Head of Regional Residential Agency
It’s the time of year when distant cousins, elderly aunts and children return to the family home and expect to be housed, entertained and fed. Yes the festive season is almost upon us and you’re going to have to start preparing yourself now for the arrival of Christmas and everything it brings…
Getting in the festive mood
If you’re having guests to stay – whether for a day or a week - you’re going to have to make sure the Christmas spirit is apparent all over the house - from guest rooms to the bathrooms. And there are a few simple ways to make your home a bit merrier…
Choosing the decorations is the fun part of getting your home ready. The problem some people have is that they don’t normally decorate every room in the house – but if you’ve got guests arriving it might be fun to do so this year.
If not done right, decorations can overwhelm your home. The trick is to use your current interior décor and base your festive style on it. If you’ve embraced dark blues and clean whites, then you could go for a frosty winter scene. If your home is more traditional, with deep, warm colours, then a more classic red and gold approach to Christmas might be more suited.
By doing this, you can carry the theme through the house with minimal fuss and decoration, meaning you’ll only need a few items to get your ideas across.
In the main rooms – kitchen, dining room and living room – go all out as they set the tone for the rest of the house. Then all you need in your spare rooms and bathrooms is a garland on the bedside table, some holly in a vase or festive scene stickers for windows in utility rooms and offices.
Steven Duggan, Director of Steve Duggan Events, who helps organise events for the likes of Adele and Elton John, said: “The lighting is also very important as it sets the mood and essentially dresses the space.
“Dim, ambient lighting works very well for home event decoration. The use of up lighting on the walls and pillar candles will create great light and change any space to a warm, festive setting.
“To create Christmas foliage scenes, gather some of the season’s best with berries, holly tree, fir tree branches and even bare twigs and make wonderful sideboard features with a few candles and trinkets dotted throughout.''
And don’t forget outside. There’s a range of lighting systems to make your garden path into a festive trail or give new life to the bare trees in your grounds.
Preparing the guest rooms
Thanks to the likes of Airbnb, people now have higher expectations when it comes to guest rooms. No longer are they happy with just a bed, you’ve got to add a few personal touches.
The spare room has probably sat untouched for months – so now is time to get it ready for action. This doesn’t mean a quick hoover and tidy – if you’ve got family coming for Christmas it’s important to make the room feel special for them as they’ll be away from their home.
Start by clearing out any of your own junk including items in wardrobes and drawers – it’ll be nice for them to hang up and store some of their best clothing so it’s ready to wear on the big day.
It’ll also probably be worth buying some new bedding. You can give it a festive touch if it’s fitting with your décor, but simplicity is key - not everyone is a fan of having polar bears or robins on their duvet covers.
As well as new bedding, bring in fresh and clean towels and dressing gowns. And make it clear they’re there for the guests by placing them neatly folded on the bed. If you’ve got wood or stone flooring, you might also want to provide some slippers.
And as it’s Christmas, go the extra mile with a bottle of sparkling wine, a small box of chocolates and a few magazines to help them get into the festive mood. Remember, a happy and relaxed guest is an easy guest.
At this time of year, you can assume something will go wrong. Extra guests will arrive uninvited, kids will have accidents at night or an aunt will announce a previously unknown allergy.
Be prepared with your emergency options like inflatable mattresses, hypoallergenic cushions, and fresh sheets. It might also be worth providing guests from out of town with a list of emergency contact numbers and a map of area.
Fixing it up
Before everyone arrives, make sure your home is cleaned from floor to ceiling and everything’s in working order. Your efforts might be destroyed within a few hours of your niece and nephew’s arrival, but it’s worth making the effort beforehand for the perfect Christmas experience.
Once you’ve decorated and sorted the bedrooms, it’s on to the cleaning and repairs. They might not be the most exciting of jobs, but they’re among the most vital. The last thing you need is a boiler emergency on Christmas day leaving a house full of freezing cold relatives.
Start with a thorough clean – it’s worth hiring a professional cleaning team for a deep clean of everything from carpets and curtains to fridges and ovens.
The kitchen should be a focus as this is where the action will happen in December. A dirty oven that’s constantly on could start to smell. And you don’t want an outbreak of food poisoning because you’ve got old food in the fridge.
You’ll also need to create space in the fridge, freezer and cupboards for all the additional food you’ll need to feed your guests, so be ruthless.
If you’ve got young guests arriving, try and create an area for wet shoes and coats. They might not all fit in your regular store cupboard or racks, so clear some space in the utility room to save them from tramping their dirt through your freshly cleaned home.
Finally, get all those repairs done that you’ve been putting off – from the small things like squeaky floorboards that are going to be trodden on more than ever, to bigger projects like getting the boiler serviced.
Remember, there’s going to be a lot of pressure on your central heating system from heating every room to endless showers and baths. Not to mention washing machines and dishwashers constantly on the go. If you’ve got any doubts any of these can cope, get them fixed or replaced before things become a problem, not after.
After that, sit back and enjoy the festive period and the company of friends and relatives. Merry Christmas!