Happy holidays to you and you … and you and … hey, just how many people are expecting to stay at your home this winter, anyway?
All kidding aside, hosting guests can be one of the highlights of the holiday season. But it can also be a monumental hassle. Like, where do you put them all?
Don’t let the lack of an official guest room turn you into a Grinch. All you need is a bit of creativity and some planning to keep the (freeloading) hordes happy and well-rested and to keep you reasonably sane during the process. Let us help!
Pick your ‘guest room’ carefully
Owners of small homes may not have much choice about where their guests sleep (living room or bust!). But if you’ve got a few options, think strategically about which rooms or areas provide privacy without sacrificing comfort.
“Try and choose the ones that are the least public,” says New York City designer Heather Higgins of Higgins Design Studio. “If you can choose a study over a living room, do that.”
It’s easy to figure out the rooms that are no-go zones—no human guest wants to sleep in the kitchen or laundry room—but a home office or dining room might suffice quite nicely as a temporary guest bedroom.
Want to be a good host? Consider proximity to the bathroom, any possible street noise, and whether your guests can close a door between them and the overcrowded holiday household.
Consider a Murphy bed
If your Magic 8 Ball indicates year after year of holiday visitors in your future—and you don’t have a bedroom to spare—you might consider installing a permanent solution. Higgins’ suggestion? A Murphy bed, which comes in vertical and horizontal arrangements that can be situated to fit nearly any room.
Higgins herself sleeps in a Murphy bed every night. “I’m a real fan,” she says. “A lot of people think my L-shaped studio is a living room when they walk in.”
Going this route can free up space in rooms you might not normally consider worthy as a bedroom. You can even go full Victorian.
“I see people doing interesting things with beds built behind bookcases and cabinets, where they slide open and the bed comes down,” Higgins says.
Buy multipurpose furniture
The trusty sofa bed is the Grand Imperial Poobah of guest furniture: Just unfold it and sleep. It rules! Too bad some of these pieces can be bulky or unattractive, especially if you’re a fan of the sleek, minimalist look.
You’ve got options, which you can mix and match depending on the room: A daybed works great in a small den (or a sunroom, if you’re in a warm climate). And while Higgins doesn’t think of futons “as a real comfortable bed or comfortable seating”—they’ll do in a pinch, and fit nicely in a game room, office, or media room.
Don’t feel bad if you don’t have space to put your guests in a separate room. But that doesn’t mean you should force your visitors to spend their vacation in the spotlight, either. Instead, find a privacy screen to give them some security.
You can use a folding screen to divide the room in half, or you can scan Pinterest for some interesting things you can do with drapery or curtains.
Add hotel-like touches
If they wanted a hotel room, well, sure, they would have rented a hotel room. But through the goodness of your big heart, there’s no reason you can’t make them feel like they’re getting a deluxe concierge experience.
Higgins has a few suggestions to make your visitors feel like they’re truly on vacation.
First, bring in bedside lighting. You want something your guests can use to read and that can be turned on or off from bed. You want to be really accommodating? Leave your out-of-towners some local magazines or guidebooks that they can use to plan their trip.
Then make sure there’s a place to put their suitcases or clothing. If you’re putting them up in the living room, consider using a trunk or bookshelf that they can offload their clothes into, and let them hang suits and dresses in a hallway closet (or even your own).
And last, consider basic amenities: Fresh towels and bedding, a wastebasket, and a place to charge their phones, laptops, and tablets.
Keep it pet-free
Make sure all of your pet’s fur or dander is cleaned from the furniture, and figure out another part of the house where Benji can hang out while your guests are in town.
If your guests are animal lovers, this might not apply. But you never know who’s suffering from pet allergies, or who’s simply not a fan of being smacked in the face by a cat paw in the middle of the night.
Make it personal
Hospitality isn’t just about the basics—it’s about the little things that make your visitors smile. What do they love and appreciate? Personalize the room to their tastes.
Higgins recommends flowers or coffee table books on their favorite topics—or even just a new toothbrush.
“Do anything you can to make it personal,” she says. “It says, ‘I’m really glad you’re here. I went out of my way to make you feel welcome.”
Photo: “Home Alone 2: Lost in New York”: 20th Century Fox