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It’s December, and you know what that means. The lights are going up and the wreaths are out. I just love this month, because it’s filled with holiday parties, cookie swaps, and time spent with my favorite people.

I’m so excited to be hosting family for the holidays this year. I want my home to feel inviting and for the guests staying with me to have a considered, restful experience. But I’m also seriously short on time. So here are the tips I came up with to create a great and gracious guest room without breaking the bank or missing out on cozy nights watching Hallmark holiday movies by the fire.

Meet Guests’ Needs

Get them connected. They may be on break, but that doesn’t necessarily mean your visitors want to check out. One of the first things they’ll likely ask you for is your Wi-Fi information. Save yourself the trouble of repeating it over and over again; print out your network name and password and put it in a tiny frame on the guest room nightstand or dresser.

Keep them hydrated. Needing a glass of water in the middle of the night when you’re in someone else’s home can be so awkward. Guests may feel the need to get fully dressed, and if they’re not really familiar with your home, they’ll be left stumbling through the darkness to find their way to the kitchen. Spare everyone the trouble and line up some bottled water by the bed or in a bin on the floor. 

Stave off hunger.  When big holiday dinners are planned, there’s an inclination to eat lighter beforehand, but that can leave people feeling peckish with hours to go before your meal. Your guests might not feel comfortable helping themselves in your kitchen, and they won’t want to bother you, especially if you’re cooking. Leaving a few healthy snacks in the guestroom is such a considerate and welcoming touch. Fill up a small tray and place it on the dresser or on a table near an arm chair. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy: apples, mixed nuts, pretzels or just about anything else you find in your kids’ lunch box stash would be perfect.

Feed their interest. Do you live somewhere with a cool history? Or does your region have the most amazing landscapes? Pick up a couple of locally-inspired books to leave in the guest room. They can be photo books, travel guides, or even novels set in your region. This will let guests get to know your area on their own time – like right before they go to sleep or while they’re still mustering up the energy to get out of bed in the morning – and they’ll appreciate having something interesting to say about their trip when they get back!    

Choose the Décor

Get local. In lieu of artwork, why not hang a map of the area? It creates a statement to your guests about where they are and how happy you are to have them there. I’m a bit of a contrarian with my maps; I like really large maps of small places and really small maps of large territories. The contrast adds so much visual interest. You can also go for a historic map or something more artsy.

Block out the brightness. This may not be a vacation, but your guests are on holiday. They probably want to rest and relax! Let them enjoy their time away from the daily grind by making sure the rising sun doesn’t wake them up at an unseemly hour. Check your window treatments to make sure they’re fully blocking out the light.

Take a design risk. A guest room or bathroom is the perfect place to take aesthetic chances, because it’s a little smaller and less functional than your main rooms. I have some amazing oversized floral wallpaper from Anthropologie in my guest bathroom that’s pretty extreme. You can paint the room a bold color, use a duvet with a wild pattern, or buy an unusual accessory. Stretch out of your comfort zone and try something more playful; it’s always easy to transition it to something else when your tastes change.  

Personalize photographs. I love picture ledges in a guest room, which you can buy at West Elm, Ikea, Pottery Barn, and Home Depot. I keep mine filled with framed photographs, and whenever I’m prepping for a guest, I print a couple of pictures of us together and swap it into the collection. That person will feel like the room is really for them when they see themselves reflected in its images.

Make it Comfortable

Get a Luggage stand. Even a larger guest room can feel cramped when there’s nowhere to set your things. Spare your guests’ backs and pick up a foldable luggage stand so they’re not constantly bending down. You can get them at Overstock or Wayfair for $40 or less and store them under the bed when not in use. 

Add some hooks. Purses, jackets, robes, towels . . .  When all of your things are relegated to one room, things can get messy really fast. Keep the bed (or the floor) from becoming a catch-all by adding some hooks to the back of the door. They’re inexpensive and provide just the right kind of “storage” to help your guests feel organized and keep the room uncluttered.

Give guests bedding options. Maybe the duvet is too heavy for them. Maybe the pillows are too firm. I like to leave a basket or storage ottoman filled with extra blankets and some pillows on top. That way my guests can select what is most comfortable for them and get the best night’s rest they possibly can away from home.

Taking the time to add a few little touches can make all the difference between having people crash in your spare room and welcoming your friends and family into a cozy guest room that will help all of you enjoy the holiday and your time together.

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