Welcome to our home
Originally published in Livingspace magazine
It’s that time of year again, when South Africa’s public holidays sync up with Easter and allow us to turn a few strategic days of leave into a two-week vacation. Maybe you’ve opened up your home for friends to visit, or perhaps your Cape Town relatives are finally coming to see you (read: have a bath). Want to give your guests a right royal welcome? All it takes is a little thought and some preparation.
No house guest expects the equivalent of a luxury hotel room, but that doesn’t mean you can’t aspire to create the feeling of one.
There’s nothing worse than trying to navigate around someone else’s clutter, and you don’t want anyone tripping over your dumb-bells when they get up in the night to use the bathroom. Relocate all miscellaneous junk from the guest room to your own room or to the garage for the time being. Visitors should have enough space to stow their suitcases and still be able to walk around comfortably. If there’s a wardrobe in the room, clear it out and provide a few hangers so they can unpack a little. A comfortable chair, a mirror and a clear surface for items such as laptops or toiletries will complete the hotel feel.
This is a big deal for a lot of people, and helps them to feel at home in a strange space. Whether you have a spare room or your guests are using the sleeper couch in your study, try not to intrude into that area while they’re staying with you. If you have children, make sure they know it’s a no-go zone too.
Clean linen is non-negotiable, but you can go the extra mile to make sure your guests get a really good night’s sleep. Pillows are a make-or-break area. Provide at least two per person – one rm, one soft – so they can arrange them in a way that works for them. It’s starting to get chilly too, so set out a couple of neatly folded blankets of different weights, just in case. (These are also great for afternoon naps).
Here’s where you can really get creative and up the ante on your guests’ experience. Consider providing the following special extra touches:
• A vase of fresh owers
• A small welcome gift, such as a pair of warm socks or some sweet treats
• A robe and spa slippers
• A selection of magazines and books you know they’ll like
• A lamp, charging-cable adapter, bottle of water, tissues, hand cream and other bedside essentials
Shared ablutions needn’t be a headache, if you take the time to prepare properly.
First, declutter all surfaces and shower caddies (you can put your 12 different shampoos and conditioners back after your guests leave). Then, deep-clean the bathroom. If it starts out sparkling, you will need to do no more than give it a quick surface wipe in the evenings to keep things hygienic while you have visitors.
Ideally, you want to give each person a bath sheet, a smaller towel (for wet hair) and a face cloth. If you’re buying new guest towels, go for sets in a few different colours or with different motifs, so it’s easy to tell whose is whose. Otherwise, get creative with labelled or colour-coded hooks.
Consider creating little welcome baskets for each guest containing a toothbrush, toothpaste, a shower sponge, a disposable razor and a shower cap. Another good idea is to buy bulk bottles of neutral-fragranced body wash, shampoo and conditioner, and place these in the shower or bath, ready for communal use. Always have plenty of toilet paper on hand (more than you think you’ll need), so your guests never have to ask for more (awkward!). If it’s stored out of sight, be sure to point out its location.
It really is the heart of the home. And nothing says ‘make yourself at home’ like a tidy, well-stocked kitchen.
Show and tell
When your guests arrive, point out where everything is: glassware, mugs, crockery and cutlery; pantry staples, snacks and drinks. Encourage them to help themselves to anything they want. Some visitors may feel rude taking liberties in someone else’s kitchen, so make sure you still o er food and drink at regular intervals and don’t leave them entirely to their own devices. (You can do this even if you’re not at home, for example, by setting out a selection of breakfast cereals on the counter before you leave for work.)
Before they arrive, ask your guests whether they have any special dietary requirements or allergies (even if you think you know them well) and cater accordingly. If you know they’re fond of particular items, provide those too, as a special touch.
Nobody wants to be the person who ate the last rusk. Stock up on favourite snacks and staples to create a general sense of abundance, so your guests never feel awkward about helping themselves. If you’re hosting on a budget, go big on those items you’d normally buy anyway, so you know you’ll be able to use up what’s left over afterwards.
Coming up roses
If you’re not already using scent diffusers, pick up a few for the guest room, bathroom and living areas. A pleasant aroma makes every space that much more welcoming.
If your guests are coming with their kids, do a quick child-proofing of your home. Pack away any fragile items that may cause a family feud if broken, lock the cupboards containing chemical cleaners, and make sure everyone knows where the first-aid kit is.
Play tour guide
Maybe you’re still going to the office and can’t spend every day entertaining them personally. Put together a little folder for your visitors, with suggestions of things to do around town and directions to your favourite Instagrammable lunch spots.