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Jura Koncius and Terri Sapienza
Washington Post Home Staff
Thursday, December 11, 2008; 11:00 AM

Home Front is an online conversation between two Washington Post Home Section writers and their readers about the best way to feather the nest. Every week, Jura Koncius and Terri Sapienza help you in your quest to achieve domestic bliss. They were online Thursday, December 11.

A transcript follows.

You may also browse an archive of previous Home Front discussions.

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Jura Koncius: Hey everyone. Terri is on her way. Meanwhile, let's chat. First of all take a look at my story on Guest Rooms from today's Home section -- Elizabeth is going to post it. I got an email from someone today saying that the ideas are too over the top -- that it's too much like a 5-star hotel to provide hypo-allergenic pillows, water and a variety of clothes hangers. What do you guys think?

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Jura Koncius: And here's one more thing I want to throw out there. I recently got to visit the adorable apartment of our producer Elizabeth Terry. She had an amazing accent wall painted in Benjamin Moore Vermilion which totally rocks. I asked who her painter was -- the talented Don Terry, her dad... Check out this brilliant shade of red.

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washingtonpost.com: Be Our Guest (Post Home Section, Dec. 11)

Jura Koncius: Check this out! One friend emailed me that she has posted this article on her fridge to inspire her to spiff up her guest room before her visitor arrives from Hawaii for the inauguration!

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Anonymous: This question is for Kathy Orton, where can you purchase the White House Christmas Ornaments that you spoke of and had pictures of in the 11/28 Weekend section?

THANK YOU

washingtonpost.com: The ornament pictured in Orton's recent Weekend article can be ordered from the White House Historical Assn.

Jura Koncius: Thank you Elizabeth!

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Fairfax, Va.: Hello! Wondering if you could suggest a nice Orange color for a small bedroom. There is only one window in the room so it tends to be very dark and I want to lighten it up with a nice orange. I am thinking more Starburst orange (very light) versus the color of the fruit.

Thanks!

Jura Koncius: I love the idea of Starburst colors. Yum. C2's Tangerine is a nice shade. What about Apricot Flower by Behr?

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Washington, D.C.: Every year my husband and I host the Christmas dinner. The guests consist of 4 sons (my stepsons) and their wives and kids. One daughter (our daughter) with spouse and kids. One single stepdaughter. Maybe one daughter in-law will offer to help clean the kitchen. How do I handle soliciting help to clean the dishes and kitchen?

Jura Koncius: What a great question! I wonder how old the kids are -- are they old enough to be given a clean up task. We attended a Thanksgiving Dinner of lots of different families and singles -- 16 in all. There were two teenage boys and one daughter in her 20s. We politely asked if those three would clear the table after dinner -- which they all did very nicely. One thing you could do is to ask your husband to make an announcement after dessert that you all would appreciate some help in the kitchen from both women and men to get the job done quickly. Let's get a conversation going about this -- I have been at plenty of holiday dinners with lots of bad feelings when nobody offers to help or the same women are scrubbing pots every year!

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House Calls: looks very nice today. I like the way the pictures were hung around the TV. I've got to do something on the wall the TV is against in my rec room, and I can see now what I've been doing wrong. I keep testing out hanging long pictures above the TV. Looks so much nicer to frame it with several pictures. Thanks!

washingtonpost.com: House Calls: Lighten Up (Post Home Section, Dec. 11)

Jura Koncius: Thank you!

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Bethesda, Md.: Good morning! I would like to choose a yellow or blue paint color for our first baby's nursery. I wanted to see if you have recommendations for good shades to use, that would look good with wooden furniture that's kind of chestnut in tone. Thanks!

Jura Koncius: I wonder if the baby is a boy or a girl... For yellow, what about Benjamin Moore Moonlight? For Blue -- BM's Blue Angel is nice and pale.

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Guest rooms: I have to agree, I think most of the suggestions were way over the top. This is not the time of year when a lot of us have an extra $500 to spiff up a room for guests who stay one night. Of course, I have to beg my husband to clean all of his stuff off the top of the bed and the area around it so his parents have room to sleep!

