When Pence Scurry and her husband, J.P., settled into Columbia soon after they were married, Pence knew that overnight company would become a regular part of her life. “I’m from Lynchburg, Virginia, and am one of four, so I knew we’d be hosting lots of family members,” she says. “JP and I both went to school in Virginia, too, so we tend to have a lot of out-of-town friends visit.”
But Pence doesn’t mind. In fact, she enjoys her guests, often transforming even a short visit into something fun and festive. “When my mom has overnight company, she always comes up with some kind of theme that’s connected to why they’re visiting and uses it in food, decor, and little surprises,” she explains. “It’s a bit of an icebreaker if you don’t know them well and also conveys that you’re excited to have them stay with you. I do it now, too, and it’s a great way to welcome people into your home!”
Beyond creating a celebratory atmosphere, Pence works hard to make sure guests are comfortable and have everything they will need close at hand during their stay. Company stays in either the spare bedroom or in the apartment perched over the garage. Regardless of where she puts her friends and family members, Pence makes sure the room is stocked with extra blankets and pillows, fresh towels, toiletry items — guests tend to forget toothbrushes — a hair dryer, and bottled water. She also clears out space in the closet for hanging clothes.
“Since the apartment has a full kitchen, I’ll fill the fridge with fruit and snacks, coffee and cream, yogurt, beer and wine, sparkling water, and something they can eat in the morning if they get up before we do,” she says.
Pence’s planning goes beyond creature comforts. “I usually pull our weekend activities into a schedule and send it out ahead of time,” says Pence. “People like to know what to expect. If the kids are doing something special or will spend time with a sitter, I put that in the schedule as well.”
Sunny and McIver Leppard have also used their experience hosting friends and family to streamline the process. Like Pence, Sunny works out an itinerary that she can send ahead of time. “That little bit of time on my part helps them figure out what they need to pack,” she says. “It also helps me! We recently had friends spend the night, and the next morning, we had to take one of our children to an early morning birthday party. Writing down the schedule reminded me to have something in the freezer that we could pull out for an easy breakfast while we scooted around to get ready.” And while child-centric events like birthday parties sometimes occur on the same weekend the Leppards are hosting overnight company, Sunny does not worry about leaving her friends alone for a bit. “Everyone needs a little down time,” she says. “We also tend to hire a sitter one night so we can enjoy our friends without being distracted.”
The Leppards’ overnight guests stay in a dedicated guest room that shares a Jack-and-Jill bath with an upstairs office, offering privacy and quiet. In addition to a queen-sized bed, the space is outfitted with two nightstands — each with its own lamp — a television, a place to stash suitcases, and the home’s Wi-Fi code. A beverage center in the downstairs den makes it easy to grab anything from a beer to a soda, and the house is always stocked with ready-to-go snacks for hungry guests. Sunny also keeps the coffee maker out, with instructions for early risers on how to operate it.
“I want our friends to come back, so I try to keep it casual,” she says. Her strategy seems to be working; when her guests depart, Sunny immediately organizes the room for the next set of visitors. “We do have a lot of company, and it’s so much easier when the guest room is cleaned up and ready to go,” she explains.
When Bridgett and Lee Tupper moved back to Columbia from Charlotte in 2015, they found themselves hosting numerous friends and family in their three-bedroom, one-bath bungalow. “Having one bathroom makes it interesting when you have houseguests,” Bridgett says with a laugh. Still, she thinks through what guests might need and has dedicated a drawer to thoughtful items like a hair dryer, makeup mirror, and face wipes. In the bedroom, a white-noise fan offers a bit of seclusion along with a cooling breeze; bottled water and a cup, a luggage rack, closet space, and room-darkening blinds create a comfortable, welcoming space.
But the bed provides the real luxury, with special pillows and sheets so lovely that they’re reserved for guests. Bridgett even irons those sheets and pillow cases, a practice she learned from her mother. “You really can tell the difference,” she says. “Even though I don’t use starch, they’re crisper and softer than unironed sheets.” To finish the bed, Bridgett folds the top sheet down over the bedspread, revealing the smooth cotton. “My mother does it for me, so I started doing it for her,” explains Bridgett. “Now I do it for all of our guests.”
Ensuring that her guests have everything they want is so important to Bridgett, a non-coffee drinker, that she purchased a coffee maker and keeps coffee, cream, and sweetener on hand. The guest room’s luggage rack was a birthday gift from her mother-in-law. “It’s truly what I wanted,” she says.
Anna and Seth Rose also try to anticipate the needs of their guests, filling their guest room with necessary items like hangers, an alarm clock, extra razors, and a phone charger. “A phone charger is the one thing people seem to leave at home,” says Anna. “Since our friends usually fly in and don’t check luggage, they need things like shampoo, so we try to have all of those items on hand as well.” She used to keep a stash of lunch items, but realized her guests, most of whom are college friends of Seth’s who have moved far from Columbia and USC, prefer to go out. “All they really want to do is eat what they ate in college, so they head straight for Groucho’s!” she says smiling. “We live close to Five Points and the campus, so we let them use our bikes to get there and ride around. But actually, they’re welcome to anything we have!”
Help for Hosts
First time hosting? Here’s how to make guests feel welcome:
• Help guests know what to pack by creating an itinerary for their stay and noting what to wear.
• Set out fresh towels, toilet paper, tissue, and bars of soap in the bathrooms; put clean sheets on the bed and fill a small basket with a few snacks, drinks, and necessities. Line the trash can with a bag to make it easy to empty, and stash a roll of paper towels and extra toilet paper under the sink.
• Ask about preferences for food, drinks, and room temperature.
• If you turn on your burglar alarm at night, let your guests know and place yellow sticky notes on door knobs.
• Place fresh greenery or flowers in their room, as well as a pitcher (or bottles) of water and glasses.
• Even if you have planned a big breakfast, make it easy for early risers to grab coffee and a snack. A map of the neighborhood will make it easy for them to get in their morning walk or run.
• Write down the Wi-Fi code and put it in their room. Instructions for TV remotes are also helpful.
Being a Good Houseguest 101
Take the guesswork out of being a good houseguest with these expert and thoughtful tips:
• Be on time. Hosts put time and effort into planning meals and fun activities. If you typically walk or run in the morning, get it done before it interferes with the schedule.
• If children or pets are not specifically included in the invitation, they should be left at home.
• Items like an umbrella, a short extension cord, and Band-Aids do not take much space and will keep your hosts from having to hunt them down.
• Avoid possibly staining washcloths with makeup by either bringing your own or packing disposable wipes.
• Not sure where to put your glass of water? Ask for a coaster.
• Before you leave, wipe out the sink and empty the bathroom trash can. A final check for cell-phone chargers, books, eyeglasses, and clothing will keep your hosts from taking a trip to the post office.
• Concerning what to do about the bed, some hosts will want you to strip it — remove all the sheets and pillowcases and pile neatly at the end of the bed on top of the bedspread, which (with the pillows) should be made up as usual. Other hosts prefer to deal with the sheets themselves.
• Always bring a hostess gift. The amount you spend on a hostess gift should be somewhat influenced by the length of your stay.
• Discuss food allergies ahead of time.
• Be prepared for down time with reading material or quiet computer games.
• Offer to pay for, or split, restaurant meals, and drinks. If you will not be going out, discuss meals ahead of time and how you can contribute. And offer to help clean up if your hostess cooks for you.
• Be aware of your presence. Don’t leave shoes under your chair, empty glasses on the coffee table, or your coffee mug on the kitchen counter. Refold the newspaper after you have read it.