Small Space Hosting: Tips for Welcoming Guests When You Don’t Have a Guest Room

published Apr 28, 2014
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(Image credit: Kathryn Bacalis)

I sometimes wonder if the guest room is, like the formal dining room, going the way of the Dodo. With people living smaller by choice and necessity, an entire room dedicated to overnight guests is a luxury you don’t see as often as you once did. These days, extra rooms tend to be home offices, if they exist at all.

But people will want to go visiting, won’t they? As someone who has made my home away from my native country, I’m used to having people come and stay. But as that home happens to be in a large, expensive city (I don’t know a single Londoner with a guest room, actually), I know how tricky it can be to host people in the way you’d like. Here are a few tips for welcoming guests with a minimum of disruption and a maximum of comfort, for everyone’s benefit.

First Thing’s First: find a “Bed”. If you want to prioritize hosting overnight guests, you need somewhere to put them. Pull-out sofas and daybeds are the obvious choice, but they’re not to everyone’s taste or budget. I love the corner sofa-turned-bed in my living room (in a furnished rental) for its hosting abilities, but would I buy it myself if I were furnishing my dream flat? Probably not.

Luckily, there are other options. A good air mattress is comfortable and doesn’t take up too much room (store it inside a suitcase when not in use). Or, depending on the guest and the length of stay (I’m thinking in-laws, and two nights max), you could also have the guests in your room and take the sofa yourself. If you’ve got kids, consider putting guests in their room while having the kids bunk with you or sleep on the sofa (little people take up less room, after all).

Remember, Guests come with Stuff. Think ahead to where your friends are going to put those pesky suitcases they arrive with, even if it’s just clearing a generous area on the floor. If you can allocate a small table, a shelf on the bookcase and a section in the coat closet for hanging things, all the better.

Consider your Non-Bedroom like a Bedroom. Maybe you fall asleep on the sofa occasionally, but your guests will be trying to get some serious rest in this room, so think about it like you would your own bedroom. Do the curtains keep out enough light for your pals to get some shut-eye? Is there a draft coming under the front door that makes it cold at night? Is there street noise? There are simple, temporary fixes for most of these issues (even if they are just extra blankets and earplugs).

Throw in some Extras. In addition to the basics above, adding some luxe touches to the “bedroom” area will go a long way to making it seem more inviting. My best friends always have fresh flowers in their apartment when I come to visit, which never fails to make me feel welcome. On the more practical side, a power bar for charging phones and Ipads is always appreciated, as is your wifi password written on an easily-accessible card.

Privacy… for Everyone. If your guests will be staying awhile, try to afford everyone in the household a bit of solitude. A folding screen can lend a little privacy to an open plan living area turned bedroom, which is ideal in the mornings or evenings if everyone has different routines. Working out a shower schedule is another necessity that feels like micro-managing at first, but helps everyone feel more comfortable.

Don’t Actually Host Your Guests. If you really don’t have the room for overnight guests, think creatively. Do you have a friend or relative nearby who could take them off your hands? It might sound crazy, but when my sister and I lived across the street from each other, I used to send guests to spend the night at her place, where there was an airbed and more space. Or maybe you go sleep at your local friend’s place and give your guests the run of your apartment; I’ve had this done for me! Granted, it works best if everybody is low-maintenance, and you’ll have some beers to buy as a thank you once the whole thing is over.

Do you host guests without a guest room? What are your best tips for being a gracious host while keeping your sanity?