How to host overnight guests – and make it feel like a home away from home

Got guests staying? These hosting tips will keep everyone happy

bed with fairy lights
(Image credit: Future PLC)

Do you have a spare room, or is it a guest bedroom? Maybe they're the same thing, but consciously creating a bedroom for overnight visitors is very different from putting up in the spare (aka, junk) room. 

Christmas is a time to come together, but if you don't want family and friends to feel uncomfortable in a strange house. It's important to put some thought into your guest bedroom ideas and make them feel at home. 

'As we get ready for the festive period, many of us start to panic about where our guests will sleep,' comments interiors expert, Sophie Robinson. 'Whether we’re lucky enough to have a spare room or not, these extra spaces can often feel forgotten, become areas for storage, drying the laundry and storing the Christmas decorations boxes that are lying around.'

Make a guest bedroom feel like a home from home

We spoke to stylists, interior designers and the Ideal Home team members to find out how to host overnight visitors and make their guest bedroom feel like a home from home. From fresh bedding and a few festive decorations to a row of hooks to hang up their clothes, these are quick and easy hacks that will make anyone feel comfortable when they stay in your home. 

You might even want to steal a few ideas for your own bedroom, too…

1. Make a guest bedroom smell amazing

home scents and perfume

(Image credit: Future)

There are certain things that people with amazing smelling guest bedrooms always do, but the simplest is to put out flowers or a scented candle for their visitors to enjoy.

'Including a beautiful vase of fresh flowers and even diffusers or candles that have subtle, relaxing fragrances such as lavender, chamomile or sandalwood is a simple touch that will give your guests that five-star feeling,' says Nicolene Mausenbaum, an interior designer who specialises in holistic decor that considers the wellbeing of mind, body and soul. 

Nicolene Mausenbaum
Nicolene Mausenbaum

Nicolene is an interior designer specialising in holistic design, which combines biophilia, colour psychology and ergonomics. Her designs incorporate not only the physical elements of the space such as lighting and furniture, but also incorporate  emotional and spiritual aspects, such as the energy flow and the connection to nature.

2. Add festive accessories

christmas bedroom

(Image credit: Future PLC)

For a truly memorable stay, give your visitors a festive welcome with Christmas decorations from the front door to their guest bedroom.

'Whether your taste is minimalist or more about the big statements, accessories can go a long way to help make a guest room feel extra special,' suggests Martin Gill, managing director and interiors expert at luxury bed retailer, And So To Bed.

'For instance, to make your own DIY Christmas wreath, all you need are some baubles, pompoms and tree branches. Traditionally, these are hung on the front door of the home, but hanging a homemade wreath on the bedroom door or somewhere in the guest room – like above the dressing table – is a fun extra touch.

'Place some ornaments on the bedside table, such as a snow globe, Santa figurine or mini Christmas tree to add to the festive feel.'

3. Provide a choice of pillows

Pillows sitting on a pile of bed sheets

(Image credit: Christys)

So you may not be able to provide a 'pillow menu' like hotels do, but if you have a few spare pillow and duvets, why not give your guests of which they'd feel more comfortable sleeping on?

'Add additional comfort by placing extra blankets and pillows with varying firmness nearby, and fresh towels and toiletry essentials in the bathroom,' recommends interior designers Nicolene Mausenbaum. 'If space allows it in a small guest bedroom, a designated storage, shelf and/or hanging space will ensure they can easily unpack their belongings and settle in quickly.'

4. Give a place to put a suitcase

Bedroom with polka dot walls, upholstered bed, wooden ottoman and mirror

(Image credit: Future PLC/Simon Whitmore)

'We have a foldaway luggage rack that we leave out for guests,' says Emma Jackson, Ideal Home's deputy art director. 'It means they can unpack their case, or even leave it out for easy access, without having to lift it on and off the bed.'

If you have space at the end of the bed, you could add an ottoman or trunk that can hold the case, and which offers additional storage, too.

5. Provide essentials and little luxuries

Welcome grey tray

(Image credit: Future PLC / Tim Young)

There's nothing guaranteed to make a guest feel more awkward than constantly having to ask their hosts for home-from-home practical accessories, such as a hair dryer, tissues, cotton buds and even a bin.

'Ensure the room has a bin so guests aren’t having to pop their rubbish into their suitcase,' says Sophie Robinson. 'A mirror is handy, even if it's a small one, so guests don’t feel like they have to rush getting ready in the shared bathroom. A little note with the WiFi password on is also a nice touch.' 

Personalising the extras you put in the room with guest basket ideas shows a thoughtful touch.

'Impress them by adding nighttime essentials like a bottle of water, a lamp, a fan or heater, an alarm clock and a charging station on a nightstand or dresser nearby. If they're sensitive to light, an eye mask would be a great touch,' suggests Nicolene Mausenbaum.

'If you're familiar with your guests' preferences, place a few magazines or books that you know they like, as well as their favourite snack or a personalised gift – this will go a long way to help your guest feel valued.'

Sophie Robinson reaching up into yellow pantry.
Sophie Robinson

Sophie is an interiors expert, TV presenter, designer and writer, who admits to being 'bonkers about colour'. As well as consulting for brands, she offers online courses that everyone can attend via her Sophie Robinson Design School.

