In the bathroom, decorate with decorative towels, and include a new bar of soap and assorted toiletries. Decorative handmade hand towels in white and gray with silver trim by Scents & Feel, $18; white and gray shower towel, $39; Barr Co. soap, $9; K. Hall Studio Inc. gray ceramic soap dish, $20; all at Wildflower Organics. “Bless You” tissues, $2.25; and Giovanni Flight Attendant First Class Hair & Body Kit, $9.99; both at Whole Foods.
Eek! Your mother-in-law, your brother, your grandmother (insert other relative or friend here), are coming for Christmas. The house is a wreck. That hole that Fido chewed in the wall a few years ago is still there. The guest bedding has seen better days, and the guest bathroom probably doesn’t have a bar of soap in it.
You’ve got work to do and only a few weeks to get it done. Put these things on your to-do list:
Make home repairs for safety
David Mauldin, owner of home repair service House Medic in Austin, Texas, says people often think about making repairs for guests around appearance first, then comfort and safety. Actually, they should think safety first, he says.
Think about your guests, elderly or not, having to get out of bed in a strange bedroom and find their way down the hall to the bathroom. Install nightlights in the bathroom, leave a hall light on or put a nightlight there, and put a lamp on a bedside table.
Because the bathroom is the No. 1 place for accidents in the home, protect your guest by throwing out any slippery- yet-cute rugs by the bathtub and opt for a $10 mat that will grip the floor. Also install a mat in the tub itself.
If you’re thinking your elderly relative needs grab bars in the shower, have them stalled professionally. Avoid putting in the temporary, suction-based ones, Mauldin says, because they don’t work and can be more dangerous than not having a bar there.
Make repairs for comfort
We’re in a weird period of the year when temperatures swing wildly outside. Have both the air-conditioning and the heater serviced, especially if it’s the system that’s in the part of the house that only gets used when guests stay there.
If you haven’t used the guest bath in a while, make sure it is functioning and there are no leaks or other plumbing issues.
Make repairs for appearance
Guests can be a great reason to finally get the blemishes in your home fixed. Maybe it’s the cracked floor tile or the windowsill that the dog scratched. Start with the front door. Does it look like it’s seen better days? Mauldin says he can spend a couple of hours refinishing a front door to give the house a great first impression.
Also think about which rooms in the house need a fresh coat of paint, especially the guest bedroom.
Create a special sanctuary for guests
At Wildflower Organics in Austin we learned how to give the guest bedroom a fresh look. Gray and white bedding adds sophistication, plus the white sheets feel clean and fresh and hotel-like. Add a sparkly accent pillow for the holidays to make guests feel special.
Place a piece of chocolate or a mint and a welcome note on the pillow. In the note, thank the guests for coming and impart any information you might need to give them, such as the schedule for the weekend and any rules or oddities about the house that they might need to know.
On the night stand, place bottled water or a carafe of water and some glasses, a scented candle and a lamp. If the bedroom has room for a sitting area, you can create a coffee bar with a one-cup coffee maker, a choice of coffees, sweeteners and nondairy creamer and coffee cups.
Hang a fresh robe in the closet and let them know in your welcome note it’s for their use. Also include plenty of empty hangers.
In the bathroom, pair new functional towels with fun shimmering hand towels in the same gray-and-white color scheme. A fresh soap tray and new soap make guests feel special. Make sure the bathroom is fully stocked with toiletries. You can get mini toiletry sets to make the guests feel like they are staying in a luxury hotel. Also think about all the things a guest might need or might have forgotten that they don’t want to ask for: deodorant, toothbrush, toothpaste, razor, soap, shampoo and conditioner, shaving cream, tissue, pain reliever, antacids. And don’t forget to place the plunger, extra toilet paper and trash can near the toilet.
Make guests feel welcome
In addition to a welcome note and mint on the pillow, think about a wine and cheese spread to greet them. We went to Whole Foods and asked for recommendations. The employees chose two Texas wines, a white and a red, and paired that with a cheddar from near Waco and a goat cheese from France, a fresh baguette, dark chocolate from Tanzania and almonds from Spain. If guests are coming in late at night, milk and cookies might be the way to go or a nightcap and chocolate.
The holidays can be a tough time for guests because they don’t get to do some of the traditions they would do in their own home. If you’re hanging stockings, provide one for each of them and fill it. If your tree has a lot of family ornaments, consider making ones with their names on them. If you’re cooking Christmas dinner, invite them to make a dish or give you the recipe of the dish that they love to have with their ham or turkey.
Too much togetherness can be a bad thing. Have some suggestions of places to go and listen to their ideas as well. Have a set end-time for the visit that everyone has agreed on beforehand, and remember, sometimes a shorter stay can be more inviting because you don’t have time to get on one another’s nerves.