Guest-Ready Home for the Holidays

Guest-Ready Home for the Holidays

From organizing to decorating, a guide for getting a house ready for visitors.

Small bud vases on bedside tables and fresh bedding can give guest spaces a very inviting feeling, advises designer Katie McCarthy of Marika Meyer Interiors. 

Small bud vases on bedside tables and fresh bedding can give guest spaces a very inviting feeling, advises designer Katie McCarthy of Marika Meyer Interiors.  Photo by Angie Seckinger/Marika Meyer

Ready or not, the holidays are coming. For many, this means a flurry of overnight guests. With three weeks before Thanksgiving, many to-do lists are more involved than choosing turkeys and decking the halls.

Some homeowners will be sent into states of cleaning frenzy by spotting crumbled Cheerios lost in the corners of dining chairs or guestrooms piled high with papers and boxes. From the reality of cleaning and tending to repairs to the frivolity of fanciful holiday decorating, local experts offer suggestions for getting organized and ready to welcome company.
“For my out-of-town guests, I love to make them feel special and welcome,” said interior designer Gretchen Fuss, of Gretchen Fuss Works of Art and Interior Design. “The whole house will be clean and sparkling.” 

Consider dispersing flowers, candles and greenery throughout the home in all public areas, including bathrooms and guest bedrooms, suggests Katie McCarthy, senior designer and project manager at Marika Meyer Interiors. “Adding lush throws and cable knit pillows can give the family space that cozy feeling we all look for during the holidays.”

Clear the clutter before purchasing holiday decorations and before guests arrive. “Clear out any clutter that’s accumulated in your main living areas,” said Anne M. Walker, Anne Walker Design LLC in Potomac, Md. “If your dining room is host to a pile of papers, make sure those get filed away or thrown away soon. A clean, organized home makes a perfect palette for any holiday décor.” 
The kitchen is often the central hub of a household, especially during the holidays. Make sure the pantry and refrigerator are well stocked and consider leaving out a bowl of fresh fruit guests can help themselves to, advises Fuss. “Breakfast is always a meal that seems to make everyone happy,” she said. “My husband starts the bacon and everyone finds his or her way to the kitchen table. I feel it is important to have both comfort food and healthy choices for everyone.” 
Cleaning out the pantry and cabinets will help ensure there is plenty of room for the additional supplies and food necessary for Thanksgiving and other holiday meals.  
When preparing that holiday dinner, the last thing that a person with a house full of guests wants is to realize that their oven is broken. “Inspect your appliances to be sure they are all in working order,” said Chuck Khiel, vice president, FRED Home Improvement. “If the refrigerator or oven has been acting up, get them repaired or replaced before guests arrive. … Check the garbage disposal, too, to be sure it’s working efficiently so it doesn’t back up during dinner prep.”

Another high priority — the highest, according to Fuss — is the guest bedroom. This means “fresh bed linens adorning a ‘photo shoot-ready,’ beautifully made bed” and bath towels wrapped with ribbon and sage,” she said. “Put a luggage rack out and make space in the closet for hanging clothes.”
Place fresh flowers on the dresser and, “if time allows, frame a picture of your guests and hang it on the wall in the guest room,” said Fuss. “Everyone really gets a kick out of this one.”
From soft lights for reading to a small mirror for applying make-up, practical touches can go a long way toward comfort. “These touches, although they may seem small, can make all the difference,” said McCarthy. “Small bud vases on bedside tables, plush bathrobes and towels, and fresh, white bedding can give guest spaces a very inviting feeling.” 
Guest bathrooms should be stocked with extra towels, toothbrushes and toothpaste. “If your guest bathroom has a vent fan with a nightlight, make sure it is working,” said Khiel “If not, repair or replace it. If the fan does not have this feature, install a plugin nightlight. There’s nothing worse than guests stumbling in the dark trying to find the bathroom light.”
“Make the powder room fun and festive by updating the towel rack and toilet paper holder, mirror and light fixture,” said Khiel. “Think about replacing the kitchen or bathroom faucet to a new, more efficient model or one with a water filter. And get any leaky faucets fixed.”
A slow-burning fire is another way to create a sense of comfort and warmth. “Inspect your fireplace to be sure it’s in working order and no debris is blocking the flue,” said Khiel. “Consider building or adding a storage box for wood next to fireplace for easy access or add a permanent and decorative accent box nearby for the remote if a gas fireplace.

“Check that the dryer vent is clear, adding guests may mean more laundry,” he added. “Make sure the heat vents are not obstructed. Since guests often stay in rooms that are not frequently used, make sure stored items are not in the way of airflow.
Electrical outlets that are infrequently used are often forgotten until guests arrive. “Fix nonworking electrical outlets that you might need with more people in the house. Everyone will have electronics to plug in,” said Khiel. He said this is also a good time to take care of other simple projects like painting or putting in a new backsplash.
“Oil those squeaky interior and exterior doors so they don’t wake up guests during the night,” said Khiel. “Think about replacing broken or worn door knobs and locks.”
The outside of a home should not be overlooked when preparing for guests, either. “Fall is a great time to tackle outdoor projects,” said Walker. “If your shutters needs a fresh coat of paint, now’s the time to do it. Have your windows professionally cleaned so that your holiday decorations will be seen on a pristine backdrop.” 
Power-washing your porches, walkways and patios offers guests a pristine first impression of your home. Inspect all walkways, especially flagstone and brick walkways and repair loose stones, advises Khiel. “Check exterior light fixtures to be sure they are in working order and that the bulbs are good. If exterior lights operate off a motion sensor, make sure it is adjusted properly.”
“The bottom line,” said Walker, “is that an organized, clean home, a stocked bar and kitchen, and happy, relaxed hosts will undoubtedly result in happy holiday guests.”