how to host without a guest room

Don’t let your small space keep you from being a happy host to your guests.

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by Abby Weiss

Welcoming guests into a small apartment or home can feel daunting when you don’t have an extra room to spare. But as Los Angeles interior designer Caitlin Murray explains, intelligent design, simple changes, and easy prep can turn a crowded overnighter into an all around pleasant stay.

A little goes a long way.

Prepare ahead of time by grabbing a few thoughtful additions and personal favorites that you know your guest will love. “I like to have a space set aside stocked with bottles of water and fruit on a nice tray and in a pretty bowl,” Murray explains, “it feels so sophisticated.” If guests are visiting mid-week, a map of the city or a list of your favorite places will keep them busy while you’re at work.

Eliminate clutter from common areas. 

Starting their stay with a visually clean slate will not only help to organize your environment, but also to make your space feel bigger and more accommodating. Murray adds that guests are often drawn to empty areas to place their belongings, so a smart host will identify an area of choice ahead of time to avoid any confusion later.

Dedicate a guest space.

Within your house or apartment, set up a small corner or designated area for your guest to call “home”. Include a luggage stand or chair, mirror and removable wall hook. This is the perfect place for your guest to dress, store their personal items and keep luggage out of the way. If space permits, utilize a den or office for guest quarters. A modern, Murphy bed seamlessly transitions an office space with little to no effort.  

Make the bathroom a priority.

“Bring in hotel vibes to the bathroom space,” Murray explains. Dedicate your half bath or powder room to your guest, adding touches of luxury with jars of Q-tips, cotton balls, and other cosmetics additions they may need. Having quality soap and lotions on hand, and adding a basket in your bathroom for rolled up towels will give a cool, concierge feel.

Thread count counts.

Dress up your couch or daybed with quality bed linens. High thread count sheets, a warm comforter and extra pillows will make even the simplest of set-ups seem cozy and welcoming. Before your guest arrives, fold clean blankets, bedding, and towels, adding a handwritten note for an extra touch of personal luxury.

Utilize occasional furniture.

Murray explains that making use of occasional furniture and seating within your space will give you and your guest added flexibility during their stay. These pieces are easily moved, quickly put into place when needed and hidden when not. Occasional furniture is also an ideal option for entertaining last minute guests without breaking a sweat.

Make the most of mirrors and lighting.

Making your small space feel bigger will go a long way for both you and your guest, Murray notes. Working with mirrors and various sources of light, such as ambient, overhead and task, will make any space feel larger and more refined. Easy fixes, such as “a pair of nice looking lamps on a sofa table or two end tables pack a ton of polish and can be very affordable,” Murray explains.

Create zones.

Murray is a big believer in spatial division, which adds dimension to your space and creates a mini-environment for your guest to feel comfortable. “For example, float your sofa in the middle of your living room, let one side be a walkway and the other a sitting area for guests during the day and a sleeping area for them at night.” Adding a small table behind the sofa will also upgrade your living room with a “suite” feel, giving your guest a desk space to call their own.  

Transition your side table.

Reassign your living room side table into a clear and open bedside table for your guest. Including fresh flowers, coasters and a spare phone charger (already plugged into an outlet) will give an extra touch of thoughtfulness for your guest to adore.

Privacy matters.

“For the room where you’ll be hosting guests often, I recommend having two sources of window treatments if possible,” says Murray. A sheer will let in light but still give privacy and something a little heavier will create a blackout effect. “This adds luxurious layers and lots of thoughtfulness for sunny mornings.”

Choose a cohesive color scheme.

Unifying your living spaces with a cohesive color scheme will make your aesthetic feel purposeful and your entire home feel integrated in organized design, says Murray. As a bonus, when guests enter a clean and organized space, they are more likely to leave it that way when they depart.  

Keep it beautiful (and cord free).

In the end, Murray breaks it down for us. “I like to use the age-old rule from William Morris: ‘Have nothing in your home that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.’ Obviously, this is a bit of a romantic ideal, especially in modern times, but you can still honor the concept by concealing anything that isn’t pretty to look at. No one needs to have laptop charger cords and mail strewn about on display.” She recommends furniture to help, including using credenzas instead of coffee tables and ottomans with storage in lieu of benches.