Host sweet host
May 20, 2017 8:20 PM   Subscribe

I hosted an old friend at my place for a few days. Before she left, she told me she loved staying with me because I had a comfortable home. While this made me feel pretty good about myself, I also thought I could ask the hivemind 1) what makes a home a comfortable one? and 2) practical ways to make short-term guests feel as comfortable as possible. Bonus points for things you appreciated as a guest in someone else's home.
posted by orangutan to Human Relations (28 answers total) 64 users marked this as a favorite
My aunt is a wonderful host. She never fusses or frets over us, she makes us feel more like we're at home rather than that we are guests, if that makes sense. She makes sure we know where the coffee is (although she always gets up and makes coffee before we do), and she always tells us to just go in the kitchen and help ourselves to anything. If we're sleeping when she gets up then she takes the dog out for a walk so that the house will be quiet. She just makes food rather than put us in the position of having to decide what's for dinner or whether we should go out, which we're usually never up for (having small kids and normally having had an active day). She keeps her house cool and points out the extra bedding before we turn in. She always has great snacks in the house. It sounds like all we do is eat! Which is not the case, but it's just something that's done and that we don't have to think about so that we can spend our time relaxing. And we usually make a fire at night and have a glass of wine, which is just luxurious.
posted by vignettist at 8:29 PM on May 20, 2017 [16 favorites]

Fuzzy blankets on chairs
posted by bq at 8:31 PM on May 20, 2017 [4 favorites]

1) Not having to disturb the host late at night or early in the morning. So, things like extra toiletries in the bathroom in case something runs out, breakfast fixings in obvious locations, etc.

2) An appropriate thermostat setting, depending on the time of year!

3) Extra blankets available in the winter.

4) Quiet downtime for more introverted guests.
posted by thomas j wise at 8:32 PM on May 20, 2017 [11 favorites]

My bff moved to Vegas and it was really important to her to have a house that was great for houseguests, gatherings, and parties. Staying at her house is AWESOME. She has:

1) By the guest bed, there's a table with a bedside lamp and nearby outlets for devices.
2) Toiletries beyond shampoo and conditioner: she's got body lotion, contact solution/cases, disposable razors, tampons, etc.
3) Easily accessible food and snacks that I don't have to tear up her kitchen to prepare: cheeses/smoked meats, granola bars, fruit, etc.
4) A fullish bar (basic liquors and mixers, beer, wine).
5) Extra toilet paper and plunger in the bathrooms.
6) A basket by the patio door with things like sunscreen, bug spray, and pool towels.
7) The number one most important thing: she has a relaxed attitude so I don't feel like I'm going to emotionally or financially destroy her if I spill a cup of coffee, or like there are weird unspoken rules about what I can and can't use.

Basically I feel like I can access the stuff I need and go about my day without disturbing or upsetting anyone, which is super-great because I'm often there by myself while she's at work.
posted by lalex at 8:56 PM on May 20, 2017 [24 favorites]

"Easy," would kind of encompass it for me.

What that means for me - and I claim only to be someone who has traveled a bit and stayed in all manner of accommodations - is that I feel like I can get and do the things I need to without being a complete pain in the ass. I can find the food and drinks; the required "stuff" I need to clean myself and feel like a human are ready to hand. Coffee/tea in the morning is easy and I never feel like I have to tiptoe around or twiddle my thumbs waiting on my hosts.

So yeah: for me at least, a good host makes themselves more or less superfluous, which I think is precisely what I want. Anything they do in an active, hands-on way then feels like a real effort on their part, and makes me feel really grateful for their hospitality without feeling like a burden.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 9:06 PM on May 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

I leave a 3x5 card with the name of our WiFi network and the password in plain view on the bedside table.
posted by quince at 9:25 PM on May 20, 2017 [29 favorites]

Above suggestions are great. I definitely agree with making things like towels, toilet paper, coffee, etc. easy to find. Also, easy-to-find instructions for wifi, TV, thermostat, etc.

I'd also add a luggage rack, a closet with free hangers to hang some clothes in, and possibly a dresser with some empty drawers. Oh, and it would be amazing if you had extra iPhone and Android chargers in case I forgot mine!

