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Give your guests comforts of home

Sun., Dec. 19, 2010, midnight

Storage, sleeping strategies will help maintain order, eliminate clutter

When Laura Barnett’s daughter comes to visit, the Chicago mother has to improvise a guest room.

Barnett sets her daughter up in a corner of the living room and clears out space in the hall closet for her clothes and suitcase.

Providing space for a houseguest’s things is as important as providing a place to sleep, because it will help you maintain order in the home, says Barnett, an interior designer.

You have to strike a balance between “making the guest feel welcome and not making you feel like your home’s been taken over,” she says.

That’s especially true during holiday visits, when there tends to be extra clutter and activity, says Randi Destefano of Authentic Living Interiors in Atlanta.

Before guests arrive, think about where they will store their luggage, and how much space they may need for clothes and personal items.

If possible, empty a drawer or a shelf in the bathroom for guests to use during their stay, Destefano suggests. Otherwise, provide a basket or plastic container in which guests can store toiletries and things they need to access throughout the day.

If your home is small or there’s not much extra storage, Destefano recommends buying an ottoman with a storage compartment.

“It’s a great place to store the bedding and pillows,” she says. “They’re available at all different price points.”

Try to locate your guest in a spot that allows some privacy. Destefano suggests placing air mattresses or sleeping bags in nooks or low-traffic areas of the house.

It’s acceptable to ask guests to put away their bedding or close up a sleeper couch each morning, particularly if they are sleeping in a home office or other room that family members need to use, says Barnett.

“Make a rule that they make their bed or move stuff off the furniture,” she says.

If an adult is going to sleep in a child’s room, try to clear out toys and clutter, says Hoyt Dottry, president of the South Carolina Bed and Breakfast Association.

“Put away as much as possible to make it feel like a guest room,” advises Dottry, owner of Walnut Lane Inn in Lyman, S.C.

When furnishing a child’s room, consider how often it will double as a guest room. If a lot of company is expected, choose a double or queen-size bed for the room.

“Don’t buy bunk beds,” Barnett says. “Nobody’s grandma wants to be climbing up a ladder to get in somebody’s bunk bed.”

Regardless of where guests are sleeping, provide them with an alarm clock and night light, adds Kevin Sharkey, executive editorial director of decorating for Martha Stewart Living.

Guests also need a place to plug in cell phones and other electronic devices, he says.

Filling a basket with snacks, candy and bottled water is a nice touch, Dottry says. A guest will feel more comfortable taking something from the basket rather than going into the cupboard or refrigerator.

Still, it’s a good idea to give guests a tour of the kitchen, and let them know what there is to eat and drink, Dottry says.

“Take them to the refrigerator and say, ‘This is what I’ve got. This is all for your use if you get hungry,’ ” he says.

Don’t forget to provide houseguests with a key to the front door, Dottry adds. Having one makes them feel more comfortable about coming and going as they wish.

And it’s OK to insist that they return it.

“Tell them, ‘This is so-and-so’s key and I need to get it back,’ ” he says.

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