Instant Hotel’s design expert on creating a welcoming vibe

Instant Hotel’s design expert on creating a welcoming vibe

IF you have ever hosted guests, or listed your home on Airbnb, you will know first-hand the amount of stress and planning that goes into opening your home to others.

Our homes, after all, are a reflection of our idiosyncrasies and personal tastes, which might not be the interests or tastes of those who come to stay.

But, according to British celebrity interior designer Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen, the last thing you should do is channel a hotel chain.

“You go to a hotel chain around the world and there is this sort of international beige style that will welcome you,” said the flamboyant host of Channel 7’s Instant Hotel (Mondays, 9pm) and judge on House Rules. “Whereas, staying in an Airbnb or staying with friends gives you that personality.”

Here are his tips for preparing for guests.

1. Make the bed comfortable

First and foremost, it’s important to give some thought as to how your guest will sleep.

As our older mattresses are often relegated to the guest bedrooms, check how comfortable your guests are likely to be laying on a 20-year-old mattress.

If a new mattress is out of the question, add a mattress topper for increased comfort.

“These are readily available online and they’re great at ironing out the sags and bumps of a mattress,” Mr Llewelyn-Bowen said.

2. Check the ambience

As our guest bedrooms are used less often than other parts of the house, they are often poorly lit spaces.

“You need to check if there is a light by the bed for reading,” Mr Llewelyn-Bowen said.

“And ask yourself: how does the actual ambience feel? If you are expecting someone terribly posh, like myself or Prince Charles, then stay in your own guest bedroom overnight to see how it’s lit and check the ambience. If there is something that is not quite right, you can correct it.”

3. Care for your sheets

In most people’s eyes, the higher the threat count of sheets, the better, but Mr Llewelyn-Bowen doesn’t go in for that kind of competitive one-upmanship.

“It gets to the point that some of these supposed threat counts don’t actually exist. It’s like hotels in Dubai that talk about being nine star — that doesn’t exist.”

What’s more important is how the bed linen is laundered.

“Don’t put new linen on the bed straight out of the package as it actually doesn’t feel very good,” he said.

“Wash it first, and in Australia you are so lucky because you can air dry, and air-dried bedding smells and feels absolutely exquisite. If you have a large garden, you could even lay sheets over rosemary or lavender bushes to add extra scent.”

4. Aim for total blackout

It can be annoying to be woken at first light by sun streaming into the room.

“Make sure that blinds and curtains do achieve total blackout,” Mr Llewelyn-Bowen said.

You might be thoroughly in love with your morning view out the window, but don’t assume your guest is.

“When we go on holiday, we are wanting an experience that is better than the experience we have at home,” he said.

5. Provide good towels

It’s the guest bathroom rule No.1: ensure the guests have nice towels.

“Also, make sure that the towels are left in the bedroom so the guest is not relying on the towel in the bathroom,” Mr Llewelyn-Bowen said.

If you are all sharing a bathroom, he recommended supplying guests with their own robe.

“And nice soap is crucial,” he said. “We have a very high appreciation, these days, of toiletries, so people notice if there is nice soap on offer.”

6. Create storage

When it comes to wardrobes, choose the right size.

“Sometimes, people use a wardrobe that is so large that it dominates the space and it’s unnecessary,” Mr Llewelyn-Bowen said.

“At the other end of the scale, you will often be faced with a wardrobe at a friend’s house that is full of the host’s cast-off clothes.”

Stick with a reasonably sized wardrobe and ensure there are nice hangers inside.

“I hate reaching into a space and finding a couple of old nasty wire hangers that came free with the dry cleaning,” Mr Llewelyn-Bowen said.

Handy tips

Mr Llewelyn-Bowen had this extra advice on making guests welcome:

• Offer plenty of choices. Rather than a few books on the nightstand, place a bookshelf in the guest room with a range of books. Instead of one type of tea, offer a range of teas.

• Don’t try and turn your home into a five-star hotel. Instead, inject your own personality into the space.

• Encourage your guests to enjoy the guest room as a retreat, with ample room to sit and read a book.

• Don’t make it too comfortable or guests will never leave!

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