Jura Koncius: Well, you got it. A number of pointers mention use-what-you-have. Decluttering the guest room is one thing everyone should do and make room for your guest's stuff in the closet and in a drawer or two if you can. Otherwise make a place for them to put their suitcase. Just washing everything and vacuuming under the bed is a good thing to do to make the room look better. Buying a $5.99 plant won't kill you either!

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Omaha, Neb.: I may not take every bit of advice in the "Guest Room" feature, but I LOVED the idea of putting a framed picture of you and your current guest in the room. I have tons of photos and it will be really easy to rotate pictures. Also, my mom has forever been in the habit of saving nice hotel shampoos and soaps for guest room use -- it always seemed nicer than throwing in a half-used bottle of Herbal Essence or whatever else is laying around the house.

Jura Koncius: You are so right! Putting little bottles of hotel shampoo and lotion in the room is welcoming and fun and soooo much cuter than, as you said it -- a half used up bottle of your own shampoo leftovers!!!

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P.G., Md.: To Washington DC hostess:

Disappear into the kitchen. Have your husband say while glaring at his children:

My wife, your mother and step-mother, worked very hard to put this together. She needs help. I am going to the kitchen now to scrub the pans. I expect several of you to follow; I raised you well.

Jura Koncius: LOVE THAT!!!

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helping: guests often don't know the household habits and hesitate to push. You can kindly ask each person to do something specific. Many folks perfer to be the boss of their own kitchen and don't want people intruding, so the host needs to let guests know. And not just women!

Jura Koncius: Totally cool.

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Silver Spring: While I'm not about to spend $$$ on hypoallergenic pillows, the least you could do is buy a good pillow liner. They make liners that lock in the allergens.

If you travel a lot, save your unused hotel soaps and shampoos to place in a basket for your guests. If you don't, the $1 bin at the drug store often has sample sizes for travelers. Small toothpaste is always a good idea. It's the one thing people seem to forget. An unopened, packaged toothbrush is nice to have around as well.

It is certainly over the top to make sure you have every last little item (robes?), still, it's helpful to know how our spare rooms can be improved for guests. Mine needs a lot of work, like a bedside reading light. Fortunately, our guests aren't picky!

Jura Koncius: The point of the article was to get you thinking about what little things you could do, not make a shopping list for you to spend hundreds of dollars. Everyone can improve the room they have in some way -- and love your idea of the pillow liners -- it's icky to be at someone's house and when you take off the pillow cases to toss in the laundry -- find that the pillows themselves look ratty.

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Under the bed boxes?: My room is small so I put my bed on lifts to make more storage. The boxes will be visible so I don't want them to be an eyesore. Are there any inexpensive but pretty looking storage boxes out there? I was also thinking of getting the clear ones and lining the insides with contact paper. Would that work?

Jura Koncius: That is a lovely idea -- lining the boxes. I think Target and Wal-mart have the best prices on those boxes - Container Store and Bed Bath & Beyond may have more variety. Putting wallpaper or wrapping paper around the inside -- is a good idea -- and yes, Contact paper would work also.

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you all would appreciate some help in the kitchen from both women and men: Thank you. In my family all genders contribute a little. At my in-laws', the men go relax while the women clean, which is one reason I hesitate to offer to help, I can't support that unfair system.

Jura Koncius: Yeah!

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Jura Koncius: A quick shopping tip -- I visited the Downtown Holiday Market, which is a seasonal tent village of shops set up on F Street between 7th and 9th Sts NW. I saw neat bird houses, jewelry, pottery, metal work, fashion, etc. It's through Dec 23 from noon to 8 pm daily. More info at www.downtowndc.org. A nice way to support small artisans and find some unique stuff. Any other holiday shopping ideas out there?

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For the help-less hostess: I was at a church dinner on Tuesday night where at a table with eight people, two plates had been marked with little stickers. Those people who ate from the stickered plates were assigned to clear dishes. I'm guessing that D.C. isn't using paper plates, but you could put little stickers underneath the plates and then it's a game and completely random. I liked it.

Jura Koncius: Another terrific idea. Love these.