I agree with lalex that some of it is just about attitude. If you're a naturally warm person who makes it clear that you want guests to be comfortable and relaxed, that will make your guests feel comfortable and relaxed.
posted by radioamy at 9:25 PM on May 20, 2017 [2 favorites]

If possible, leave a housekey for overnight guests so they can come and go as they like.
posted by mochapickle at 9:46 PM on May 20, 2017 [2 favorites]

Good lighting. Like, this is a thing for making your whole life comfy and relaxing, but try spending a couple nights and days in your guest areas to troubleshoot the lighting. A lot of time guest rooms will be lacking for things like good task lighting in case a guest has a handicraft hobby or needs to make a sewing repair or whatever, or the windows will be facing a direction that gets full sun at an inconvenient time for sleeping/waking up/using a screen without any kind of light blocking curtains, or the overhead lights will be really strong and there won't be good bedside lamps... I get a lot of eye strain and light sensitivity problems when I'm socially overwhelmed and places I'm staying that have comfortable light in my allotted personal space makes everything much better.

To fix this without totally cluttering a multipurpose space with different unused lamps and curtains, you can do a few different things. Get a good clamp light with an extendable arm that folds up and stores away, or a multi bulb lamp that allows you to turn some of them off for different levels of light. You can also get spring tension curtain rods and light blocking shades that you break out when guests are sleeping over and fold away and compress when storing. I like some of the nice softer led lights that are being made now, they can make for relaxing ambient glow without any hardwiring. There are also now lamps that have usb outlets in the base for device charging, which are awesome and keep guests from having to move furniture to find outlets.
posted by Mizu at 12:05 AM on May 21, 2017 [3 favorites]

I really appreciate when hosts make it clear that:

1. I can get up earlier than them without either of us feeling that the host then has to get up.

2. People living together in the same space won't be completely silent in getting around when the other party has already gone to bed or is still sleeping. I generally try to be quiet in the mornings when I am first up, but I really hate feeling like I have to tiptoe and convulse with guilt if I make any noise. I appreciate being told that I can put the kettle on, etc. even if the host is still sleeping! And conversely I don't expect tomblike silence if I am the first to bed.
posted by diffuse at 1:04 AM on May 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

Knowing what's expected! Should I help myself to breakfast or do we all eat together? What general time are we going to eat? A lot of these other things are helping yourself so the host doesn't have to be bothered and that expectation is set by clearly having extra bedding available or the wifi password is out
posted by raccoon409 at 4:05 AM on May 21, 2017 [7 favorites]

Scandinavian cultures are super good at comfort. At the moment the concept of Danish hygge is way popular (at least here in Europe) so you can find lots of trendy books on it at the moment. The Norwegian concept of koselig (cosy) is the same but there isn't as many books about it out right now. Anyway, it has lots to do with creating a feeling of belonging and security in your guests and with your family.
posted by catspajammies at 4:43 AM on May 21, 2017 [2 favorites]

I like to cook, so I like having access to the kitchen.

I also like having a quiet space where I can retreat with a book or laptop with some downtime.
posted by bunderful at 6:44 AM on May 21, 2017 [2 favorites]

I've stayed in a lot of people's houses and for me the big thing that makes or breaks my comfort level is smells. The coziest homes are simply clean and smell of nothing. The least comfortable homes smell variously like damp rot, smelly dogs, plug-in air fresheners, cigarette smoke, scented laundry products, incense, scented candles, air freshener spray, etc., etc.
posted by HotToddy at 7:15 AM on May 21, 2017 [11 favorites]

I once read that hosts should spend a night in their own guest rooms as a way to discover what's missing or could use improvement, particularly vis-a-vis lighting, etc.

I have four pillows on the guest bed--two down and two memory foam--so guests can choose whatever they prefer.

A robe and slippers in the closet is a nice touch, especially since light packers trying to avoid checking luggage probably can't bring them. An iron/ironing board may also be appreciated if a special occasion is involved.

Let your guests know that it's ok to do laundry.

I just put a set of bluetooth speakers in the guest room so visitors can play their own music.

If I've visited the guests in their own home, I try to remember small things they seem to regard as staples--a favorite beverage, for example--and then stock it.

