If you are like me, holidays seem to arrive out of nowhere and suddenly I'm expecting a house full of relatives and wondering when I'm going to get the food shopping in. It's the same every year: I hear my inner voices - I seem to have many - excited about seeing the family but acknowledging that there aren't enough beds, the bathroom's a bit scruffy, menus are complicated by vegan and low-carb diets, and wondering how to entertain this motley crew.
Of course, it all gets sorted out, and I wouldn't have it any other way. But there is a smarter means to a happy ending, and that is to prepare what you can in advance.
Start by looking around the house with someone else's eyes. This is a good time for a general freshening. A good place to begin is with the bathroom that your guests will be using. No need to renovate; you can accomplish a miracle in a day or less. Modern or old-fashioned, the style is irrelevant. Bathrooms are meant to be clean, clean, clean. The black mold and mildew spots clinging to tile grout are seriously offensive. If bleach doesn't work, or if the grout is breaking away, then look at re-grouting. There are tools available that are designed to run in between the tiles to remove the old grout. Then apply new grout following the instructions on the package. You can stick with white, or tinted is a decorative option if you would like a contrast. Seal the grout; it is porous, so apply a coat, let it sink in, then repeat until the sealant is fully absorbed.
The sink countertop is another feature that can ruin the look and feel of your bathroom if it is shabby. I have a beautiful white-marble countertop that has been stained over the years. Rather than replace this expensive item, I called in the professionals to wet and dry sand, then buff the stains away. Laminate counters that have warped or been stained will require replacing. The new solid-surface materials resist stains, and most can be buffed down like stone.
For the walls, a fresh coat of paint is quick and easy. Clean the wall and then roll on a good quality primer. Look for water-based paint that is designed for bathrooms. They have mold- and mildew-prevention properties. Because the wall space in a bathroom is small, as is the ceiling, here's a good space to experiment with a color or paint treatment that might be too much for a larger room. Why not paint a sky overhead, or a trompe l'oeil skylight, something you'll enjoy while relaxing in the bath?
When choosing a color for the walls, remember that color reflects. It's worth noting that rosy pink and peach tones are flattering, an important feature in the bathroom, with all those mirrors.
Once the bathroom is sparkling clean, it's time to accessorize. Have a large bath towel and hand towel for each guest, along with a special soap and body lotion. Dress up the countertop with an array of washing sponges and natural bath products. These items are not only useful, but will make your company feel pampered. Liquid soap and hand sanitizers are a thoughtful touch at all the sinks in your home, and are available in an assortment of decorative containers.
If space allows, hang a framed poster or whimsical picture. It can be fun or contemplative and will help set the mood.
Debbie Travis' House to Home column is produced by Debbie Travis and Barbara Dingle. Readers may e-mail questions to house2home @debbietravis.com.