Small Space Solutions: Making Guests Comfortable WITHOUT a Guestroom

Just because you don’t have a guest room, doesn’t mean that your guests should be treated as afterthoughts. Yes, there are all kinds of Martha Stewart type things you can do for your guests, but the bottom line is this – your guests should be made to feel welcome. This is true whether you have a bona-fide guest room, a pullout sofa, an air mattress or just a designated spot for sleeping on the living room floor.

Regardless of your actual sleeping accommodations, you should think about your guests and what their needs might be while they’re staying with you. Janel wrote a great post on the subject of guests last week, but in general, here are a few things to think about-

Sleeping surface

1. Pullout sofa – Too hard or bar in the center? How about adding an egg crate foam mattress, a futon mattress or feather bed on top to cushion the blow?
2. Air mattress – Is it easy to set up and take down? We have an Aerobed, and I highly recommend it. More expensive than some of the other versions out there, but it totally pays for itself in ease and speed of use. Also, think about what will need to be moved in order to make space for an air mattress in the room. Plan in advance where to move things so that when the time comes, set-up is a snap (and guests don’t feel like they’re an inconvenience).
3. Sleeping on the floor – Sometimes, clearing a space on the floor is the best you can do…and that’s ok. Again, the trick is to make it as comfortable of an experience as possible. Do you have removable sofa cushions you could arrange into a makeshift bed? (Sounds crazy, I know, but a good friend of mine still raves about the sleep she got at another friend’s house sleeping on Ikea EXTORP cushions on the floor!) Or how about a feather bed, comforter, blanket or futon mattress to soften things up?

Linens, Blankets, Pillows & Towels

1. Linens - Regardless of the sleeping surface, your guests are going to need ‘bed’ linens. Hopefully you have an extra set, but if you don’t – put them on your shopping list now. The problem with extra linens is that they normally aren’t used very often. Which means that no matter how clean they are, they’re likely to smell musty. Taking a few minutes to rectify this situation will go a long ways towards making your guest feel welcome. If you have a dryer, toss them in with a dryer sheet to fluff them up and rid them of their crammed-in-a-closet smell. If you don’t, spray them down with a little Febreze, air dry and fold.
2. Blankets– If possible, it’s good to provide your guests with a couple of options when it comes to blankets. Having options allows your guests to balance the room temperature, their choice in sleeping attire and their personal comfort level for themselves. Blankets can also get musty, and should be freshened in the same manner as the linens.
3. Pillows– Like sleeping temperature, pillow comfort is very subjective. If possible, provide guests with at least two pillows, of varying softness to use. Some may use one, and some may use two, but all will appreciate having a choice.
4. Towels- If possible, provide your guest with a full set of towels. Freshen them if needed, as you did the blankets and linens. Let your guest know where they can hang the towels when they’re wet and make sure to review any peculiarities of your plumbing in advance.

Light & Privacy

Often the space that your guests will be using isn’t normally used for sleeping. As a result, it may be brighter or less private than would be comfortable that purpose. Analyzing the street lights outside the window at night, the daylight streaming in in the morning and the view into the space from outside can help you determine where to position the head of the ‘bed’ and let you know if additional window coverings are needed. My favorite solutions are temporary pleated paper blinds or expensive Ikea panels and tension rods. A panel and tension rod can also be used to create a privacy ‘door’ if one does not exist (i.e. in a doorway between the living room and kitchen, etc.)

Luggage & Clothes Storage

Even if you don’t have a guest room, it’s nice to give guests a little space of their own for their luggage clothes, and bed linens. An extra chair can easily be called into use as a luggage stand, and an over-the-door hook can provide guests hanging space even when your closets are filled to capacity. Designate an easy to access, but out of the way corner to tuck away linens, pillows, etc. when not in use.

The Extras

1. A Nightstand- It’s the little things that really make your guests feel welcome. Clearing off an end table or creating a temporary nightstand out of a stack of books and a tray gives you a place to provide some niceties and your guest a place to put small personal items.
2. Reading Material - Select a few magazines and a book (short stories work best) for your guest in case they’d like to relax and read while staying with you. Help them get the lay of the land by providing a map and a guide of the area. I also keep a City Walks of my city on hand so that my guests can pick a card, pick a neighborhood, and venture out on their own if they’d like.
3. Flowers-bFlowers are the ultimate indulgence and a single bloom in a bud vase on your temporary ‘nightstand’ conveys a loving and thoughtful message to your guest. Don’t have any flowers on hand? Check the crisper drawer in your fridge. Fresh herbs are an excellent stand-in. I once used a handful of fresh poultry herbs in an inexpensive votive holder – it looked and smelled amazing!
4. Water - You’ve seen it many times before, a lovely carafe of water and drinking glass on the bedside table in a guest room. It’s a great idea, and your guests will appreciate having their own water handy in the middle of the night. Rather than stress about having the perfect carafe though, be creative! I use an empty white wine bottle with the label removed and a cork. (You can buy reusable corks online for super cheap, or better yet, use the bottle stopper you already have!) For the glass, I use a small, trusty Ikea bistro glass.
5. Snacks - It’s nice if you can leave a couple of non-perishable snacks like fruit, granola bars, pretzels, etc. at the ready for your guests. That way, if they get munchy late at night they won’t feel like they have to trouble you for something.
6. Breakfast- Depending on the occasion and your relationship to your guests, you may all eat breakfast together. However, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t have several easy to prepare breakfast foods on hand. (If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that people get hungry at different times in the morning.) Having cereal, yogurt or bagels available will allow your guests to grab something on their own (even if it’s only to hold them over until the pancake extravaganza begins). Also, review operations and options for coffee and tea with your guests the night before. Then, if they get up earlier than you, (as may happen, especially if their internal clock is on a different time zone), they can help themselves.

Remember, the idea is to make your guest feel welcome, and you don’t have to have a guest room to do that. Any planning or preparation you do in advance of your guest’s arrival will show thoughtful consideration and reinforce the idea that you’re happy to have them staying with you.

Images: 1. Apartment Therapy DC 2. & 5. Apartment Therapy DC 3. Apartment Therapy SF & Anthropologie 4. Real Simple