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In the run up to Christmas, it can often feel as though our homes are fitted with a revolving door, such are the number of guests we welcome during the celebratory season. As we inch ever closer to days filled with festive food, gifts and decorations galore, our thoughts turn to the necessary planning that comes with hosting. To help you kick-start your Christmas preparations, we've compiled our best tips and tricks for getting your home guest ready this winter – because, in the words of Sue Jones, our Co-Founder and Creative Director, “Why should I ask people to come and stay in my house, if they’re less comfortable than they would be at home”?
Christmas is all about food, and nothing makes a dinner feel special quite like a lavish table setting. “When your tabletop looks lovely, you’re halfway to having a good time,” notes Sue. “Festive table decorations need not be complicated or time-consuming to put together. Our recipe is simple: a ribbon-tied candle and an individually wrapped present at every place, a few, scattered silver-sprayed fir cones and plenty of glassware for extra sparkle. Finally, to encourage long, lazy dining, use your most comfortable chairs with extra cushions.”
An arrangement of seasonal foliage will bring a table setting to life, but be conscious of using anything too high as this may obstruct people’s view. Instead of a bouquet, intertwine Christmas lights with stems of faux winter berries and lay them across the table’s surface for a touch of festive shimmer. Statement candle and tealight holders will add further interest to your display, while casting an ambient flicker of light that is as flattering as it is atmospheric.
For larger get-togethers, name card holders are useful accessories for implementing seating plans and will give a personal twist to your tabletop. “I love round tables for big groups,” adds Sue, “especially if you’ve got an odd number of guests.” Seat likeminded people together and watch the conversation flow throughout the night.
A private space in which your visitors can relax, unwind, and catch 40 winks, the guest bedroom should be carefully considered. If you're preparing your home for Christmas, and the relatives, friends or family friends who'll be joining you, then there's no better way to make them feel welcome. Begin by creating a cosy ambience; layer blankets, cushions and throws on the bed in a mix of textures to bring warmth and depth to the room. If your guest bedroom has wooden flooring, a rug on either side of the bed will be much appreciated by cold toes in the morning; look for one with a thick, shag weave that will feel soft underfoot.
Side tables are a must; accessorise with a lamp for late night reading, and ensure the switch is within easy reach of the bed. Leave nearby plug sockets empty so visitors can charge their phones (or earn extra brownie points by leaving spare chargers out for them to use). Don’t forget about seating, too; consider adding an ottoman, armchair, stool or small sofa, decorated with plump cushions, so your guests have a place to perch.
Nobody likes living out of a suitcase; leave spare hangers in the wardrobe and room in the chest of drawers so that they can store their belongings. If you have space, consider including a coat stand, luggage rack or suit rack. In the bathroom, put guest towels and toiletries on display, and replenish soap dispensers, toilet paper holders and tissue boxes. A toothbrush holder is a thoughtful finishing touch.
Little details can make all the difference: surfaces on which guests can leave their wallets, phones and keys; a dish in which to store jewellery; a floor-length mirror to help them get ready in the morning; a stack of your favourite books to peruse, or a jug of water and glasses will all help your guests feel right at home.
The host with the most is always prepared to welcome guests at a moment’s notice. Key to this is ample seating; from sofas to armchairs to dining chairs, ensuring your visitors can relax in comfort should be a priority when planning for Christmas. For the dining room, you can’t go wrong with our signature Stafford chairs; designed specifically with long dinners in mind, this staple seat exudes comfort and charm. The dining bench equivalent is equally comfortable, with space to seat up to four people.
In the sitting room, a large sofa decorated with plump cushions will keep guests happy all afternoon long. Be sure to include a couple of armchairs for those who aren’t fans of sharing. Ottomans and footstools, such as our signature Costellini, double as spare seating for impromptu gatherings. If you have a fireplace, arrange a few floor cushions by its side so guests can warm up after a cold winter walk.
When your guests finally arrive, you’ll want to enjoy spending time in their company. Save yourself the hassle of running back-and-forth to the kitchen by plenishing a home bar with all the drinks, glassware and accessories you need for a good time. “Create a relaxed atmosphere where guests can help themselves by having stylish bar accessories and a selection of glasses on hand – the right one makes all the difference,” says Sue. “Don’t forget a good tray or two to transport your drinks from one room to the other.”
Plan ahead by pre-cutting any fruit and garnishes, which can be arranged in decorative dishes, and fill decanters with your favourite wine. An ice bucket and cocktail shaker are essential when serving aperitifs before dinner. Read our guide to the ultimate home bar for further inspiration.
Guests who are bringing their beloved pets with them will be conscious of their comfort. Make them and their furry friends feel at home with personal touches; think pet cushions by the fire, bowls for food and drink, a comfortable bed in the guest bedroom and treats and toys to keep them entertained. A spare towel by the front door to keep mucky paws at bay will be a saving grace, both for your guests and your flooring.
With the power to conjure up memories – and create new ones – the right scent can transform a room. Smell is one of the first things we notice when we enter a space, so create a warm welcome by arranging reed diffusers and scented candles around your home. Different scents will capture different moods; select light and breezy fragrances for the kitchen and bathroom and look for warmer notes for the sitting room and bedroom.
Once you’ve followed all of these steps, there’s only one thing left to do: invite your nearest and dearest to enjoy your newly decorated home. We’ll leave the guest list to you…