Growing up, there wasn’t a lot of extra room in our house. With seven people sharing 1,400 square feet, there was no guest bedroom, and not even a sofa bed to unfold for sleepovers or visiting relatives. When my aunt came to stay with us for awhile, she slept on a mattress on the living room floor. To this day, 35 years later, she occasionally remarks about how unpleasant it was to be trampled each morning by a passel of children.
Martha Stewart would have hated us. Thankfully, I’ve learned since then that throwing a mattress in the middle of a traffic pattern isn’t the best way to care for your overnight guests. There are, in fact, many ways to help your visiting friends and relatives feel special and get a good night’s sleep.
For those who don’t have an extra bed, an airbed can be a comfortable and affordable solution. The airbed of old was basically a giant pool float. Since it had to be blown up by mouth, your guest’s comfort was largely dependent on your lung power. And it also had a propensity for springing leaks, leaving Aunt Millie to sleep half the night on the floor or, as a friend recalled from experience, “with your lighter parts in the air and your heavier parts on the floor.”
Airbeds are easy to find, both locally and online. One area big box store devotes half an aisle to them. Prices range from $20 to $200, depending on size, special features, brand name and whether or not a pump is included. If a pump isn’t included or integrated into the airbed, it can be purchased on the same aisle for $20 to $30.
There are “double high” airbeds that look like a traditional mattress and box springs and some with “sleep zones” for couples with different mattress preferences. There are also versatile “three-in-one” sets that can be used as a double-high twin, two twins or a king-sized bed. Some airbeds even feature an inflatable headboard to really capture the comforts of home.
These airbeds come in the same sizes as regular mattresses, use standard sheets and, when deflated, fit in a container or bag that’s not much bigger than a breadbox, making storage a cinch.
The Cadillac of airbeds is sometimes referred to as an “EZ bed”—an air mattress on a metal frame that magically unfolds and inflates with the flip of a switch in under 3 minutes. When deflated, it is stored on a wheeled case to roll away to the hall closet. While it may be the most bedlike of all the options, it is also likely the most expensive, running anywhere from $250 to $500.
Sofa beds can also be a convenient option for guests. They can also be a little uncomfortable. Your guests may not come to the breakfast table in the best mood if they spent the night with a metal hinge embedded in their hips. A mattress topper can solve this problem. They can also make a humble airbed more luxurious. Prices range from $14 for a simple foam topper to $200 or more for a cushy memory-foam model. There are also feather beds like Granny had, and “down alternative” toppers for those with allergies or an aversion to sleeping on anything to do with plucked poultry. Prices range from $50 to $90 and up.
If you do have an extra bedroom, but it’s been transformed into an office or the scrapbooking studio, a Murphy bed can give you the best of both worlds. Murphy beds, are the pull-down beds that have been known to swallow up people in comedy sketches. In real life, they serve a good purpose. When you don’t need a bed, they hide in a cabinet, closet or wall. When you do need an extra bed, you have one in a matter of seconds—voila!
Murphy beds can be purchased locally for a bit of an investment. These units cost around $2,500 to $3,600. This price doesn’t include a mattress, delivery or installation.
Outfitting Your Guest Beds
Sometimes, the old pillows end up on the guest bed. After all, it’s not used that often, so why put nice new pillows on it? Have you ever really looked at your old pillows? New pillows can be purchased for as little as $10. Be a good host; buy some new pillows for your guests.
The same goes for sheets. Nothing says “I’m glad you’re here” like high-quality, pristine sheets. Good sheets can be expensive, but there are deals to be had at local discount department stores. And don’t forget to wash them a few times to soften them up; no one likes stiff sheets.
Also consider putting an extra blanket or quilt on your guest’s bed, just in case they’re more cold-natured than you are. No one wants their guests scavenging through the linen closet in the middle of the night in search of warm bedding or, worse yet, being mistaken for a burglar. Tackling your guest in the hallway while screaming, “Honey, call 9-1-1!” is another thing that would displease Martha Stewart.
There are many inexpensive but thoughtful things you can do to make your guests feel like they’re staying in a bed and breakfast. Put out current magazines. Light a scented candle and bring out those cute little guest soaps you’ve been waiting to use. Put together a basket of bottled water and snacks in case they get thirsty or have the midnight munchies.
In the end, however, the most important things are free. Whether your guest accommodations consist of a mattress on the floor or a lavish guest suite, the main thing is that you enjoy each other’s company and that your guests feel welcomed and loved. And, of course, not trampled.