Here's an anxiety-inducing scenario most Americans are familiar with.
Your holiday guests are set to arrive in a matter of hours, and you don't know how to prepare other than set out fresh towels and change bed linens.
"It's almost like you're on stage and preparing for a party," says Melissa Birdsong, director of trend forecasting and design for Lowe's Home Improvement Warehouse, "except these are overnight guests. Your home is on semipublic display but a few touchups and improvements here and there can make even the in-laws feel welcome and comfortable."
Birdsong suggests hosts center pre-arrival efforts on rooms most likely to be the guests' home away from home: bath, guest bedroom and kitchen.
In the bath, bright light and space are musts, particularly for guests over age 40. Higher wattage bulbs above or beside mirrors lighten the surroundings. If you have pedestal sinks, a stand-alone side shelf is great for makeup and shaving kits as well as ready-access towel storage.
Inexpensive pulsating shower heads, either hand-held or a large sunflower shape, make showers relaxing. If the shower curtain has seen fresher days, install a new liner and curtain. Or, easily replace glass shower doors with up-to-date designs. Quickly installed shower fans with heater attachments remove shower steam and raise room temperatures a few comfortable degrees.
Guests often wonder where to hang towels and washcloths, so two or more towel bars and hooks are welcome. Don't forget nonslip area rugs in front of the shower or tub.
The path from bedroom to bath can be illuminated by night lights plugged in along hallways or entry doors.
A flashlight on the bedroom nightstand is a good idea.
Reading, accent and floor lamps in the bedroom help guests prepare for festivities. If the bedroom has hard surface flooring, add more nonslip rugs to warm the space. A free-standing rack outside the closet to hang garments will be appreciated.
"You need to take an objective look at the kitchen and entryway," says Birdsong. Place morning drinks, a bowl of fruit and other self-help snacks within plain sight of guests. Your entryway sets a welcoming tone for guests. A new kick-plate, storm door, lighting on house numbers are instant improvements.
"It's nice to welcome holiday guests," says Birdsong, "but I encourage homeowners to view improvements as longer-term upgrades for guests throughout the year. It doesn't take much to make a very welcoming statement."