The Real Deal New York

Guest gets the best

Top tips on welcoming visitors in NYC, whether you have 10,000 square feet or 100
By Lucia De Stefani | November 06, 2014 07:00AM

The holiday season is approaching, and chances are if you’re not headed out of town, some folks will be visiting you. Perhaps your longtime friends are breezing through, and you can’t wait to welcome them in your cozy guest room. Or maybe you’re crazed to find space for guests in your upscale but hardly spacious one-bedroom. Whatever the availability for your flat — whether you have the luxury of a spare bedroom or you occasionally have guests bed down on your sofa — here are some tips that will make a great host out of you.

If you have a guest room

If you’re fortunate enough to have a spare bedroom, the real care is in the details: fresh-cut flowers, up-to-date glossy magazines and plenty of pillows are the essentials for a welcoming stay. Everyone agrees that good hospitality starts with bedding: “People like when they travel to luxurious hotels and see that clean, crispy bedding,” said Dana Battista, an interior designer based in Greenwich. Battista said that a good strategy is to use plain, monochromatic sheets — it feels more hotel-like.

“Layers are very important in a guest room,” adds Susana Simonpietri, creative director at Chango & Co., a New York interior design firm. “Some people get really hot at night and some people get very cold, so you shouldn’t only supply one duvet and a sheet. It is nice to leave them with that and a blanket so that they can choose.”

Pillows, too, play a crucial role: “I do three layers of pillows on the bed so if someone wants to sleep a little bit higher up — like an almost seated position — they can, and if they want to take them all off, they can put them on a chair and sleep only on one pillow,” Simonpietri said.

Also, don’t overlook fragrance. “New York is a pretty stressful place for people who come visit; if they can have a little comfortable retreat, with an aromatic candle that makes them feel more relaxed, that is always nice,” Simonpietri adds.

“Make sure you’ve laid out everything your guests might need during their stay in plain sight,” said Brooke Stone, CEO of Gyst, an online concierge service company that helps New Yorkers with everyday errands and design needs. “Setting out bath towels, an extra pillow and a glass ready for bedside water communicates you are happy to have guests in your home and have thoughtfully prepared for their arrival.”

If you have extra space — but it’s not exactly a bedroom

Suppose you almost have a spare room — say, a home office or a den. There are ways to make the space more welcoming to guests, such as removing personal items from the room’s wardrobe, so visitors won’t have to live out of their suitcases during their stay.

Murphy beds are a great solution for small spaces, turning a home office into a comfy bedroom in a few easy steps, saving the hassle of moving furniture around. “You just pull the bed out of the wall, and it’s fantastic,” said Battista. “So you have an office space — the desk and the computer, the chairs, the built-in bookshelves — but in the wall is a bed. You just pull it down and the person can shut the door and sleep, and then it just goes back into the wall and goes away.”

If you don’t have the room for a Murphy bed — or simply don’t want one — solutions are numerous, said James Spodnik, an interior designer based in New York: convertible sofas, sleeper ottomans, futons, inflatable beds.

“Have the sofa already open, and make it look like a bed with a lot of pillows behind it,” Simonpietri suggests. In this way, guests will understand that the room is theirs.

“Be sure you have created a space for your guests to claim as their own during their stay,” said Stone. “Add empty containers, and let your guests know they are there for them to use as they wish.”

Stone advises investing in a simple garment rack if you lack closet space, as well as inexpensive luggage racks for guests’ suitcases. “It will communicate you have made every effort to be sure they can claim the designated area for their own, even though it may not be a traditional guest room,” she said.

Of course, if this room isn’t a spare bedroom, chances are it’s packed with your belongings. If so, it’s important to plan ahead. “Furniture for this room should be slim and minimal, any small storage should be stackable or collapsible,” Stone suggests. Such multifunctional pieces can easily be moved to other locations in your apartment, making space for your guests without creating clutter.

If you literally have no room to spare

Don’t get discouraged — even the tiniest of Manhattan apartments can accommodate an overnight guest. If you don’t have a sofa bed, chances are you’ll need an air mattress, “preferably with a pump built-in, to keep plugged in into the wall, so that guests can inflate it at night,” said Simonpietri.

Spodnik suggests an elegant shoji screen, the Japanese divider made out of rice paper and wood. “The screen can isolate the area with the blow-up bed and give guests the privacy they need,” he said. (Shoji screens separate a space while also allowing light to permeate — a perfect solution for those with minimal windows in their living rooms.)

Even if you’re low on square footage, you can still treat guests with something extra: “A wonderful handmade straw basket filled with two fresh towels, fabulous chocolate and a bottle of wine,” suggests interior designer Regina Kay.

Remember good manners: “Don’t linger in your living room too late at night,” Stone said. “Your guests may want to rest up for their next day and can’t go to sleep until you get out of their area — and they will never ask you to leave your own living room.”

A good practice — even more so if the room may lack some comforts — is to prepare a cheat sheet. “Include anything specific to your apartment your guests might need to know, but may be embarrassed to ask,” Stone suggests. “How to adjust the heat or AC, the Wi-Fi password, how to turn on the shower using your pre-war knobs.”

Of course, sometimes the cost of a hotel pales in comparison to the cost of losing a friendship over sharing tight quarters. If you’re truly not prepared to have overnight guests, then NYC has no shortage of new, top-tier hotels to check into, including the Park Hyatt New York — the first five-star hotel to open in the city in more than a decade. Occupying the first 25 floors of the ultra-luxe condo One57, the glamorous hotel’s 210 rooms start at $795.

If you or your guests are more downtown types, check out the Ludlow, the latest hotel from Sean MacPherson (the force behind the Jane and the Maritime hotels). The chic-yet-gritty space has 184 rooms starting from $325.