Holidays are a time for friends and family — and overnight guests from out of town. And when you live in a place as exotic as Hawaii, the season for hosting visitors is year-round.
Whether it’s your in-laws from Indiana or a long-lost cousin from Kona, you’ll need to get your home ready to welcome your guests with Hawaii-style hospitality.
The first rule of order is to tidy up your entire home so it’s presentable and then freshen up the guest room — if you have a guest room. Keep it simply furnished and clutter-free.
Top priority is a comfortable bed, according to Jennifer Johnson, co-owner of Pacific Home. Other basics include a chair, a lamp for bedtime reading and an illuminated alarm clock that doubles as a night light. Also essential is a spot to put a suitcase, like a luggage rack, bench or ottoman.
Johnson recommends dressing up the guest bed with crisp white sheets and a duvet, along with accent pillows and shams.
Use your favorite resort accommodations for inspiration, she said.
Lisa Kotero of Kotero Design considers fresh flowers, particularly fragrant varieties, the most inviting element you can add to a guest room. "It shows you care enough to add that special touch," she said.
Other welcoming, local touches include a spritz of linen spray with a nice tropical scent, but make sure the fragrance is not overpowering. Additional touches of hospitality include higher-quality linens, a soft area rug next to the bed, and small indoor fountains to provide a calming sound.
"I always tell my clients that design isn’t just about the way a room looks, but should also appeal to the other senses: smell, touch and sound," she said.
To give your guest room an island feel that mainland guests would appreciate, Kotero suggests a colorful Hawaiian quilt or aloha-print accent pillows.
Jiun Ho, the interior decorator for Hotel Renew, a boutique hotel in Waikiki, outfitted the rooms there in earth tones and a modern style that still convey a natural, island feel. The rooms have shoji screens that can be closed to block light from the windows or opened up to reveal the view.
He envisions the ideal guest room as one that contains "a very, very comfortable bed with luxurious bed linens, maybe a cashmere throw, a candle, fresh-cut flowers and lots of pillows."
While some luxury homes feature a separate guest cottage or attached ohana unit with its own kitchen and bathroom, most folks in Hawaii accommodate guests within a limited space. Spare rooms often do multiple duty as an office, workout gym and guest quarters, and living spaces or kids’ rooms are often turned into temporary visitor accommodations.
If you frequently host guests, Jean Wall and Joan Robinson-Whitaker of Designer for a Day recommend investing in a wall bed for your spare room. It’s more comfortable than a fold-out bed because it uses a regular mattress and doesn’t take up as much space.
Wall beds — also known as Murphy beds — can be mounted vertically or horizontally and come with sophisticated options, including models with storage shelves on both sides and a pull-down table when the bed is stowed away.
Fold-out screens can work as room dividers and as a headboard. In a recent guest room redesign, Wall and Robinson-Whitaker mounted a folding screen — previously used as a window shade — on the wall behind the bed.
Other options for small spaces include a sofa chair that converts into a twin bed, a fold-out futon, or a couch that is large and comfortable enough to serve as a bed.
Ho suggests getting a day bed that can double as both a sofa and sleeping area, accompanied by comfy toss pillows.
"I’m not a big fan of sofa beds," he said. "They’re usually not comfortable, and you always end up with a thin mattress. I’d rather have a deeper sofa with plush cushions to make guests feel comfortable."
An air mattresses can work if your guest is staying only a few nights but not long term. Futons are adequate for children and teens but uncomfortable for most adults.
Sometimes, hosting a guest in a small and confined space might just require more creativity and attention to detail.
Peter Renteria, owner of a one-bedroom condo in Waikiki, has hosted out-of-town guests who sleep on his living room sofa. Before company arrives, he gives the place a thorough cleaning.
"One thing our guests really appreciate are ironed, starched sheets," he said.
Sheets and blankets are folded and put away every morning to restore the room to its primary use. Renteria also likes to stock up on food items so his guests can relax and don’t have to worry about rushing out to the grocery.
"I ask them what they’d like for breakfast ahead of time so we have that when they arrive," he said. "That way, when they get up in the morning, they can tend to themselves."
The key is to make guests comfortable, Renteria added — but not too comfortable or else they might stay too long.
BE THE HOST WITH THE MOST
» Freshly laundered linens and towels are a must. Lay out a towel set for each guest.
» Provide closet space and a few hangers or a place to put guests’ suitcases, like a luggage rack or ottoman.
» Welcome your guests with a fragrant lei or a vase of fresh-cut flowers. Candles are nice, too.
» Provide a tray or bowl where guests can place pocket change or jewelry; a notepad and pen; a few books and magazines; and a power strip for charging cell phones and other devices.
» Window coverings should be adequate for privacy.
» Leave an extra blanket and pillow in case your guest gets chilly at night or needs extra support.
» Stock the bathroom with a basket of shower and personal hygiene essentials and a hair dryer.
» Check on the supply of towels daily, and make sure there are extra rolls of toilet paper and a plunger within easy reach.
» Leave snacks, wine and liquor on a counter or sideboard and a cooler of sodas and water so guests don’t feel like they’re intruding.
» For guests from the mainland, put together a beach bag with essentials including sunscreen, a beach mat, towels and, if there are kids, sand toys.
» Keep extra guest slippers handy for both indoors and outdoors.
» Prepare an information packet that includes how to reach you, important numbers and recommendations for local attractions, shopping and dining.
Sources: Jean Wall and Joan Robinson-Whitaker of Designer for a Day, Jennifer Johnson of Pacific Home, Lisa Kotero of Kotero Design, Jiun Ho of Hotel Renew