They'll feel right at home while you feel totally at ease.

By Emily Hsieh and Maggie Seaver
Updated October 12, 2020
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Whether you're expecting company for a few hours or a whole week, these pro tips, tweaks, and details will make your houseguests perfectly comfortable—without making you feel like a concierge. Hosting guests definitely takes some prep, but don't drive yourself crazy. A good rule of thumb: Treat your guests how you'd want to be treated in someone else's home—a little bit pampered, but mostly just made to feel content and comfortable. Here's how to prep the guest rooms, kitchen, dining room, and family room to accomplish just that.

Raymond Hom

Channel what you love about a great hotel with basics that include an iron, spare hangers, and an alarm clock, says interior designer Young Huh. Bonus points for bottled water, a box of chocolates or mints, and a note with your Wi-Fi password. And given the times, overnight guests will appreciate a no-fuss setup of hand sanitizer, hand cream, and disposable face masks, just in case they forgot theirs or didn't realize what the mask rules are where you live. 

To prevent guests from stumbling over suitcases, Joanna Goddard of A Cup of Jo suggests keeping a luggage rack in the guest room. And in your guest bath, “always, always set out extra toilet paper and a plunger, because there’s nothing more awkward than having to ask,” she says. An extra-thoughtful touch: Keep a stockpile of just-in-case medications (ibuprofen, indigestion pills) and bandages, plus a sewing kit for garment emergencies.

RELATED: 10 Breathable Face Masks That Are Actually Comfortable to Wear

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A self-service-style layout keeps you from playing short-order cook. For breakfast, make and freeze waffles a day or two before guests arrive; in the morning, heat in a 200-degree oven and serve with fresh berries, chocolate chips, pomegranate seeds, whipped cream, and syrup. “Kids can have fun making an edible art project,” says Catherine McCord of Or try a yogurt station with toppings like hempseed, nuts, honey, and chopped fruit. Finish with a designated coffee and tea area stocked with mugs, spoons, a milk frother, and sweeteners. Come lunchtime, a sandwich bar is a crowd-pleaser. And for off-hours nibbling, a basket in the pantry or fridge labeled “Eat me” takes the guesswork out of what’s fair game to munch on during the day.

But there's no denying that the heightened hygiene measures these days make serving food to guests a little trickier. For smart and safe tips, read up on how to serve individual portions everyone will love (without driving yourself nuts).

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Ensure a comfortable, convivial meal for all with a few strategic table-setting hacks. For a tablecloth that will cover a folding table or one with added leaves, Amanda Hesser, co-founder and CEO, and Merrill Stubbs, co-founder and president of Food52 suggest buying plain linen fabric that’s 10 inches longer than each side of the surface. Wash and dry it to create intentional frays along the cut edges. As you set the table, don’t sweat it if you don’t have enough matching china, says Huh. Either mix and match two sets evenly (the salad plate from one set with the dinner plate from another) or disperse many mismatched pieces throughout the table, sticking with a consistent color palette to keep it looking uniform. Lay out serving dishes the night before, each labeled with a sticky note with the menu item you plan to serve in it. Hesser and Stubbs divide each dish into two serving platters or bowls so everyone at the table can have easy access.

Moving your dining room and entertaining space outdoors—or even into the garage? We've got great decor and heating tips for that, here.

RELATED: How to Stay Safe Outdoors While Using Space Heaters and Fire Pits (Plus Other Ways to Stay Warm This Fall and Winter)

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No playroom? No problem. Keep both kids and adults amused by creating a designated fun zone. Stock a basket with games and a few decks of cards for those in-between times when there’s no scheduled activity, says entertaining expert Pamela Salzman. McCord likes to set up an arts and crafts station with wooden picture frames, stickers, and an instant camera for taking snaps to put into the decorated frames. Designate a puzzle corner—with a card table, a 1,000-piece jigsaw, and good lighting—so anyone can jump in at any time. And set out plenty of floor pillows and a basket of fuzzy blankets to make movie watching more fun (try Elf, Gremlins, or The Nightmare Before Christmas). For a festive, all-ages nightcap, serve hot chocolate with peppermint stirrers.

RELATED: 7 Things Every Host Should Provide for Overnight Guests