10 Ways to be Great Host in a Tiny Apartment

Amy Elliott of A Warm Welcome

Chances are you'll either be a house guest this summer or you'll be receiving one. You might guess that we peruse quite a few design/home books. Most of them aren't blog worthy, but A Warm Welcome by Amy Elliott was just published this spring and it's been the favorite to come across our desks in a while. Not only does the book have great advice for the host and house guest alike, but it also has recipes and activities. We loved it so much that we asked Amy to share some tips to being a great host. Here are five things you can do if you're sharing your tiny space and five things you can do, if you have to suggest a hotel.

5 Tips for Being a Great Host in a Small Space from Amy Elliott of A Warm Welcome


  • Notify guests ahead of time about the limitations of your space so that they are not surprised to discover, for example, that your living room and kitchen are one in the same (this is the case in my apartment!). This info will also hopefully inspire the visiting guest to bring fewer items and pack them in a smaller bag.

  • If your guest is allergic to pets, their comfort level will be compromised in a small space and potentially lethal if you have wall-to-wall carpeting. Leave windows open for several days in advance of your guest’s arrival and dust and vacuum the day before and day of arrival. Let severely allergic guests know you will do your best to ensure their comfort level, but he or she might want to have a backup lodging plan in place, and at the very least, bring extra meds.

  • Even if you don’t have guest room, you can set up a guest area.
    A small apartment usually means there is no official guest room. Still, your guest needs to know where he or she is to put her luggage, get dressed, etc. I have a little section of my bedroom near a window that is large enough for a big suitcase. I also make it clear that the guest should feel free to use my bedroom as a “home base” for getting dressed, etc.

  • Plan some activities for your guests.
    If your apartment is tiny, it’s always a good idea to plan activities that will take you out of the apartment for the majority of the time. For example, a weekend day could include brunch out, a day of walking around, or a museum or a movie, cocktails at the apartment, and dinner out. I think people who come to New York expect a somewhat fast-paced, action-packed itinerary and will appreciate you taking the time to enhance their NYC experience.
  • If your “guest room” is part of the common space, the host should take care of straightening it up. I hope I’m not the only one who gets antsy when the pull-out sofa bed takes up the entire living room (and kitchen!) and remains in its pulled-out state for too long. In this case, it’s up to you fold up the bed, and “recreate” the couch. Your guest will not magically rise to the occasion, and shouldn’t be expected to…if she was in a actual guest room, making her bed would be up to her, not you.


If your apartment is too tiny to host a sleepover, you can still be a great host.
5 More Ways to Insure Your Guest has a Fantastic Time (even if they're bunking at a hotel)!


  • Before they even come to stay, offer to check out the hotel and make sure it's a place where they will be comfortable.

  • If the hotel is near you, furnish them with keys to your apartment so that they come in, check email, and use a local landline, while you're at work

  • If the hotel is not near you, furnish them with a list of attractions, places to get coffee, lunch, or late-night drinks

  • Leave a "welcome basket" in their hotel room with a note, water, maps, snacks, and some fun souvenirs. Or just leave a bottle of wine.

  • On their last night, work with concierge to have a farewell treat waiting for them...something simple like cookies and milk, or a pack of snacks to take with them for the journey home

All Images from: A Warm Welcome by Amy Elliott. Ryland Peters & Small, $24.95, 2009.

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