Real People, Real Advice: Hosting Overnight Guests in a Small Home

published Nov 20, 2017
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(Image credit: Nancy Mitchell)

Last week I asked a number of stylish, smart people who happen to live in teeny tiny homes to share their advice for hosting holiday dinners and gatherings. Their tip and lessons were enormously helpful! In this post, I asked them to tackle the subject of overnight guests — something I struggle to deal with in my small-ish one-bedroom apartment. Many of these folks don’t have any bedrooms, but they’ve shared how they make overnight guests (and themselves) comfortable when they’re sharing their home.

(Image credit: Nancy Mitchell)

Emily Schildt, Co-Founder of Thing of Wonder Sleeper sofa + luggage stand

In order to make room to pull the bed out from her sleeper sofa in her teeny 400-square-foot Brooklyn studio apartment, Emily Schildt does have to do a little furniture rearranging…and get a little help from guests. “The coffee table has to be removed and placed to the side of the sofa, and my large white chair has to shift a bit against the window.” But for Emily, a sleeper sofa was really the only option:

“I knew that moving to New York meant I would suddenly become very popular, and anticipate regular overnight guests. So, one of my first purchases and non-negotiable furniture items was a sleeper sofa. But, because I didn’t want to take up critical space that could be used for other furniture, I made sure to purchase a love seat/twin sleeper. Typically, I don’t have couples stay overnight. But, when I do, I offer them my bed and I sleep on the twin pullout. It’s worked just fine.”

Emily recommends:

“Privacy is pretty much non-existent with overnight guests in my space. That said, I find it really fun in short visits. It’s like having a sleepover! I have a lot of privacy in my everyday life, living alone, so I welcome the company. As far as luggage, I did purchase a luggage stand on Etsy (it’s a canvas stool, and cost me no more than $20) to keep luggage off the floor and create easier access for my guest(s).”

Emily recommends:

  • This luggage stool that’s similar to hers on Etsy.
  • This new luggage stool from Dot & Bo.
  • And this dream option (expensive) from Etsy.

(Image credit: William Strawser)

Designer Amelia NicholasShift, separate, store

Amelia reserves the offer to stay overnight in her teeny studio apartment only to close friends and family. “Since it’s just one room, you have to feel really comfortable or have known the person for a while.” To accommodate guests, she does a lot of shifting of furniture, and made a smart decision when she purchased everything:

“There is a little bit of shifting that has to happen. I have to push the living room furniture to the outer perimeters. I tuck the dining table up against the bench and then move the living room chairs and side table into the dining room. The coffee table shifts closer to the loveseat. All of the furniture I chose is lightweight expressly for this purpose.”

(Image credit: William Strawser)

It’s another smart, simple design decision that affords her a bit of privacy when overnight guests are over: “Normally I keep the curtain rod at 2′ but it can telescope out another foot. That extra foot provides even more separation and privacy.”

And what about tripping over your overnight guests’ luggage? Amelia suggests a flexible approach: “Luggage gets tucked wherever it is not in the way: on the cube at the foot of my bed, underneath the dining table, on the bench, along the wall under the windows, or on either side of the loveseat. You’d be surprised how many little hiding spots there are that can accommodate an overnight bag.”

And yes, Amelia’s design smarts extend beyond the guests’ stay: “For my guest linens, I use any version of the large scale vacuum seal bags that are on the market. I get them as flattened out as I can and then file them behind my loveseat. It’s amazing what can fit that way – pillows, extra comforters. They are truly a genius innovation.”

Amelia recommends:

I love the AeroBed Luxury Collection Extra Comfort 12-Inch Inflatable Bed in Twin Size ($99.99). With a twin bed, you can put one on the living room rug and one in the kitchen. I always laugh – my niece and nephew think it’s hilarious if they get to sleep in the kitchen. They call dibs on it. They love it.

I think my next loveseat will be a sleeper one. Crate and Barrel is making some excellent small space models. The Jennifer Furniture Softee Full Sleeper Loveseat is another classic. I love the brown thin-wale corduroy – it looks like suede and can blend with a variety of styles.

(Image credit: Chloe Berk)

Filmmaker Alee Ruggieri Clean is key

“For overnight guests, I usually provide them with an air mattress…anywhere it will fit! I’ve found the most strategic placement provides a small aisle for me to still get to my bed.

The apartment basically looks like a middle school sleepover; one giant sea of bed and pillows. But, seeing as most of the people who come to visit are friends I’ve known forever, it turns out to be really fun and actually feels like a past time.

That said, keeping my small space tidy when guests are in town is crucial and I’m often cleaning double time to keep it feeling practical and livable.”

Alee recommends:

“My friends and parents, good sports as they are, are always grateful when I share my small space even at the sound of the word “air mattress.” But I can tell from that strained look in their eye that they’re mentally preparing for a few nights of horrible sleep. I probably sound like a weirdo when I immediately start bragging about how awesome my air mattress is. It’s a twin Serta NeverFlat, and believe me, it is NEVER FLAT.

At the height of a normal bed, it doesn’t make my guests feel like they’re sleeping on a floor. You can also set the firmness of the air mattress, which is something I don’t tell the guests before I “politely” (wink, wink) offer my bed and say that I’ll take the air mattress.”

(Image credit: Jessica Rapp)

Baker Lexie ComstockUnder promise, over deliver

(Image credit: Jessica Rapp)

“In terms of squeezing people in my apartment, I think a lot of it is just setting the expectation and telling them straight up that it might be a bit tight, so they’re then pleasantly surprised by how spacious my apartment is. But I’ve found that the key is having doors to the room where they are staying, or even just creating a door of sorts with screens or something, because then you can really make it feel as if they have a separate space. And then we either just hang out more in the smaller dining room area, or embrace the living room/pop up guest bedroom as a more communal lounge space, a la college or a studio apartment.”

And if you live overseas, perhaps be prepared for overzealous packers:

“My mom actually comes to visit me every year for a month (and last time she brought 5 suitcases) so finding places for all of them is occasionally a challenge. But I try to get creative and hide them behind things in my apartment, like the curtains, a big chair, or under my desk in the living room. I’m also lucky that I have a couple of coat racks that I repurpose into open-air dressers of sorts, so she can unpack and I can put the suitcases above my dresser.”

(Image credit: Nancy Mitchell)

Designer Akhira N. Ismail Preparation is king

I constantly have overnight guests. You wouldn’t think that I would, living in a small space, but I do! From my sisters, friends, and even Airbnb guests.

(Image credit: Nancy Mitchell)

For luggage, I slightly adjust my furniture so my guest can store it under the breakfast bar, on the left side of the sofa by the window or underneath the chair — this is so my guests can walk around easily.

For sleeping, I have a leather sofa bed. I store the guest pillows, sheet set, and comforter within my basket underneath my bookshelf/ entertainment unit. When they are ready to sleep we just pull everything out. Even though there is not a wall in between us, it has never been a problem. Then we normally wake up to some sunshine and fresh brewed coffee or tea.

Tip for being a good host for guest: Prepare for them, have a set of clean towels, new soap, and slippers if possible. And move things around so it doesn’t feel like you are bumping into each other. An inch or two makes a difference.”