How to Make Your Home Guest-Ready in Under 30 Minutes

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neutral modern living room white brick fireplace with bench seating leather footstool

Jessica Nelson Design

We love hosting here at The Spruce, but nothing sends a chill down our spines quite like an unexpected visitor—especially if our space is in no condition to be seen by others. Recently, we spoke to Anna Franklin, interior designer and founder of Stone House Collective, about the particular fear of getting caught in a messy home with a surprise guest just thirty minutes away. 

Fortunately, Franklin was quick to comfort. With suggestions for pieces to buy and ways to make use of what we already own, we’re feeling far more prepared for the next unforeseen pop-by. These small tasks can be done in a matter of minutes and will make the space feel pulled together.

Light a Candle

The first trick to a seemingly guest-ready home? Creating an inviting smell.

"First, light a fragrant candle,” Franklin says. “Many people overlook the power of scent, and lighting candles in your home can instantly set a mood, while also making your space more inviting to guests."

Franklin adds that candles are a wonderful way to give your home seasonally appropriate energy, making your home feel cozy in the winter, energetic in the summer, and everything in between.

Do a Quick Tidying

Next on the list is a quick tidying, tackling any little messes that are easy to straighten out.

“Second, tidy and straighten up anything that can be done quickly," Franklin shares. "If a throw blanket is strewn across the couch from last night's movie evening, fold it and put it back in its storage spot. Fluff any pillows in the seating area, and wipe down the surfaces of the spaces you will be hosting in, such as the living room coffee table or kitchen counters."

Franklin notes that a quick vacuuming will get your space looking fresher than ever. "You can also vacuum the spaces you will be in," she says. "I have found that a quick vacuum can instantly make a space feel cleaner and ready for guests."

Style as You Tidy

As you’re tidying, don’t be afraid to style, too. While Franklin suggests sticking things like blankets back in their storage spot, there are some exceptions.

“I love the texture and warmth that a faux fur throw blanket adds to a space,” she says. “To style it, simply drape it over a chair in a contrasting color for depth, or a similar hue if you are going for a monochrome aesthetic.” 

A console table decorated with bowls full of pinecones, evergreen branches, and firewood

Lemon Leaf Home Interiors

Set Out Some Snacks

The way to your guests' hearts is always through food, so have a few snacks ready for their arrival.

“Third, set out a few snacks," Franklin notes. "Whether you have chips and salsa, pretzels, or a few pieces of cheese and meats, add a 'grazing' platter in the space you will be hosting. Whether you have a bigger meal planned later or not, your guest will appreciate the thought!”

Make Use of That Bar Cart

Bar carts have become a styled-space staple in recent years, and now is the time to thank yourself for stocking yours properly. But even if you don’t have a bar cart, Franklin tells us that nothing will impress your last-minute guests quite like a drinks station.

“Set up a drink station, whether you have a bar cart or not,” she says. “If you don't have a bar cart, use an entry or side table to set out your favorite drinks, and/or ingredients to make easy cocktails.” 

framed art above bar cart

Victoria Bell

Keep Simple Tablescape Pieces on Hand

If your 30-minute prep time includes setting a dinner table, Franklin has a few suggestions for getting prepared now. 

“When setting the table, use simple pieces of what you may already have, such as placemats, a fun tablecloth, or any fun drinkware,” she suggests. “For food, pick a quick appetizer or easy-to-prepare food that doesn’t require cooking or heating. Charcuterie boards are a favorite of ours because you can put them together in minutes, while still looking thoughtful."

And, if by chance you find yourself with a few minutes to spare: “Have cardstock or tent cards on hand to create last-minute name cards, for an easy, yet quick way to elevate your tablescape," Franklin suggests.

friendsgiving tablescape

House of Harvee

Nothing Says ‘Pulled Together’ Quite Like Fresh Flowers

As Franklin points out, freshly cut flowers or greenery are key for making a room look finished and refined.

“If you are really in a hurry, use freshly picked flowers and/or greenery from your backyard to add in different spots of your home,” she says. “If you have flowers, add a vase full of flowers. If you don’t have flowers, opt for clippings of greenery that you can lay in a line running down the center of the table.” 

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Consider These Must-Have Items:

If you’re wondering how you can prep your home now for unexpected guests in the future, Franklin suggests having these four items.

Home Redefined Modern Elegant Rectangle Serving Tray

Home Redefined Modern Elegant Rectangle Serving Tray

Amazon

“A serving tray is a functional and thoughtful accessory to add to your coffee table, adding texture and interest," Franklin says. "Layer in a candle, coasters, or your latest reading material to keep it all organized.”

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Rhytsing Flameless Taper Candles, Set of 4

Flameless Taper Candles

Courtesy of Amazon

“Candleholder sets and tapered candles are typically minimal, making them the perfect accessory to accent for a dramatic tablescape, or simple enough to dress up a mantel without overdoing it," Franklin suggests. "In addition to fitting almost everywhere, a matching set will add a complete, put-together look.” 

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Pottery Barn Wood Gallery Single Opening Frames

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Wood Gallery Single Opening Frames

Courtesy of Pottery Barn

“Whether you’re creating a gallery wall or use them for uniformity throughout a room, matching picture frames will make a space feel designed and pulled together,” Franklin says.

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World Market Gold Mercury Glass Votive Candle Holder Set Of 3

“In addition to making your home feel welcoming and smell wonderful, a candle in a mercury glass jar is shimmery and beautiful even when it hasn’t been lit. After the candle is used, you can keep the jar for storage or simply for decoration as well,” Franklin notes.