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Holiday cleaning: They're your kids - just ask them to help you. Better yet, divvy up the things you need done, like scraping plates, washing, drying, putting away and assign them tasks so it flows faster for everyone. It's not like you're hosting a party for people you don't know very well; they're your family.

Jura Koncius: Very true. Here's an idea. Write all the clean-up tasks on slips of paper and put them in a colorful bowl. Pass it around the table after dinner and you have to perform the task you select from the bowl.

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Under the bed boxes: Ikea has cardboard under-the-bed boxes in pretty designs.

Jura Koncius: Wonderful.

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No Dessert Until the Dishes are Clean!: That's one suggestion.

Another is to get everyone to bring their dishes into the kitchen and then commence a juicy conversation. Just make sure it isn't too controversial, else the glassware could start flying!

Another, with family, would be to do a lottery. Those who draw even numbers have to set the table, serve and clear. Those who draw odd numbers must clean up.

Jura Koncius: More great ideas. I admit that it's not very GREEN, but I always use a disposable aluminum pan for the turkey at holiday time. This is to prevent an argument over who will scour the pan. Also, my husband would stay up until midnight scouring and polishing one pan -- he's just that way.

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Guest room: Don't forget to put a small trash can in the guest room. And tissues. I can't tell you how many houses I've stayed in that forget these details!

Also, I second the hotel toiletries. In her guest bathroom, my mother-in-law always has a basket with assorted ones, including shampoo, conditioner, soap, disposable razor, deodorant, feminine products, Band-Aids, cotton swabs, toothpaste, toothbrush, etc. It's nice to display this in a basket on a shelf that's visible/obvious to the guest, yet semi-concealed (so you're not staring at all this stuff while you're in the rest room!).

Jura Koncius: You are so on target. I think every bedroom should have its own trash can, even if the adjoining bathroom has a trash can. Tissues are a must too. An alarm clock is a nice touch as well.

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Annapolis, Maryland: I have just about frayed my last nerve trying to find spiffy daybed quilts/comforters/pillows. There are sooo many beautiful fabrics being used for the bedroom. Why can't manufacturers consider those of us who use daybeds? And, yes, I could make my own -- but I won't. Any suggestions? Thanks for letting me vent.

PS Re: "five-star" hotel comment: so -- this is bad?!

Jura Koncius: Ha! Love the comment at the end...

Meanwhile, by daybed size -- are you talking about a twin size daybed?

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help: A big bottleneck in group dishwashing is always access to the trash can. Empty the trash before dinner. When you go in to wash, with helpful family members following you with their plates full of bones and napkins, first thing take out the trash and set it in the middle of the floor, open.

This will keep them from feeling like they are standing there awkwardly in a place where they don't have anything to do (because they can't get to the trash).

Station an assistant to direct each person to a washing station as soon as they dump their trash.

Jura Koncius: Love the trash patrol and washing station ideas!

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fluff question?: Hello fine ladies: I'm wondering if throw pillows have a shelf life, so to speak. When I moved into my big girl apartment in 2004, I went on a pillow-buying spree and although I'm bored to death with them now I still use most of them. Some have held up perfectly well while some are really lumpy or limp. I'm asking my husband to take me pillow shopping for Christmas, so is there a certain fill that I should look for that won't lump or limp out? A certain kind to avoid? Thanks!!

Jura Koncius: It may be time to go on another pillow-buying spree. The good news is that pillows don't have to be expensive. This summer, I got my son amazingly nice pillows for $9.99 and $14.99 at the Ralph Lauren Outlet. January is the time for sales of pillows. The expense comes if you want real down, vs. down and feathers vs. foam. Lumpy or limp pillows are no fun so upgrade yourself a few at a time, if you can't afford another spree right now!

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guest rooms: To me, the very best thing you can provide a guest is an ample supply of clean, fresh towels. I hate it when someone expects me to use the same fusty towel for three days, especially since there's usually nowhere to hang it that really allows it to air-dry.

I often claim I've spilled something on my shirt and ask my hostess for permission to do laundry. Then I throw in the towels.

