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The pampered guest With holidays on the horizon, take steps to make visitors feel right at home

Company coming? Chances are, someone will be sleeping in your bed this holiday season -- or possibly on your pull-out sofa, air mattress or futon.

With holidays come houseguests. It's as predictable as pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving. And while it's entirely possible that a spare blanket and empty couch will do the trick, a little preparation can both calm your nerves and pamper your guests.

If you have a designated guest bedroom, you're a step ahead. Then again, if it has been vacant for six months -- or since your child left for college -- you may have some catching up to do.

Taking on clutter and dust bunnies, for starters.

"The room has to be impeccably clean. There's nothing worse than it being a big dust ball," said Diana Augspurger, owner of Creative Storage, 634 Linden Ave.

Augspurger also said that to treat guests right, the mattress has to be top-notch. Castoff mattresses often end up in the guest bedroom, and that's too bad, she said.

"Your guest bed should be the most comfortable bed in the house, not the least comfortable. I'm a big believer in that," she said.

Think of the best bed you have ever slept in at a bed-and-breakfast, hotel or country inn. The mattress was comfortable. The sheets, crisp and pressed. The comforter, fluffy.

Try to duplicate that at home -- even if it's a matter of replacing old sheets. Or iron the pillow cases and top edges of the nice cotton ones you own -- the part you fold over.

That's what Augspurger does -- and more.

"I use a great down comforter during the winter. When my sister comes (from Venice, Calif.), I can't keep her out of that bed," she said.

The November issue of Southern Living magazine offers the following hotel trick to spoil guests rotten: Triple the sheets.

Here's how: Spread one sheet on the mattress -- the editors suggest over a feather top, which sits on top of the mattress. The other two sheets sandwich a thin, down-filled blanket. Then a heavier down duvet goes on top of all of that.

And there are other hostess tips you can borrow from those who make it their business.

Ramona Pando Whitaker, co-owner of Beau Fleuve Bed & Breakfast, 242 Linwood Ave., said that helping guests to help themselves is an important step in making them feel at home.

At Beau Fleuve, that means robes and coffee-makers in each room and a refreshment center in a common area with cookies always available, as well as juice and soft drinks stored in a mini-refrigerator. And a water cooler.

In your own home, it can be as simple as showing guests how to use the coffee-maker in the kitchen, leaving out mugs and even letting them know the cookie jar is open 24 hours a day.

"You want guests to feel that they can help themselves, that they don't have to pester their hosts," she said.

You can also create a supply basket for guests.

"I keep a small array of things a guest may need but not want to ask for: a good hand lotion, aspirin, backup toothbrush, dental floss, a small scissors, tweezers. I put them in a small basket on a mirrored tray in the room," Augspurger said.

"It keeps them out of my medicine cabinet," she laughed.

The expected arrival of houseguests can be a great motivator -- not only to fix up the spare bedroom with fresh pillows and toiletries but also to pay attention to the bathroom they will be using.

Quick fixes include: replacing old towels with new ones in coordinating colors; caulking the sink and shower; washing or replacing the shower curtain and/or liner; polishing faucets, fixtures and mirrors, and adding a small vase of flowers. You'll also want to supply fresh soaps, of course.

Even those without guest rooms can make their guests feel at home. While air mattresses have become popular in recent years, wall beds -- as in the iconic Murphy bed -- also have made a comeback.

After moving from a four-bedroom house in Kenmore to a two-bedroom condo in Buffalo, that's what Bob and Margaret Zak decided to do.

"I remember seeing one on 'I Love Lucy' or some other old show," Margaret Zak said.

But it wasn't until they saw a contemporary wall bed in the living room of a condo in Longboat Key that she realized its modern-day versatility.

The couple, who has three sons -- two still in college -- chose a full-size Murphy bed that folds up into a white storage cabinet, positioned on a wall in the family room.

They still plan to add some shelving, but the wall bed works out well.

No. 1 candidate for wall beds: Downsizers who want to take advantage of extra bedroom space for a home office.

"They take the extra bedroom and use it for something other than for guests who come just once a year," said Augspurger, whose company offers them.

A wall bed mechanism with cabinet, plus one or two adjacent cabinets, runs about $2,500 to $3,500 -- not including a mattress, she said.

Hosts do run the risk of overdoing it, however.

Many guests -- especially those who can not tolerate fragrances -- will not appreciate a space filled with fragrant candles, potpourri and lavender scented bed linens.

Nor do you want to scare them away.

As humor writer Dave Barry once wrote of overly decorated guest rooms: "If your hostess subscribes to Martha Stewart Living, the guest bed may be so massively fortified with decorative objects that it can be deconstructed for sleeping use only by a licensed interior designer."

His suggestion: "If you, as a guest, encounter such a bed, do NOT approach it. Back slowly out of the room, and sleep on the lawn."

e-mail: smartin@buffnews.com

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