Seasoned hosts will know that a holiday celebration comes not without its challenges. As we look forward to the festivities, and all of the wonderful food, decorations and time with family and friends that it brings, our thoughts turn to the necessary planning that comes with hosting during this period. If you're getting ready and wondering how to prepare your home for holiday guests, keep reading to discover our best tips and tricks—from the ultimate guest bedroom to festive table setting ideas and sitting room seating. After all, 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?”

A dining table decorated for Christmas, featuring warm tones and textureA dining table decorated for Christmas, featuring warm tones and texture

Create a beautiful table setting

There are a lot of delicious things to love about dining at this time of year, but nothing makes a meal feel special quite like a lavish table setting. For those considering how to prepare for a holiday celebration, look no further than a suitably festive display. “When your tabletop looks lovely, you’re halfway to having a good time,” notes Sue. Create a sense of occasion by laying your finest china, glassware and flatware among festive decorations that speak to the season.

An arrangement of foliage will bring your table display to life, but be conscious of using anything too tall as this may obstruct people’s view. Instead of bouquets, interweave pinecones, dried leaves and miniature pumpkins with fairy lights to give a nod to the holiday season. 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 large get-togethers, name card holders are useful accessories for implementing seating plans and will add 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 meal.

A country house-style guest bedroom featuring cool blue tones and lots of textureA country house-style guest bedroom featuring cool blue tones and lots of texture

Prepare the ultimate guest bedroom

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 for the holidays, and the relatives, friends or family friends who will be joining you, then there's no better way to make your guests feel welcome. Begin by creating a cozy ambience; layer blankets, pillows 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; accessorize with a lamp for late night reading, and ensure the switch is within easy reach of the bed. Leave nearby outlets empty so visitors can charge their phones or leave your spare chargers out for them to use. Don’t forget about seating, too; consider adding an ottoman, armchair or small sofa so your guests have a place to perch.

Nobody likes living out of a suitcase; leave spare hangers in the closet and room in the dresser so that they can store their belongings. If you have space, consider including a coat rack, 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 jewelry; a floor-length mirror to help them get ready in the morning; a stack of your favorite books to peruse, or a jug of water and glasses will all help your guests feel right at home.

A cozy sitting room decorated with festive honeycomb decorations, foliage and pinecone ornamentsA cozy sitting room decorated with festive honeycomb decorations, foliage and pinecone ornaments

Invite your guests to sit with plenty of seating

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 if you're getting ready for the holidays. “For long, lazy dinners,” says Sue, “use your most comfortable chairs with extra cushions.” Our signature Stafford chairs are designed specifically with long dinners in mind, with cushioned seats for extra comfort and a narrow silhouette to fit more people around the dining table.

In the sitting room, a large sofa decorated with plump throw pillows 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 pillows by its side so guests can warm up after a cold winter walk.

Keep the drinks flowing with a DIY home bar

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 stocking a home bar with all the drinks, glassware and serveware 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 favorite 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.

A fireplace featuring a wood burner, decorated with Christmas trees and seasonal foliageA fireplace featuring a wood burner, decorated with Christmas trees and seasonal foliage
A large Christmas tree decorated with multi-colored baubles, surrounded by Christmas presentsA large Christmas tree decorated with multi-colored baubles, surrounded by Christmas presents

Create a warm welcome for furry friends

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 pillows 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 muddy paws at bay will be a saving grace, both for your guests and your flooring.

Fill your home with the scents of the season

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 aromas for the sitting room and bedroom. Anything with spiced or woody notes will create an instant fall feeling.

Once you’ve followed all of these steps, there’s only one thing left to do: gather your nearest and dearest together for a celebration to remember. Happy holidays!