10 Tips for Playing Host, Winter Holiday Edition
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Say hello to the holidays (and the onslaught of family and friends). Here are 10 tips for surviving—and even enjoying—the season's steady stream of visitors. Above: An artist couple's minimalist loft in Philadelphia , designed by architecture firm Qb3, is a prime example of storage and organization done right. 1. Declutter, declutter, declutter. Reining in chaos around the house is never a bad idea. Before your guests arrive, vanquish piles of clutter: if it’s useful or beautiful, keep; otherwise, toss. You and your visitors will be more comfortable. 2. Provide guests with a clear place to put their things. Give some advance thought to where your company will store their things: A closet (stocked with a variety of hangers)? A dedicated set of hooks? Some drawers? For a smooth arrival, clear out the space now rather than later. Above: F or how to stock the guest bath, ta ke a cue from Berlin's Soho House; visit Steal This Look: Soho House Berlin Bath for details. 3. Fill the guest bathroom with fresh towels and an ample supply of toiletries. Whether or not you have the luxury of an extra guest bath, I like to make a guest kit—a straw basket filled with towels, shampoo, soap, and other basics—for visitors. A couple of lavender sachets atop the fresh towels adds a welcoming touch; for more suggestions, see 10 Easy Pieces: Stocking the Guest Bath (for Under $100) . 4. Place some of comforts of home on the bedside table. My stepmother, the consummate hostess, always provides a carafe of water, a few books, a candle, and fresh flowers on my nightstand when I visit. These small touches help me instantly relax, and make the pressures I left behind feel miles away. Above: An iron rack draped with extra blankets stands behind a bed; photograph by Ruy Teixeira via Be A Heart . 5. When making the bed, provide a few additional pillows and blankets nearby. It’s hard to know how the temperature fluctuates in different parts of your house. Make it easy for guests to quickly grab an extra layer when an unexpected chill rolls in. For the best blankets have a look at 10 Easy Pieces: Winter Wool Blankets and our roundup of Lightweight Cotton Blankets for layering. 6. Stock the fridge with staples, especially breakfast items. A tasty frittata, a fluffy coffee cake, and a large colorful fruit salad can provide a quick and easy breakfast—and the hungry holiday crew can help themselves. Above: A Breton Buckwheat Cake with Fleur de Sel from David Lebovitz—see Heidi Swanson's adaption of the recipe on 101 Cookbooks —is best served with a winter fruit jam or a splash of maple syrup. 7. Consider making a special meal or dish to welcome your guests. Since I was a little girl, I’ve looked forward to my grandmother’s “company cake” as I boarded the airplane to visit her. Her tried-and-true recipe delivers a scrumptious whip cream-filled vanilla cake (from scratch) covered with homemade chocolate sauce. It's a treat that says, “I’m so glad you're here.” 8. Clear time for yourself. That includes keeping up your regular exercise and self-care routine. It’s easy to overdo the role of hostess, but you don’t need to sacrifice yourself entirely to your company. Your guests will likely appreciate the downtime, not to mention your post-workout good cheer. Above: Our London editor Christine Chang Hanway points her guests to her favorite spot for a bite to eat, Leila's Greengrocer , on the border of Shoreditch and Bethnal Green. 9. Keep a printout of your favorite local cafes, boutiques, parks, museums, etc. on hand. This roster might prove handy, particularly for visitors who stay too long or rely on you as their local activities director. Source restaurants and places to shop locally via our own City Guides section. Document locations on a Google maps printout and you won't have to provide directions. Above: These Gilded Tree decorations that Justine Hand recently wrote about on Gardenista are a reminder to slow down and enjoy holiday making projects and recipes. 10. Allow plenty of time for holiday decompression. Remember that a good host allows space for the guests to do as they please. For your visitors, as well as for yourself, take time this holiday to simply relax, restore, and renew. We have more tips for you: Gardenista's Michelle Slatalla lays down her own house guest rules in 10 Essential Tips for Surviving House Guests . And don't miss Jackie Ashton's 10 Tips for Surviving Holiday Travel and 10 Secrets for a Better Night's Sleep .