Hosting in Your Home

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Local Pros Share Their Best Advice

Home-sharing, if you aren’t familiar, is an ever-growing lodging option for travelers. Here in Lynchburg more than 400 homes, whether standalones or portions of personal homes, are available to rent through websites such as Airbnb. Some visitors stay for one night and some rent for weeks at a time.

Local hosts who offer their spaces have mastered the art of welcoming guests for any length of time. Whether you simply want to overhaul your guest room or want to start hosting guests yourself one day, we share some of their top tips to make sure your visitors feel comfortable and relaxed.

Set the Stage: Intentional Decor
You may not be starting with a blank slate in your guest room(s), but it never hurts to take a fresh eye to it. Does your space say, “Well-Worn Duvet Cover Paired with Mismatched Pillows” or does it have a cohesive, purposeful look? Moving towards a well-designed space doesn’t have to break the bank; it does require purging
the clutter and changing your perspective.

Try not to think of the guest room as a drop zone for everything you couldn’t find a place for elsewhere in the home—it should be purposefully designed with your guest’s needs in mind.

Part of that means intentionally leaving empty space. Host Emily Rymer has started managing and staging Airbnb spaces for other local hosts, and one of her priorities is “keeping the decor simple and having plenty of space for [guests]to utilize…[having]an open surface where the guests can place their bags,” she says. “No one wants to bend over to the floor every time they need something” from a suitcase, so a couple luggage racks would be helpful. Also keep a hamper accessible for collecting dirty laundry and linens, and place some hooks on the back of a door to accommodate coats, bags and bath towels.

Amy Corbett, who hosts three of her own rentals and manages Airbnb spaces for clients with her business Belong Here, says “less is more” when it comes to decor. She recommends that you “decorate with items that have both function and aesthetic appeal.”

A great example of this would be a classic letterboard that displays both the WiFi network and password; while informative, it’s also appealing.

Corbett adds that you don’t need to be afraid to “blend styles or mix old with the new” as long as things are clean and neatly done. Hiring a professional can help define a vision for your space if it needs a total overhaul.

Host Sarah Boettger says she wants her guests to “rest, relax and breathe” while they visit, so she uses “soothing wall colors” and eliminates visual clutter.

Host Hannah Richardson agrees, saying “clean and elegant” are her goals with decor, avoiding anything “wild or busy” in favor of neutral colors. Corbett says you can “create calm with a coordinated color scheme and by adding texture” in the finishes.

Our hosts agree that investing in a well-made mattress and highly-rated linens will go a long way in giving your visitors some quality shuteye. Hosts Missy and Jason Phelps keep a box fan and sound machine available as well to accommodate different sleep preferences. Extra blankets and pillows can be stowed in a nearby closet.

Several hosts incorporate local art and photography in their decor because “guests like to learn about the local area,” host Nina Davenport says. Likewise, she displays a large U.S. map for her visitors to mark with a pushpin where they’re from.

When in doubt, Corbett says, “There’s nothing more welcoming to me than a simple solid color wreath on a door!”

The Essentials: Keep It Easy and Functional
“When preparing to host,” Missy Phelps says, “We try to think of all the things we would appreciate if we were traveling.”

Be mindful that guests have to take care of daily tasks just as they would at home, so that includes everything from showering and makeup application to preparing
their clothes for the day. A good exercise to increase your awareness of a guest’s needs is to spend some time in your guest space imagining how well it functions. Host Ginger Christmas says she does this several times a year to ensure the space is well appointed and that everyday needs are taken care of.

Nothing is worse than running out of something and having to bother your host after everyone’s gone to bed (or, before they’ve woken up in the A.M.). So, many hosts say stocking the bathroom is essential, from the small items that make a big difference: cotton balls, Q-tips and tissues, to the large items you may overlook out of sheer habit: hair driers, trash cans, and, yes, even extra toilet paper. The goal, says Corbett, is that your guest never runs out of anything. To keep things easily accessible, she recommends using a label maker to organize the closets and bathroom cabinets. In addition to extra toiletries, consider including a small First-Aid kit with Band-Aids, antibacterial lotion and small bottles of ibuprofen and Tylenol (do be sure these are child-proof and out of reach from tiny hands!).

Phelps says she wants to provide what guests need to “look their best,” so that also includes a full-length mirror, an iron and ironing board, clothes hangers and hooks plus a well-lit bathroom space.

For linens and towels, hosts all said the same: clean, plush and in ready supply. Host Dominique Gendrin says it’s worthwhile to pamper your guests with plenty of “large size towels, fairly high end soaps and shampoos.”

Atmosphere, Hygge and More
“To me, welcoming spaces are well-designed and calming; after a long, stressful day of travel, I want a guest to arrive and feel as though everything they need is at their fingertips,” Corbett says.

Rymer loves including fresh flowers while Phelps agrees that any effort to “bring the outside in” will make your space feel more finished. “This is as simple as walking outside and clipping some beautiful branches off a tree,” she says.

To make a space more inviting, Davenport says she avoids overhead lights in favor of soft lighting such as lamps. “I want my guests to feel at home,” she says. That means she also outfits the space with “comfy throws and pillows.” Gendrin does this as well, bringing in lots of armchairs, rugs, large mirrors and lamps for ambience.

Phelps keeps the electric fireplace going, offers an oil diffuser and has soft music playing.

And don’t forget the easy snacks (think packaged nuts or granola bars) and bottled waters, which many hosts said they keep readily available. Danielle Bifulco, who has been hosting for five years, keeps a coffee bar with all the essentials stocked for her guests; a Keurig makes this a simple option. Christmas also includes tea with her coffee bar paired with some Scottish butter cookies and a personalized note. Several hosts recommended offering your favorite blend from a local coffee shop.

To help your guests acclimate, Boettger places local magazines (hello, Lynchburg Living!), maps of the area, and a list of local restaurant recommendations around the seating area. Richardson leaves out a fun game or puzzle for guests to try near a comfortable couch.

Most of all, remember that the friends and family who visit you are the reason behind it all; they are, as Ralph Waldo Emerson said, the true ornaments of a house.

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