And this will sound strange, but the level of tidiness is an indicator to guests of expectations. So if everything is too perfect, it feels very formal and like guests can't assimilate into your home and must be on their best behavior. Too messy and it looks like you don't care. Look for the balance that makes sense for your relationship with your guests, both now and how you hope it will evolve.
posted by carmicha at 7:18 AM on May 21, 2017 [5 favorites]

A lot of times, you realize things like this in the breach. So for me, a clean bathroom, preferably separate from the hosts', is essential. I've stayed in houses before that had giant hairballs in the shower, gels spilling on the counter, stains on the bath mats, and dust bunnies blowing like tumbleweeds. It's really hard to take a shower in a place like that - no matter how hard you scrub, you'll just feel dirty again.

A reasonably private bathroom is nice, too. My mother-in-law's old bathroom was right off the living room, and one time I had to let it rip while my wife's whole family was a couple of feet away. My MIL is a great hostess, but there was nothing she could do about this. Just the floor plan. But privacy is nice. By contrast, my father-in-law's house has a two-story atrium, and the bedroom I stayed in before my wife and I married (he's very old-fashioned) was on one side of the atrium, and the other bedrooms were on the other side. I had endless privacy there. It was incredible.

It should go without saying that fresh sheets on the bed are a must, but I've found its not always the case. Younger people, especially, who don't have as much experience hosting, just kind of leave them.

Keeping the area free of pet hair is nice. I'm not allergic or anything, but I would like to be able to set my stuff down on a surface that isn't covered in fur. People with pets are used to it, so they don't think much of it, but if you don't have pets, it's an adjustment.

I've actually got my brother sleeping on my couch right now, but he's not a very demanding guest, so I don't know how I'm doing lol.
posted by kevinbelt at 7:56 AM on May 21, 2017 [3 favorites]

I have a summer place where I have guests a lot, some of whom are good friends and some of whom are just sort of crashing at my place while they go to the beach. I also sometimes AirBnB my place. I don't think I am awesome at hosting but I do try to learn how to do it well as if it was my JOB and these are the things I've seen (as well as on my own AirBnBing and visiting travels) that I think make a difference.

- Setting expectations is the biggest one. Some people feel like being hosted should mean you cook/clean/entertain and some do not. Neither is correct but make sure you have a loose (not rigid) outline that you let people know about. At my summer place it's usually "We have breakfast foods and coffee and whatever, help yourself. Lunch is on your own and we'll have dinner together at 7-ish which I am making" At my regular house we usually hang out together most of the time guests are here. I'll usually mention the next day's schedule the night before, see if there are things they want to do etc. I also go out of my way to make sure we each have separate time. I realized that through a combination of my politeness/awkwardness and my guest's I'd often keep us up late talking when it was clear we both needed some downtime/alone time. So I try to make clear "OK I'm going to hang out with my laptop in the other room and catch up on email, you are welcome to join me or just do you own thing" noises. Same with moving on to dinner, moving to the "afternoon coffee" portion of the evening. Guests often take their cues from you. When someone arrives it's great to show them their room and give them some time to chill, use the bathroom, check their own email/phone/whatever and then catch up with you.

- Being ready for the way they eat and sleep which means extra and different types of blankets/pillows and lots of different types of available foods and making a note of their preferences (some people like a lot of snack foods, some people are watching what they eat, some people are vegetarians, some people like to cook their own stuff, some people are picky about coffee). As much climate control as you can offer including an electric blanket if it's the winter, fan/AC in the summer, white noise machine if the place has weird sounds, a way to play music. Try to get and incorporate feedback. I asked this question about the "How did you sleep" question and got some good information. Make sure, in a casual way, that people are taken care of in terms of food and rest.

- Space for them and their things. I try to make the guestroom 100% theirs the whole time they are there and make sure there is a space for their luggage and clothes, places for bathroom stuff (and extra toiletries if they didn't bring any that are nice, not just sample sized whatnot) outlets for anything and if it's a longer stay I'll check to see if they need fresh towels or anything else. Bottled water if they want/need it. A nightstand to put things on (on both sides if they're a couple) and good lighting if they are readers. And when we're in public spaces in my house, having the space be comfy but not super cluttered (i.e. you don't have to move crap out of the way for someone to set a drink down) is good.

