Be our guest: essential tips to create a welcoming home
Just like the innkeeper in the Nativity story, your home will be flooded with visitors from far and wide come the festive season. If it’s your first time hosting Christmas, there’s no need to panic; with a little preparation and organisation, you can ensure everyone feels relaxed and right at home in no time. We’re experts in entertaining so have curated a list of our essential tips for creating a welcoming home. But, a word of warning: these tips are so good, your guests may never want to leave.
Make room at the inn
Before you begin, it’s a good idea (and, let’s be honest, the perfect excuse) to declutter to make room for your guests. It’s often the simplest things that make a big impression. Start in the hallway by removing extra coats from the coat stand to leave a few hooks spare for your visitors; the same goes for making space in the shoe cupboard. Free up some hanging space in the wardrobe and a clear out a couple of drawers in the guest bedroom so your visitors can unpack their suitcase if they wish. In the bathroom, ensure there is room on a shelf to put their toiletries, as well as a hook for hanging up their towel or dressing gown.
Add storage great and small
Extra people in the house (especially children) means it’s likely to get messier much quicker, so it’s time to reassess your storage situation and add more if you need to. A small bowl or tray on a console table in the hallway provides somewhere for your guests to unload their car keys, wallets or passports – and as they’ll have to walk past them when they leave, they’re less likely to forget them! In the guest bedroom, don’t overlook practicality: a wastepaper bin and an empty jewellery box are handy to have close by, and if guests are only staying for a couple of nights and space is limited, then a foldable luggage rack is ideal. In the living room, a stylish storage basket will help to corral children’s toys – and prevent you from inevitably stepping on them.
Create a five-star retreat
There will come a time during the holidays where your guests will want to slink away and have a bit of quiet time to themselves. The good news is that, aside from the bed, you really don’t need to spend much to transform your spare room into an inviting guest bedroom. An old spare bed can be made all the more luxurious with some cushions and a throw (which could be borrowed from another room in the house), and some new bed linen shows you’ve gone that extra mile. Beside the bed you should always have a pile of good books, a bedside lamp and a beautiful bunch of flowers; our faux varieties are perfect for freshening up spare bedrooms. Other thoughtful touches for the bedroom include a decanter of water and glasses (refilled each day) and a mirror positioned within reach of a plug socket (so guests can dry their hair). You could even create a little hotel spa pack with some luxurious toiletries and a beautiful candle for your guest to enjoy.
Fill the air with the smell of Christmas
A big part of Christmas is the wonderful smells wafting through the house and the feelings and memories they evoke: the smoky undertones of a crackling fire, buttery mince pies baking in the oven, or mulled wine warming on the stove. Whilst you could spend hours slaving away in the kitchen to create these inviting scents, a much easier way is to place winter-inspired reed diffusers or scented candles around your home and let their uplifting fragrance fill the air instead.
Get the light right
Lighting plays an important role in creating a welcoming home – think low level, soft and subtle. Candlelight is synonymous with Christmas so dot a variety of candles around the house: short ones on mantelpieces and windowsills, tall pillar candles on console tables, and create a dining table centrepiece with tapered candles or tea lights. If you have small children or pets around, then LED candles will create exactly the same effect without the worry.
Comfort is key
The majority of your time will probably be spent in the living room throughout the Christmas holidays, from gathering around on Christmas Eve to watch a festive film, to lounging on the sofa after too much overindulgence (guilty as charged). Comfort is so important but very easy to add – it can be something as simple as making sure there are enough cushions for everyone, or that you have floor cushions or stools so no-one has to sit uncomfortably on the floor. Keep some throws in a basket just in case guests start to get chilly. And if you have to pull out the emergency (read: less comfortable) chairs around the dining table to squeeze everyone on, then don’t forget to put a cushion on the seat.
This time, it’s personal
Try to include anyone who comes to stay in your home wherever possible. Thoughtful touches like giving them their own pair of slippers, hanging a framed photo of them on your wall, and incorporating their Christmas traditions, such as serving up festive food and drink they like or playing their favourite board game, will really make them feel welcome.
Room for a small one?
When you open your home to guests, it’s only fair to extend the invitation to their pets too (providing they are cute and fluffy ones, of course). If you don’t have pets yourself, we’ve lots of ideas on how to share your home with a dog, for example, covering up upholstery with a washable throw. Or perhaps, if they’ve been a really good boy (or girl) this year, Father Christmas might even bring them a new bed?
No-one wants to be scrabbling behind a cupboard to find the wifi code, so why not print it off and put in a beautiful photo frame somewhere that’s easily accessible? Even Grandma may want to check her emails over Christmas, and you can be sure someone is going to want to shop the Boxing Day sales online. Make sure there’s a spare phone charger plugged in beside their bed as well. Sockets with USB ports are a good idea, then overseas visitors don’t need to bring a travel adaptor with them – one less thing to pack.
Mi casa, su casa
Of course, the ultimate way to make your guests feel completely at home is to give them your spare key. This will keep everyone happy: they can come and go as they please, whereas you don’t have to wait up like a disapproving parent to let them in if they head out for a few Christmas drinks. Just make sure they give it back before they go – as much as you love your friends and family, no-one likes it when people pop in uninvited!
Staying at someone else’s house for more than a night can be a little unsettling. You start to long for your own home where you can put your feet up on the coffee table and fall asleep in front of the TV. Many of these tips are simple but thoughtful touches that will make your visitors’ stay enjoyable for everyone. And whether your guests have travelled for thousands of miles or live just down the road, they all deserve a warm welcome.
Now, who’s hosting next year?