Source for this image here.
Do you have a home that says "welcome"?
Of course, most of us don't live in a house like the one in the pictured above, painted by Victorian artist Helen Allingham. But even so - even if you live in a humble apartment, like we do - you can still create a home that you're always glad to come back to, and where those who enter it feel cherished, nurtured and welcomed.
You don't need to spend much money on creating a welcoming environment in your home. And once you've got yourself into a routine you don't need to spend much time on it either. Just looking at your home through new eyes can help you to see where you can make a few simple, creative changes that will ensure a warm welcome for everyone - family and friends - that comes through your front door. Here are a few ideas that I've used, to help to create home that is truly where our hearts are.
In The Kitchen ...
Everyone knows that good scents coming from a kitchen say you're expecting them! It doesn't have to be a fancy meal - a loaf of bread, coffee, cookies or cake, a simmering casserole or a roasting chicken all smell so enticing. At this time of year especially, I do think warm scents of home cooking say "welcome" more than anything else does. However, I also think that a fresh clean scent like washing powder or polish can be welcoming too. It sends a message that you care about your home and the people in it, and that's always a lovely touch.
It can be hard to stay on top of keeping the kitchen tidy, especially if you have a tiny kitchen and lots of visitors! For this reason I do try to keep the amount of "stuff" on the worktops to a minimum. It isn't always possible however, in our tiny kitchen, so what I do try to do is at least keep similar things together - so that it doesn't give off too much of an aura of chaos! If you're really busy and have every single surface covered, the next best thing you can do is sit your guests down with a cup of tea and chat to them as you finish your work. Sometimes, if it's one of the cubs, I'll give them a chore to do with me like peeling potatoes, or kneading bread. That way everyone's busy and no one notices the muddle.
If you need to get the kitchen looking welcoming in a hurry and it's in a muddle, I suggest just sweeping the floor. That one thing can make a big difference to how cared-for it looks, and how prepared you appear! If you have enough time, wipe down the worktops. And if you've even more time, then why not empty your waste bin, wipe down your appliances, and spray some air freshener around the room or light a candle? I tend to avoid candles during the day - I love them, but they aren't safe when our birds are around (either to breathe, or to fly near) and I always worry that I'll forget to extinguish them once we leave the room. So instead, I use battery operated ones - the light they give is almost the same as a real candle, so they still lend that lovely warm glow which instantly makes any room feel cosier.
In The Living Room ...
Make sure all your chairs are clear to sit down on. I am quite particuar about this - we don't have anything left on chairs or tables (other than ornaments that are there all the time). This instantly means that it always seems as if we're ready for guests, even if we weren't expecting them! If you don't have enough seats for all your visitors, large cushions can work, especially for younger guests, or use your dining chairs. Failing that, there's always the floor - if you have teenagers, they'll probably sit there first anyway - ours do! Try to keep things like magazines and newspapers off the furniture. I do always feel it's nice for Papa Bear to have the newspaper to read when he gets home from work though, so I leave it by the chair where he likes to sit in the evenings.
Cut down on tidying up time in living rooms by keeping your ornaments and trinkets to a minimum. I know I have spoken about this before but it's true - every single ornament is yet another item to pick up and dust, and the fewer you have, the faster you will be able to whizz around your living room. I've grouped the ornaments we have together into one or two places, leaving the rest of the room quite bare. It looks cosy and welcoming, but it's easy to stay on top of the dusting.
When we have visitors, unless they're invited especially to watch a film or football match, for example, we turn off the TV. It's just bad manners to have it playing away in the background when you've invited someone to spend time with you. Similarly, don't answer the telephone (unless of course it's something really urgent) - use the answerphone, or ignore it. It's rude to speak to someone on the phone (or text) when you have a guest with you.
Make sure the room is warm enough - or in hot weather, cool enough! There's nothing more uncomfortable for your guests than having to spend their visit in a temperature that isn't pleasant for them. If they are use to a different climate than the one in your living room then make provision for this - cosy throws if they need to be warmer, or a fan and open windows for them to sit near, if they are going to feel too warm.
If you have pets, make sure your guests are happy to share the room with them. Some people dislike certain animals - we have family who dislike our birds being too close to them, and personally we prefer not to be too near to dogs or cats, when indoors (though we love them outside). We make sure the birds are shut in their cage if we have our family members visiting that would rather they didn't have to get too close to them! Animal smells can be very unwelcoming, and you may not notice them as much as your guests do. Ask someone close to you to be honest and tell you whether your home smells of your pets - even birds have a particular scent, which I happen to love, but our visitors may well not agree - and make certain to eliminate any odours, if necessary. Also be aware that some pets, especially furry ones, can cause allergies. Do warn your guests if they haven't visited before, and make sure to damp-dust thoroughly before they come.
In The Bathroom ...
It goes without saying that a bathroom should always be immaculate, for your family as much as for your guests. It really doesn't take much work at all to keep a bathroom clean and tidy. If you clean it every day then it really only takes a few minutes to stay on top of it. Dust, wash down all surfaces, shine the mirrors, bleach the toilet, brush or wipe the floor down, and tidy up. If you do this every day the bathroom is easy to keep organised.
Another little touch that I think makes the bathroom always welcoming is to make sure there are plenty of clean, dry, fluffy towels. Now we don't have much spare money to spend on fancy features for our home, so although our towels are always clean and fluffy, they don't necessary match! The thing is to make sure everything looks cared for - not necessarily co-ordinated but as if you have intended it to be where it is found. I also try to make sure that there is always some nice soap for people to use when they wash their hands. It just looks like someone cares!
In The Bedrooms ...
Unless you are inviting people to sleep over, your bedrooms are probably the rooms that other people are least likely to see. For this reason I do actually try to make sure that our bedroom doors are always kept shut. It's a way of delineating the private areas of our home from the more public areas that our guests are welcome in. I like to go into everyone's rooms (check with older children - in our home, bedrooms are private places even for family members - everyone needs a personal space of their own) and make sure that the beds are nicely made up, and that the room seems clean and welcoming. I don't clean our children's bedrooms any more, and again if you have older children, their idea of tidy may not be yours! As long as the agreed standards for tidiness that everyone adheres to are being met, it is up to the owner of the bedroom to have it how they want.
If you do have guests spending the night with you, then make sure that you've prepared the room they are sleeping in so that it's really welcoming. As with the living room, be sure that the room is the right temperature, and make extra bedding or fans available if necessary. Nice touches for a guest room include toiletries for your guest, tissues or a pretty handkerchief, a few books they might like, a Bible, perhaps a small radio or CD player. Make sure they have somewhere to put their clothes - hangers are useful, and somewhere for them to put their personal things. If you don't have a spare room and your guests are going to be borrowing someone else's bed (as happens with us) then make sure you've made all the necessary arrangements so that no one feels inconvenienced, or as if they're imposing! And always make sure you've put clean bedclothes on the bed!
Emilie Barnes has written several really lovely books about how to make your home more welcoming - including one called "Welcome Home". This is a beautiful, inspiring book that features pictures of Emilie's own home and focuses, as I have tried to, on each room of the house. It has lots more ideas in it than I've shared here, so if you can track down a copy (it is out of print now) then do buy it if you can! It's definitely helped me to think creatively about how to make our home more welcoming - without having to spend lots of money.