It's easy to overlook even the obvious things our guests might want or need because we have everything we could need in our home, so why wouldn't they? Well, let me tell you... I have stayed in hundreds of hotels and many homes of friends and relatives over the years and sometimes the hotels provide a few extras that are often forgotten by well-indended hosts and hostesses. Here's how to make your guest room homelike and pleasant for incoming company:
1. Bedtime Story. Do you think you have installed a comfortable place for guests to sleep, or do you know you have? When was the last time you laid down on that bed for an hour with a book yourself, to see if the bed is free of poking springs or sagging middles? Whether it's a bed, a pullout sofa sleeper, or an inflatable "insta-bed", give it a try for yourself and be honest about how comfortable a place it is to spend 8 or so hours. I once spent a night with relatives who graciously offered up their pullout sofa in the den for the night... all I felt were wiry springs digging into every part of my body. I ravaged the room for all available throw pillows, blankets and other soft surfaces to put padding between me and the offending mattress, which then meant I had no blankets left to put on top of me for the night. It was awful, so make sure you know what you are offering to your guests before assuming you are doing them a favor.
Shop for a truly soft, high thread-count set of sheets. They are inexpensive now with so many manufacturers out there (even Costco). Add a comforter or duvet in a cover that is cleanable (and preferably, cleaned always between guests), an extra blanket in case the night is chilly. That same blanket is a great option for your guests to add to the bed if they find it too hot and want something lighter than the comforter.
Pillows with clean pillowcases are an obvious addition, but again, really lay your own head down on those pillows to see if they are still comfortable. Offer additional pillows for those who like more loft under them too.
2. Light Up. Add a small lamp near the bed. Many people like to read in bed, and especially those who may be on a different time zone and not sleeping on the same schedule as everyone else in your house. A small reading light and a couple of magazines (reasonably current, please - no doctor's office cast-offs, thank you!) means your guests can still rest quietly if insomnia strikes.
A television is also a fantastic option (with a local channel guide) if you have the space and the budget to add it into the room, for the same reason. Often people will be visiting from other time zones and don't sleep well the first night or two, and a TV they can watch without fear of disturbing anyone else in the house is really nice.
Natural lighting is also a big consideration. My guest room window is dressed with a wooden blind, a pair of sheer panels and a pair of heavy blackout drapery panels. My guests can have full bright sunlight or complete blackout in the room as they choose.
3. Come Out of the Closet. Closet space is at a premium for almost everyone, which means the closet in most guest rooms ends up filled with odds n' ends (true confessions: mine holds luggage, Halloween costumes, out-of-season clothing....). Try to leave some space your guests can use, with some nice hangers for both tops and pants/skirts, and that they can access easily, which means without standing on their toes and balancing on your bowling ball while reaching into a small cubby of space you cleared in the back. If you have a dresser or nightstand with drawers, try to keep one or two empty for holidayers to use too.
Luggage racks are really a nice touch too. It shows your guests that you welcome them and their luggage, that you are prepared for their arrival, and you have considered that they are living out of a suitcase while they stay. These are quite inexpensive now and you can even find them at places like Bed, Bath & Beyond and Target nowadays.
4. Dirty Girls, Dirty Boys. The first thing I usually want to do when I've been traveling and finally arrive at my home-away-from-home is shower! Make sure your shower is clean and that all the kid's rubber duckies and other bath toys are corralled into their own storage space. Leave at least one empty area for your visitor's shampoo, body wash and razor etc. It's great if you can also leave some liquid bodywash and some decent hair products in the shower in case they need to share yours.
Towels are SO important! My husband stayed with friends recently who are unmarried and a bit younger. He really appreciated the chance to spend time with them overnight and save on a hotel room, but it reminded him of the differences between staying at a friend's house when you are in your 20's-30's, and when you are in your 40's+. Scratchy, thin towels and sheets were more "fraternity house" than "guest house". Really soft towels and a couple of washcloths that are free of mascara stains and years of various uses & abuses are critical to your visitors feeling like they are as comfortable (or more so, hopefully) than they would've been staying in a hotel. Get to Target and pick up a couple of sets of fresh bath linens for less than $20.
A really nice addition is an emergency kit of vanity items. We recently had friends come to stay and all of their luggage was lost by the airline for the first two days. Having a couple of new toothbrushes in packages, a clean razor, and some sample packs of moisturizer, cleanser and similar items from department store cosmetic counters was a lifesaver for them. Travel sizes of deodorant, aspirin, antacids, lip balm, feminine products and a lint roller in a small basket or drawer just for guests will make you as hot a host or hostess as Martha Stewart in your guest's eyes.
5. All the Rest: a few other important elements: a mirror inside the guest bedroom, which gives people the opportunity to run a brush through their bed-head hair before they see everyone else in the morning or get makeup done in different light than your bathroom mirror offers. Making it a full-lenth mirror is even better since most of us like to use one when we dress.
An open electrical outlet or two. We all carry cell phones and cameras that require re-charging.
A clock radio. Who doesn't want to see a clock during the night and morning hours and listen to the local radio stations?
A place for their used bath and bed linens. Leave an empty laundry hamper or basket, or at the very least, show them where they can drop their used wet towels for laundering in the laundry room.
Bottled water. Duh!
Now your work is done. Open up the wine, set out some appie's, and enjoy your time together.