- Managing kids/pets/noise somewhat. Heavy sleepers won't care but light sleepers might. I don't feel like people need to tiptoe when I am sleeping (I am a later sleeper than most) but it's a kindness if folks don't turn on the radio as soon as they wake up, start doing laundry right next to my head or turn on the dishwasher in the next room right before bed. Other people may not care about this stuff at all, so it's worth trying to get an idea of what people care about in this regard

These are just sort of normative if you're not sure what to do. I have friends I love to stay with who don't fit into most of these guidelines but they are generally happy and relaxed and pleased to see me and are comfortable letting me do my own thing. I can be a bit of a people pleaser and so having friends who get across "We're so happy to see you and happy to have you here and we'd like you to be happy and comfortable" is the biggest and best thing.
posted by jessamyn at 8:00 AM on May 21, 2017 [4 favorites]

Don't over-host.
Not anxious about cleanliness or needing things to be done exactly so.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 8:40 AM on May 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

We have a cape cod style house - our master bedroom/bath is on the first floor, and there are two bedrooms and a full bath upstairs. It's just the two of us, so anyone staying over has their own floor with a comfy bed and full bath to themselves. The one thing I've gotten the most raves over is that each bedroom up there has two clean, fluffy, white, floor-length, hooded terry cloth robes hanging in it. You can get undressed in the bedroom, put on the robe, go take a shower or whatever, and put the robe back on to go back to your bedroom. No one seems to ever use the towels. I've gotten so many comments about how great the robes are.
posted by the webmistress at 9:38 AM on May 21, 2017 [3 favorites]

Being offered privacy, which still feeling welcome to hang out with the host.

Easy access to the kitchen and laundry.

I really really like having a shelf of books to browse through near where I am sleeping.

Cleanliness. It doesn't have to look picture perfect, but when there's pet-hair and pet-smells everywhere, and human hair and grime in the bathroom, and junk in the sleeping area, I feel icky no matter how nice the host is otherwise.
posted by redlines at 9:59 AM on May 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

Xse on ding everything said above.
Plus, if you are able:
-a queen sized bed or two twins if hosting a couple. A double bed is pretty cramped
-a luggage rack adds a lot of ease for someone living out of a suitcase.
A friend clued me in to both things when we visited her. She had the rack but not the bed.
posted by SLC Mom at 10:23 AM on May 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

Also, have drinks that don't have caffeine. Decaff coffee, tea, herbal tea, etc.
posted by SLC Mom at 10:25 AM on May 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

All the furniture is easily usable for its intended purpose. You shouldn't need to move a bunch of pillows to sit on the couch.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 10:59 AM on May 21, 2017 [2 favorites]

maybe make it clear which one is the thing you can dry your hands on in the bathroom. some houses i've visited in the states make me mildly anxious as i'm not sure which towels are decorative and which ones aren't.
posted by speakeasy at 12:52 PM on May 21, 2017 [2 favorites]

I'm staying in an Airbnb right now that is kinda lacking, and I think the host would have really benefited from staying here himself. For example, he would have noticed that there are no towel bars in the bathroom, the bedroom needs a second nightstand/lamp, the pillows are awful, the sheets are scratchy, etc. So I echo the advice above to stay in your guest room, use your guest bathroom and towels, etc. Figure out what's missing. For example, if there's a pedestal sink, could you install a little toothbrush holder on the wall? If there's only one plug near the bed, add a power strip. Etc.

I love the idea of having several different types of pillows for guests to choose from.

OK this is super picky, but as someone with sensitive skin, I would loooove it if you used unscented laundry detergent on the sheets and towels, and had some available for me to wash my clothes with. Also don't use air fresheners (even the "natural" kind) as they can trigger allergies.
posted by radioamy at 3:33 PM on May 21, 2017 [4 favorites]

Just stepping back in to agree with the comments about scents/smells/pet smells and hair, and about using unscented detergents.
posted by vignettist at 5:00 PM on May 21, 2017 [3 favorites]

I could care less if the space is clean, but...

- Storage space for my stuff in the guest area (even if I'm sleeping on a couch!).
- A towel that's mine to use.
- Probably one firm pillow and one flat pillow; different folks prefer one or the other, and a bad pillow on a great bed still means you're waking up sore.

Those are the three things I can't reasonably carry myself, and without them, it's going poorly.
posted by talldean at 8:53 AM on May 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

I just wanted to thank everyone for their excellent answers. They were all really helpful!
posted by orangutan at 6:37 PM on May 24, 2017

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