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For more than a year, aside from a brief period last summer, our front doors have remained firmly shut to guests.
Thankfully, following changes on coronavirus restrictions on May 17, households can now welcome friends and family into their homes again.
But after months of indoor isolation, are we - and most importantly, our homes - really ready for this?
A new report on the state of home hosting in the UK from Swyft has found that 39% of Brits plan to have guests stay the night now that lockdown restrictions have eased, with 13% already having visits in the diary.
While it seems we're thrilled to get our hosting hats back on, the rule change has left many of us scrambling to get our indoor spaces ready to welcome our nearest and dearest.
"Over the last year, almost all of us have had to rethink the way we live in our own homes.
"Whether that’s working and sleeping in the same space, using the dining table as a place to educate our children or building an additional room to use as a dedicated home office or gym," explains Jenna Choate from Interior Fox.
"Now as the world opens back up and we’re allowed to welcome guests, we’re finding that people are stuck with how to create a space that’s fit for visitors."
But fear not if your humble abode is more house of horrors than homely haven. We've asked the interiors experts for their top tips on creating a place that's fit for purpose.
Make your workspace work for guests
If you’ve got a room that has been multi-tasking as your WFH office, it is important to try and approach it with some flexibility.
"Many people will have turned their spare room (once ideal for guests) into a study during lockdown.
"If that’s the case, there are some smart ways you can turn this room into somewhere inviting and homely for guests," says Kelly Collins, interior designer and head of creative at Swyft.
Collins' first tip is to introduce a folding screen or divider. "They can help to offer more privacy if you’re setting your guest up in the living room, or home office," she says.
Smart storage solutions where you can hide away everyday belongings are also useful.
"If you keep your guest bedding in a chest usually, why not fill the chest up with your office bits whilst the bedding is in use," she adds.
Don't forget the details
A nice touch is to offer a little box of essentials; items like toothbrushes, toothpaste, shower caps, and hairbands are things that guests can often forget.
"Shockingly, a Swyft survey revealed that just under a quarter (21%) of Brits would use their host’s toothbrush if they had forgotten their own during an overnight stay – so it's best get stocked up!" Collins adds.
Consider the seating plan
Unless you want your guests to sit crossed-legged on the floor, its worth trying to source some extra seating.
"Make sure you have plenty of seating for guests, such as stools for perching on, and if you have a modular sofa perhaps consider adding in an additional piece that you can store away later.
"Bean bags are also great for guests, especially those with children," Collins suggests. (Note: Elderly relations may be less keen.)
Watch: Best ceiling paint colours beyond white.
Clear the clutter
Getting ready to welcome guests is the perfect time for a clear-out. "This is an opportunity to be ruthless with the items that are currently taking up valuable space in your soon-to-be guest room," suggests Choate.
Provide a hotel-like bed
Comfort is key and a high-quality mattress is an investment worth making. "It will stand the test of time and guarantee a restful night sleep," says Choate.
"If budget doesn’t allow for a new mattress, consider a mattress topper and finish off with cloud-like pillows and high-quality bed linen. There’s nothing better than a bed you just can’t wait to dive into."
Pay attention to the finishing touches
The small things always make the biggest difference. "Think about the small luxuries you know they’ll like, from soft and fluffy towels to an aromatherapy pillow spray to a spare phone charger or makeup remover.
"These unexpected beside trinkets will make your guests feel extra special," says Choate.
Don't forget a mirror
An overlooked element in most spare rooms are mirrors. "Introduce a full-length for your guests to look at themselves before leaving, and add a table mirror for makeup.
"Having a handy mirror will save your guests having to make a dash to the bathroom to get ready," says Choate.
Create a sense of arrival
"Hospitality begins at the front door so make sure the hallway is clear and ready to welcome guests, with a sanitisation station for when they arrive,” suggests Simon McCabe, founder of Stella Interior Design & Furnishing.
Set the mood
We’ve all been starved of an inspiring atmosphere and stimulation, so create a different energy by playing to all of the senses. "Curate a background playlist and ensure areas are effectively lit with lamps and scented candles,” says McCabe.
Ditch the dust
Sure, dusting is a pain, but a spotlessly clean room will help make your guests feel at ease. "Make sure the room is spotless from dust, fluff and anything that may be hidden away, to create a tranquil and safe space for your guests," says McCabe.
Address the lighting
When thinking about what to put in your guest room Jason Thornton, interior designer and co-founder of My DNA Project also suggests thinking ahead to what your guests might like or need.
"Make sure you have good lighting in the guest room incase they want to read before bed and also access to a plug socket with a spare USB plug for smartphone recharging and social media surfing," he says.
"Remember they will also be a bit nervous staying away from the safety of their own lockdown abode."
Plump up your cushions
For the first time in over a year, you might have someone else on your sofa – but it’s now moulded to your shape!
"Grab every cushion and throw off your sofa and give them a good beating," suggests James Waylett at Jacobs & Dalton. "If you notice it’s a bit grubby underneath the cushions, a quick vacuum and spritz of fabric freshener will work wonders."
Freshen up with flowers
To give your home a bright, welcoming feel and to add decor where you might be missing some, fresh flowers will always do the trick.
"They also have the added benefit of adding a fresh scent to your home. If you’d prefer to skip the flowers, a reed diffuser will work just as well," says Waylett.