In Living Color: Getting ready for guests during holidays— or anytime

Shoshanah Siegel/Signal Tribune Soft colors, a nightstand, lighting and simple décor help to create a comfortable guest room.
Shoshanah Siegel/Signal Tribune

Soft colors, a nightstand, lighting and simple décor help to create a comfortable guest room.
Shoshanah Siegel

Finally, our mornings are cooler, and the Liquidambar tree in our front yard is finally dropping colorful fall leaves. Mother Nature is finally giving the signal that the holidays are just around the corner. For some of you, that may mean that family and friends will be staying with you.
Over the years, when I have stayed with friends and family, I have been very aware and appreciative when our hosts have come up with some very nice preparations for our stay.
Just this week, when I mentioned to a friend about the topic of my article, she shared that she had read a book by a couple who wrote about staying in their guest room for the weekend to see what was needed to truly give their guests a good experience while staying in their home. I would recommend doing this in your own home. Maybe not for an entire weekend, but to find out if there are any issues. Is the mattress comfortable? Does it get cold in that room overnight? Is it very dark at night and a night-light is needed? There is nothing like groping in the dark for the nearest light switch.
In this article, I will give you some suggestions that I hope will make both the preparation and the time you spend with your guests less stressful and one that will be enjoyed by all.

Sprucing up your home
Having guests is a great motivator for home-improvement projects that you might have been putting off. I still get an audible groan from my husband once he realizes that he might be involved in some of the projects I have in mind. I remember one year sending him off to get a new kitchen light fixture the morning of Thanksgiving because I determined that ours was too dingy to see what we were cooking or serving. Hopefully, this article will get you motivated earlier rather than later in determining what projects you want to tackle.

Usually, I start with the front of the house. A tidy entrance lets guests know you’re expecting them. I suggest standing in front of your home and either take a picture or note some cosmetic things you might do to spruce things up. Maybe all you need to do is a little scraping and painting of windows or your front door. If you have room for seating on the porch, make sure it’s clean and comfy. Also, make sure that you have adequate lighting on the walkways and entrances for people coming and going. This is not the time of year for visits to the ER. For a quick face-lift, I usually add a new wreath or item for the front door in celebration of the season or holiday. I like to add a few pots with flowers and a new welcome mat.

Whether you use the front entry or the back, the entrances need to be practical. This is where you take off your coat, leave the umbrella (wishful thinking for those of us who live in California) and take off your shoes. If your guests are using this entrance, I would suggest clearing a space for them to leave their belongings during their stay. All you need is to create a well-organized entry that has hooks or hangers for coats and a bench or table along a wall to put their things on as they come and go. I love baskets or containers for everyone to put their items in. It keeps down the clutter and the chance of someone missing an item during the busy and often hectic schedules and events during the holidays. Also, during this time of year, you might consider your home as a “socks only zone” and provide slippers or socks at the entrance for guests and family to wear. This method keeps the floors a lot cleaner.

Creating a space for guests

Don’t have a spare bedroom? No worries. Invest in an inflatable air mattress. Meryl Starr, author of The Home Organizing Workbook: Clearing Your Clutter, Step by Step, suggests looking for models with thicker padded tops like AeroBed Premier Cushioned Comfort ($150 at or, for an even simpler solution, get a feather bed (like the Pacific Coast Baffle Box Feather Bed, $120 for full, Speaking from experience as both the guest and host, be sure to inflate the mattress you have previously purchased or used, in order to make sure that it does indeed still hold the air.
Here are just a few spaces or surfaces that I would recommend you create in order to make your guests feel at home. One would be a place where they can rest their suitcase for unpacking and maybe part of a closet with hangers for their clothes. In order for your guests to have a place to read and relax, I suggest providing a nightstand or surface for a lamp and other sundries next to the bed or chair. In the bathroom, be sure to leave a place for your guest to put their toiletries.

In case guests forget items
Collect and put together a mini supply of toiletries and items. I find that a basket works best, and you can replenish the items as needed. Next time you are staying at a hotel, remember to take away the small toiletry bottles. Also, there are now travel-size toiletries for sale at most drugstores. Your kit might include shampoo, shower gel, toothpaste, toothbrush and floss (these I get from my dentist when I get my teeth cleaned), shaver and shaving cream, fingernail file or emery board, a pain reliever (Tylenol), cough drops, Airborne and tissues. I always like to provide a couple bottles of water and a few munchies, like a package of nuts and pieces of chocolate. I also provide a robe in case they have forgotten to bring one.

Check your supplies
Before your guests arrive, check to make sure you have your basic supplies. I would write out a list of items that you might stock up on. The list might include toilet paper, paper towels, baggies, garbage bags and food items that you generally have on hand for last-minute and ongoing guests. Speaking of food items, ask your guests if they have any food preferences and try to make sure that there are options on your menu and in your pantry or refrigerator. I would suggest keeping meal planning low-key.

Now is the time to inspect your bed linens, towels, blankets, and pillows. Make sure that they are fresh, clean and ready to go so that you’re not scrambling to find them at the last minute. You might want to include a few extra blankets and pillows. If you have visitors often, consider investing in linens that are strictly for guests; that way you’ll always have what you need and know they’re ready when you need it. Also, color-coding your towels helps guests keep track of their own towels.

Help guests “make themselves at home”

Guests never want to be a bother, and it is easier for the host if they can fend for themselves. Here are some things that you can do to help this become a reality.
• Let your guests know where items are in the kitchen and in other rooms. Set out some coffee supplies and simple breakfast items the night before for those early risers. Also, go over your schedule and theirs so that you and your guests will be able to coordinate the use of the bathroom, meals and, so that you don’t need to sit up like an anxious parent, be sure to discuss what time you might be expecting them to return to your home.
• Be sure to mention if there are any quirks your home may have. I remember an incident a few years ago when we had cousins staying with us. The bedroom and bathroom doors would stick if they were shut completely. A rescue was needed in the middle of night when one of the cousins had to use the bathroom and was stuck in the bedroom.
• Create an information sheet. How many times have you had to go digging for your WiFi key when guests were over or explain the elaborate series of steps required to turn on your TV? Add any other important information they might need— cell phone numbers, your home address, etc. Don’t forget to include parking passes or instructions on where and when to park. Include maps, or the location of places they may want to go visit around your area.
• Finally, make an extra copy of your house key, and put it on a key chain and keep it in a specific location.
Your house need not be a “bed and breakfast” or a four-star hotel. Most importantly, remember that they’ve come to visit you. I hope these suggestions will make the season a truly enjoyable one for you and your guests. Happy holidays!

Shoshanah Siegel provides color consulting as well as space planning, remodeling, upgrading and staging through her firm Your Color Diva. She can be contacted at (562) 427-0440, or Also, check out her ideabooks and portfolio at: /shoshanahsiegel/your-color-diva .

1 comment
  1. Shoshanah helped me rethink my small living space. Simple and practical ideas to beautify my house have helped me love my home instead of resent the limiting space!

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