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Much like anything, hosting knowledge and experience comes with practice. When you’re just starting out as a new host, it can be a bit difficult to know how to organise and decorate your space in a way that’s both appealing and comfortable for guests.
Whether you’re unsure about what decor style to go for or how to make a room feel decluttered and still homely, you’ve certainly come to the right place!
The Community Centre is filled with amazing advice on how to get started - from recommended types of bedding to special touches that make guests feel welcome.
Here are just a few of the many helpful threads on the subject:
How did you create a guest-friendly space? What would you say are the basics for getting started?
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@Stephanie great topic. Curious to hear what others say.
For us it was using easy clean fabrics and rugs. We are pet friendly so we knew that accidents might be possible. Thus we bought a big vintage leather sofa (a Harrods original that probably cost loads new but we got for a song), throw and area rugs that are stain resistant and replaced some flooring in our half finished laundry room with vintage look linoleum which is easy clean.
We didn't cheap out on mattresses but went with memory foam as we have very steep stairs and a traditional mattress with springs would have been a bear to get up there. We purchased the one with the best reviews that we could afford.
I actually had a lot of really cool original artwork in the space (we collect art) but I took it all down and replaced it with framed paintings of lower value and canvas prints. We didn't want to lose a piece worth a lot of money.
As far as furnishings in general, we went mid-level to inexpensive. We looked for durable, good looking to photograph well and easy to replace if destroyed. We spent more money on towels and did mid range bedding (bamboo, eco friendly and soft.) There were a few fun splurge pieces to elevate the feel of the space, but nothing I would cry over if destroyed.
Our biggest learning curve was the bed itself. We have had some larger guests who bent a metal bedframe upstairs. Guests that moved this bed also scratced the floor. This year we replaced with a wood bed rated to hold a lot of weight (its SOLID) and a bigger rug to protect the floor. So far no issues.
Really nice thinking on those adjustments, @Laura2592!
Also, what you said made me think that not offering to guests more than you can afford to lose really is a good rule of thumb for deciding what to purchase for the listing 😊
Comfort and user-friendly are key. I went through the house space by space and made note of what I would need or would enjoy having if I lived there. So it’s well stocked and the beds are comfortable. It’s worth spending extra in the bed category.
I also label cupboards etc and have some signage around explaining how some things work. The spaces are largely uncluttered as far as decor and knickknacks, but there are books and plants, which add warmth and interest. Wall decor also adds to that, without adding clutter that gets in the way. All to make it feel home-y.
Furnishings are relatively inexpensive and thus easily replaced if necessary, but comfortable, and easy clean/care. Other items in the house are along similar lines. I would never put in anything that I’d cry over or would cost me an arm and a leg to replace if it got damaged.
It’s worked, as I get many comments from guests indicating they were super comfy and felt right at home, and we get repeat stays.
@Colleen253 it seems that several Hosts agree that it's worth spending more when it comes to beds!
@Laura2592 mentioned she went for a wooden bed so she can safely host guest of all sizes, but I'm curious to know whether you have other reasons, apart from that one, for paying extra attention to the bed category. 😊 It would be great to hear more about your insights on this.
@Liv it’s all about the mattress. Although everyone will have their individual preference as far as firm/soft etc, if you strive for somewhere in the middle, soft and plush on top, yet supportive underneath, you’ll cover most bases. Most guests of course will only be sleeping on the mattress short term. I also have bedbug mattress and box spring covers, as well as a plush, easy to remove and wash waterproof mattress pad/protector on top of that, so everything stays pristinely clean. Cleanliness is so important to instill a further sense of comfort.
Give a guest a good night’s sleep and everything else will fall into place .
Hi. I am new to hosting but have been a guest more times than I can count. If you are having a crappy vacation due to the people you are with you can at least get a good night sleep and start fresh the next day. I stayed in a Florida condo last year and the mattress had a giant hole in the middle and the pillows were like flat rocks. That is the only thing I remember about that place! I left 2 days early because I was so physically and emotionally exhausted!
I labeled the light switches so guests can effortlessly distinguish what the switch is for. The outdoor light switches are lighted, so guests will remember they are on. Also, we have plenty of hooks for hanging purses in the closets, in the bathrooms for towels and robes, and near the back and front door for towels and coats. We have phone charger outlets in the bathrooms and kitchen. My fav review was from a guest that noted every room had special touches. Sometimes it's the little things that make a difference.
The phone charger outlets is such a good idea! I'm sure guests must appreciate it - especially the forgetful ones who forget to pack the charger.
@Don-and-Sandy0 We couldn't agree more with the phone charger idea. We have both Android and Apple ones and we also had USB plugs installed in both bedrooms and added a Wi-Fi extender in the main corridor, which ensures a good connection no matter where you are in the house. Many guests have commented on these "little touches," which always pleases us when we hear it.
Like another host mentioned, I went into each room and observed from the eyes of a guest - what are the extra touches that I would want in a room. That answer was clearly wall phone chargers and extra Android and iphone cables which I provide in every room. Adding fresh fruit, instant oatmeal, half n half, coffee and tea, etc. to my kitchenette is icing on the cake. We too use foam bed toppers and the guests love them. Our décor is tasteful and not over the top as we realize it might need to be replaced if damaged (i.e. Home Goods). I try and replace the towels as soon as they start to lose their softness.
We include a bottle of wine and a hand written welcome note, and try to mention something special about their upcoming trip. We replace towels and bedding yearly or whenever it gets any sort of stain (make up is the worst!!!) and while I really wanted to keep crisp white sheets on the beds, I opted for fun prints in our beach house because it did cover any little marks or spots a little longer. I also went with a mix of colored towels, orange, teal, navy, etc, so I didn't have to worry if it all matched all the time as things went thru the wash. Especially as in the off season we did shorter day rentals and harder to turn around the laundry.