6. Let them make their own drinks

teapot bread with bed and newspaper

(Image credit: Future PLC/Carolyn Barber)

Traipsing down to the kitchen in their dressing gown can feel odd when you're in someone else's home, so at the very least, provide drinking water in their room for your guests.

'I like to leave a carafe freshly filled with water, and a glass, just before my visitors turn in,' says Thea Babbington-Stitt, our assistant digital editor. 'I also keep a fresh dressing gown clean and ready for guests (slippers would be a great touch, too).'

Writer India Knight, author of the Home newsletter, takes this idea even further.

'You want guests to feel like they can have a nap/read their book/lie in the bath whenever they feel like it, not like they’re on parade at all times or have to join in with everything you do,' she says. 'This means it’s worth putting a bit of thought into spare rooms, particularly if the spare room is a box room or a home office with a sofa bed wedged in. 

'Give them the means to make their own tea/coffee. Provide milk in an insulated bottle so it stays cold. Also biscuits and a pile of books they might like, a decent reading light, fluffy towels, and get out the nice bedding. If your hot water isn’t on constant, tell them when it comes on and off.'

7. Dress the bed beautifully

Blye bedroom with oversized, shapely headboard upholstered in patterned yellow fabric

(Image credit: Future PLC/Maxwell Attenborough)

Fresh sheets and a spritz of pillow spray will make guests feel looked after.

'Whether you have a guest room or a sofa bed that will serve as your guests' sleeping space, ensure the bedding is fresh and the area is clean, aired out, clutter free and offers a sufficient degree of privacy,' says Nicolene Mausenbaum. 'A room divider or screen can be particularly handy for providing privacy and comfort if your guest is sleeping on a sofa bed in a common area.'

8. Include some hanging space

bedroom storage

(Image credit: Future PLC/Simon Whitmore)

Even if your guests are staying for just one night, it is still important to include bedroom storage ideas. Having a space to hang a coat, a bathrobe, or a party dress, can make all the difference to how welcome and at ease they feel.

'You may not have much storage space, but a few hooks on the back of the door or a little peg-rail shelf will offer some great space for hanging towels, coats or jackets,' agrees Sophie Robinson.

9. Set the mood with lighting

bed with fairy lights

(Image credit: Future PLC)

A bare spare room can be transformed into a cosy sanctuary with the right lighting – especially at Christmas, when the twinkle of fairy lights makes the occasion feel extra special.

'Nothing gives off Christmassy vibes quite like good lighting,' says Martin Gill from And So To Bed. 'Whether this is hanging fairy lights around the bed frame, or using a dimmer switch to create low lighting, any form of soft light can help to achieve a calm and relaxing bedroom

'Of course, you want to strike the perfect balance between an atmospheric space and ensuring guests can still read a book or watch a film without straining their eyes,' Martin continues. 'To help your guests keep up with their usual nighttime activities before bed, it’s always worth having a bedside lamp in the room.'

10. Add a wfh station if needed

christmas letters to santa

(Image credit: Future PLC)

It's Christmas and no one wants to be thinking about work, but for those who need to log on to emails or read reports on their laptop, a little desk set-up can really help – especially if they can quietly go to their room to work without disrupting the rest of the celebrations.

'Depending on how long your guests are staying, they may want to do a little work from their room. If you haven’t got space for a desk, having a breakfast tray with legs handy is a thoughtful and useful idea,' says Sophie Robinson.

11. Turn down the sheets at night

grey and white neutral bedroom with wooden beams

(Image credit: Dan Duchars)

The jury's divided on whether going into your guests' room while they are staying with you is intrusive or not. But for visitors who you know won't mind and would welcome some extra-special attention, then this idea from Ideal Home's senior digital editor, Jenny McFarlane, could be a winner.

'I love a mini hotel-style turndown,' she says. 'Close the curtains, turn down the covers, put bedside lamps and slip in a hot water bottle to warm up the bed.'

12. Sleep in the room before your guests

blue bedroom with christmas presents

(Image credit: Future PLC/Dominic Blackmore)

For the ultimate test of your hosting skills, sleep in the room your guests will stay in so you can see what works and any thoughtful finishing touches you can add.

'Sleep in the room yourself before your guests come to stay – this will help you notice anything you’ve missed,' says Sophie Robinson. 'Is the duvet thick enough? Do you need blackout blinds? Is the bedside light bright enough for reading?'

If you feel happy and at home, chances are your guests will feel so, too. 

Andrea Childs

Andrea began her journalism career at Ideal Home and is currently Editor of our sister title, Country Homes & Interiors, which celebrates modern country style. Andrea is passionate about colour and how it can transform both our homes and our sense of wellbeing, and has completed The Power of Colour course with the prestigious KLC School of Design. Andrea's career spans interiors magazines, women's lifestyle titles and newspapers. After her first job at Ideal Home, she moved on to women's magazines, Options and Frank. From there it was on to the launch of Red magazine, where she stayed for 10 years and became Assistant Editor. She then shifted into freelancing, and spent 14 years writing for everyone from The Telegraph to The Sunday Times, Livingetc, Stylist and Woman & Home. She was then offered the job as Editor of Country Homes & Interiors, and now combines that role with writing for