How to Host Overnight Guests

By Emily McCrary-Ruiz-Esparza
Photo by Russ Hendricks /

Once the house is straight, dishes cleaned and put away, bookshelves dusted, laundry folded or hung, and the tub scrubbed—light a fresh candle, put on good album (try Mala by Devendra Banhart), pour yourself a lemon water, and wait for your guests to arrive.

Before all of that is done, of course, you’ve taken a few simple steps to ready your home especially for the overnight stay. It comes naturally to you, of course, so here’s what you’ve done to prepare.

Minimal plans

Don’t spoil the weekend with an agenda. Make a few tentative plans, like dinner at your favorite cafe, drinks down the street, or a historic tour, but leave it at that. Planning too much will rob the weekend of its natural magic and spontaneity.

One thing just for your guests

I always pick out something that I feel is a reflection of my guests’ tastes or sensibility. That might be their favorite game set out on the credenza (Quarto is a favorite among guests in my home), a coffee table book on their favorite artist set out for their enjoyment, a local beer chilling in the crisper, or a new bottle pulled from the wine rack I think they’ll especially love.

For the bedroom

For overnight guests, equip the bedroom as follows

  • Clean bed linens
  • An extra blanket
  • An item picked for their enjoyment—a vase of flowers, a book on local history or on a topic they enjoy
  • A place to hang coats or clothing that can wrinkle (if you can’t clear the closet or don’t have a closet, a small garment rack will suffice)
  • A mirror, full-length preferred

For the bathroom

For overnight guests, equip the bathroom as follows—

  • Clean towels and washcloths, one of each per person per two days (if your guests are staying longer, simply replace the towels in two days’ time rather than loading them up on day one)
  • Simple hypoallergenic shampoo, conditioner, and body wash
  • I also like to keep two unwrapped toothbrushes and a tube of travel toothpaste on hand, just in case (tucked away in a cabinet or in a basket is best)
  • A candle and a book of matches

For the kitchen

For overnight guests, equip the kitchen as follows—

  • Coffee, tea
  • Still and sparkling water
  • Fresh fruit that’s in season—in my home, that’s cherries in the summer and kumquats in winter
  • Bread and soft butter—I pick up a crusty levain from the bakery down the street with soft Irish butter

Where to spend your money

Simplicity saves money. There’s no need to go overboard on preparation and leave yourself with little funds to enjoy the company. Here’s where your money will do its best work.

  • Good alcohol is a conduit for long conversation, especially if your guests prefer slow-drinking spirits like cognac or fortified wines like sherry.
  • High-end towels go a long way, and guests notice this slice of indulgence. Choose a light, neutral color, like white or caramel, and reserve them only for guests.
  • If you live in a city where you rely on public transportation, it’s a nice step to purchase a card for your guests and load it with enough for a round-trip pass in advance of their arrival.

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