We keep decor simple but fun and include games for rainy days, beach toys and chairs for guest use, and try to think of everything a guest might need for their stay. I tell them bring your clothes, swimsuit and flip flops, we provide the rest (including fresh coffee and restaurants on every corner).
We have 2 dogs and 2 cats at our home and guests often see and interact with them. So we make them a part of our listing. Guests often miss their own pets so we encourage them to pet or play with ours. We don't allow pets just because it creates too much chaos with more animals, but our guests love playing with ours.
Your description lets me know that a stay at your house would be the perfect summer vacation @Sandi14. It's all the things combined with your welcoming and understanding tone that sold me! Truly seeing through the eyes of a guest and delivering what they want and need.
I think the most important thing a host can do is to stay in their space periodically. On a recent stay as a guest I noticed a huge (dip) in one of beds making it just a bit uncomfortable, otherwise the place was really nice. At another stay as a guest things were put away in funny places making them unusable due to the inability to find them, again really comfortable stay just a little frustrating. In my opinion if you stay overnight in your own place you would be able to prevent complaints, but then again I’m fairly new so I may have no idea what I’m talking about:)
@Michelle1851 Good advice- staying in the guest space yourself is important.
I recall one host saying that guests had moved one specific piece of furniture so often, she finally realized it was obviously more practical where guests had put it.
Hosts may arrange furniture only considering the visual, rather than the practical.
Then there are things like cleaning usually being done during daylight hours. If the host sleeps there, when the lights are turned on at night, the host may be horrified to see that the overhead light fixture is full of dead bugs and dirt. You wouldn't notice that if you weren't lying in bed at night with the light on.
@Michelle1851I agree so vehemently with this. We try to stay at our space once a month. It makes a huge difference. I have had guests comment that they can tell we care a lot about the way its maintained and that we know it really well. We bring our pets, we hang out and enjoy it just like our guests. You see what is getting worn, what "fixes" guests might have made, what is about to run out, what creaks, etc. Also imperative is to stay during different seasons if you have weather that changes. Our cottage is a different place in the winter than it is in the summer. Totally different feel. Even the angle of the sun in the afternoon in the yard is different. We have a whole list of things that change from season to season and we keep an eye on them.
Keep Cool and I really try to monitor/know what's in the food that we eat, and prefer to make many of our meals even while on holidays. When we built our rental spaces, we included all of what I would consider to be the essential fixtures besides the cooking appliances (e.g., sharp knives, cutting boards, mixing bowls, measuring spoons and cups, food storage containers, full set of cookware, tea kettle, coffee maker and Nespresso) and some extras (e.g., coffee bean grinder, milk frother, hand mixer, waffle maker, blender) for a suitable small space kitchen. Our guests have the amenities to make standard home cooked meals, and store the leftovers. The furnishings are mid-priced, but I bought almost everything on sale, and stored it in my basement in Atlanta until we shipped the items to the island. To save shipping space and for easy storage until ready for use, we purchased mattresses in a box that are hybrid memory foam/springs, and have frequently gotten compliments regarding comfort.
Like other hosts, we put labels on the wall switches and posted signs with appliance instructions. The décor of the spaces is purposely simple with no knickknacks or tchotchkes so there is less to clean or get broken, but we are starting to put up more wall décor. In the past during the holiday I made homemade rum 'n raisin ice cream and pastries, or brought local bread and fruits for guests.
I noticed something as a guest awhile ago, @Stephanie -- a place to put things is really important. I stayed in a lovely place with lovely hosts, but every surface had something (something nice, but still something) on it that kept me from putting my own things there. My own things had to stay on the floor for the week. No stars were lost, but here's me still remembering it...
@Lawrene0 I was going to post something similar. Hosts should resist the urge to over-decorate. I always figured guests basically appreciate bare surfaces, and not feeling like they are living with someone else's knicknacks, which they probably don't find nearly as attractive as the host does.
They aren't impressed with the host's dried flower arrangements and "collections"- they just want to have adequate space to put their clothes, their books, their laptop, etc. without having to move things.
Art on the walls, color and pattern in furniture and pillows, cool paint jobs on the walls, some small throw rugs, can all be used to keep the space from feeling barren.
Aside from the lamp on the bedside table, a very small vase of freshly cut flowers and greenery from my garden, and a few local travel books, there is nothing on any surface in my guest bedroom. Their bathroom counter is much the same- a pump container of liquid soap, a hard plastic container to keep their own products in, so they don't slime all over the counter, and that's all. There's a small basket of "help yourself" products on the shelf with the clean towels.
When I lived in Canada, I had lots of houseplants, but living in the tropics now, with lush green views out every window, I don't do houseplants anymore. Watering chore off the list.
Since we used to host a lot of long-term guests for entire semesters, we purposely kept the guest room shelves and walls bare - so that each guest can personalize and make the space their own during their stay. We always left a roll of wallpaper-safe tape in the guest room (and pointed it out to them during check in) so that guests could attach posters or notes on the wall if they wanted 😀 Shelves were left empty for the guest's school books and family photos. It was quite interesting to observe how different guests *lived* in and decorated the same space differently.
Henry and I both don't like clutter, so our personal spaces and the shared areas reflect our style. We tend to store things in cabinets or drawers, so for items that guests may also need (first aid kit, office supplies etc) we moved them to locations that are more visible - and have a friendly reminder posted that if they don't *see* what they are looking for, to just ask us, instead of opening up every single door/drawer rummaging through to find something.