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Thursday, 12 December 2013

Hostess Etiquette

How to be a great host

One of the things I love most is to entertain.  I am known amongst my friends for my dinner, childrens' and booze-up parties, but I have rarely had the opportunity to provide an overnight stay experience; until recently.

I'm a huge fan of the Channel 4 show 'Four in a bed' and have often commented to my Husband that I could ace it as a B&B owner.  But, as always, things are not as easy as they look.

My in-laws are lovely people, quite laid back and the kind of couple that do not wish to put anyone out, but they have often hosted us very well in their beautiful accommodation in sunny Barbados, so for me, it was important to give them a wonderful experience as a kind of thank you.  With all the current mayhem it was a welcome change and a great opportunity for me to focus on something and someone else.

The main point I'd like to make is that your guests should feel as though you've made an effort without going to trouble.  You do not want your guests to feel as though their stay has stressed you out or put you out, you want them to feel comfortable.

Previously our guests have been placed in the living room on a sofa bed, but, as my teenage son was visiting with my mother that month, there was a week free for my in-laws to have his room.  Great!  A whole room, at the top of the house so they are not disturbed!  Hmmmmm, but it is the teen hole!  Now where to start!

As always it starts with a good tidy-up and a deep clean, including a quick go over with the rug doctor, cheesy teenage feet is not a scent you'd like your guests to experience whilst lying in bed on an evening!

We did also, simply because I'm neurotic, give the walls a quick paint over.  I usually avoid going into teen space so hadn't realised how grubby his room was!

The mattress was vacuumed  and then covered with a mattress cover, for the benefit of both my guests and my son, there should always be a washable barrier for hygiene purposes.  I often pick up new bedding and towels in sales perfect for visitors, although I did run around stressed that I couldn't find matching face cloths!  My friend Amanda from Isossy Children talked me down from a panic attack in a store! Yes yes I know I have issues.  I also purchased a new quilt and pillows.  I change these yearly, and looking at the teens flat yellowing pillows after removing their protectors was a definite prompt!!  I washed the old ones and donated them to a local charity shop, I'm sure someone could re-purpose them, a skill I am yet to harness.

I tumbled dried all linens with a couple of dryer sheets, even though they were clean, it gave a soft fresh linen scent which, after making the bed, I also lightly sprayed with a lil Jo Malone for extra effect., make sure your guests aren't allergic before doing this.  My iron is kaput, ideally I would have lightly starched and ironed the linen after tumble drying for that crisp hotel feel.

Linens List

  • 2 Bath Sheets ea.
  • 2 Hand Towels ea.
  • 3 Wash cloths ea.
  • Fitted bed sheet and spare in a draw
  • 4 pillow cases and two spare in draw
  • Flat sheet and spare in draw
  • Quilt and cover
  • Large blanket could be used instead of or as well as the quilt depending on room temperature or personal tastes.

Now that I had the basics in place I looked at what else I could put into the room that would make my guests comfortable.

  • Books and Magazines
  • A jar of favourite biscuits for snacking, I hate the idea of my guests being peckish or feeling as though they have to sneak down two flights of stairs to the kitchen.
  • 2 glasses and a bottle of water
  • A box of tissues
  • A note pad and pen with the wi-fi key and password written down
  • A scented candle
  • A few travel sized toiletries
  • A copy of the front door key
I stayed out of the room until after they left, no-one likes to be disturbed in their space, they were here to relax, it was, during the time they stayed, their room.The boys are very clear on personal space and don't dare to venture to the teens room anyhow for fear of a bleary eyed raging teen attack!  We have very few rules in our home, help your-self, feel at home, and feel free to ask. 

The opening statement on the poster seems very apt!  "NOW for the first time you can see…… the floor!!"  This pic was before re-painting!  Look at how grubby it was!!!
There is no wardrobe as the teen likes the ease of throwing things in draws, I provided a few hangers for our guests should they want.  Wooden hangers only NO WIRED OR PLASTIC!!  I emptied the top two drawers in case they wanted to unpack.  I personally hate living out of suitcases.

As my guests were my in-laws and the main purpose of their stay was to spend time with us I didn't provide local maps or places to visit, we discussed any wishes and went as a family.  They popped around the local area and as they had a key, they weren't tied to my crazy schedule.  Giving your guests space and freedom is a great way to make them feel comfortable.

I have already spent long periods of time with them and know what foods they like and dislike, so cooked according to this, as well as dinner out at reasonably priced favourite of mine Little Bay in Belsize Park.  But for your guests, you may want to provide tourist information and find out what your guests like and dislike.  I cook everyday, bar Fridays, for the boys, but don't feel obligated to cook for your guests, they may want to eat out some days just ask them how they would like to do things.  If you usually cook, fine, if you don't that's fine too.  
A meal on arrival, especially after a long journey, and on leaving is quite enough.  A dinner party the night before they leave is a great ending to their visit.

When they left we gave them a few little gifts to remind them of their stay with us.  They enjoyed our coffee so we bought them a few bags of it, it's unavailable in Barbados, and a cafetiere similar to ours.  It's the small touches that make a difference.  

  • Clean < have a look at my cleaning how to
  • Tidy
  • Organise, give your guests space for their things
  • Rules, let them know your house rules to avoid confusion and embarrassment 
  • Likes and Dislikes
  • Space, let your guests breathe
  • Parting gift
  • Most of all, be yourselves!!!

How do you prepare for guests?  What would you do differently or add?  Please comment below.

I hope this was useful and thank you for reading

Tomboy -x-

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