Jura Koncius: Very good suggestion. Providing a good place to hang towels for your guest is important, if you are all sharing one bath. Sometimes you can put hooks on the back of a bedroom door or put an old-fashioned wooden towel rack in the room.

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my husband would stay up until midnight scouring and polishing one pan - he's just that way. : does he have a brother?

Jura Koncius: He does. He lives in the Hamptons but I am afraid he might not share this obsession.

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Guest bedrooms: Don't forget the earplugs! Some guests may not be used to your house noises, snoring, loud rowhouse neighbors, or neighborhood sirens.

Jura Koncius: Good idea. You can get a pair on some airlines on overseas flights -- get an extra package for your guest room.

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Cleaning Up After Dinner: We sometimes go to my sister's in-laws for Thanksgiving meals. Her mother-in-law gives everyone a job to do at some point during the evening, and she's specific about what she wants. One person will be asked to wash dishes and put them on a table for her to put away later. Someone else might be asked to be in charge of cleaning up garbage and taking out to the trash after the meal. I think it's great. I don't feel like I'm barging in on her kitchen, and I don't have to interrupt her to ask "what can I do" to feel helpful. And no one person ends up doing it all.

Jura Koncius: Amen.

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Under the bed boxes: Adding a tailored bed skirt would hide everything, plus give the bed a more polished look.

Jura Koncius: Yes. Very polished.

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Contact paper on boxes: The clear plastic boxes would be a nightmare to line. They have rounded corners with multiple angles. In addition, contact paper is sticky on the opposite side of the decoration. Buy decorative boxes instead or get a long dust skirt.

Jura Koncius: True.

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Maryland: My question: How on earth can you know by memory all those paint colors out there?? :)

Jura Koncius: Our dirty little secret is that we have a HUGE file drawer full of fandecks from all the major paint companies.

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Preparing the Guest Room: We have it down to a routine: put the clean laundry away, put the ironing board away, dust the TV and the bookshelves, clean the guest bathroom, stock the bar, 'cause family's coming.

Jura Koncius: You've got a great routine down.

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Holiday Cleanup: At our house there are around 12-15 adults on any given holiday. The way we do it is whoever doesn't cook, has to clean. If everyone does some part of cooking or set up, they are responsible for cleaning up after themselves and then everyone is responsible for clearing their own dishes and putting them in the dishwasher (or completely cleaning them if the china).

Jura Koncius: It sounds totally fair.

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Alexandria, Va.: Can you recommend a good neutral for a living room that shares space with a stairwell painted in Ralph Lauren Dressage Red? We currently have the living room painted in a beige that's too much on the yellow side.

Terri Sapienza: Take a look at Benjamin Moore's Natural Wicker or Restoration Hardware's Linen.

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Washington, D.C.: My living room: hardwood floors, ice blue walls, white trim, not much else. My custom mini-blinds have arrived from JC Penney and the color is so much more blue than I imagined. They are NOT returnable. How can I make peace with these blinds that scream BLUE? Thank you!!!

Terri Sapienza: You might be able to soften them up a little by hanging neutral colored curtain panels as well.

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Doing the dishes: My mother always felt that the host and hostess' responsibility was to entertain the guests and not disappear into the kitchen for clean up, or even worse, ask guests to wash dishes. So, the dishes would pile up after dinner, the door would close, and everyone would go into the living room to continue the festivities.

Then, after everyone left, we would all do as much cleaning as we could stand and leave the rest for the morning. This seemed to be the pattern at other homes we went to as well.

On the other hand, among immediate family, everyone helps out, although the cleaning up is still left to the very end of the night.

Jura Koncius: That's funny you should mention that. My parents were always having parties when I was growing up. As the eldest child, I remember helping my mom clear the table as the guests went into the living room for brandy, coffee and yes, cigarettes -- it was the 1960s after all. Think Mad Men with the women in sheath silk dresses with teased up hair!

My mom didn't think it was appropriate to clean while the guests were there -- or to ask them to help. So we usually did the dishes after the party. I admit that today, I don't let my guests clean up after a party but I have been known to leave dishes until the next morning. So what -- who is going to arrest you? The taste police?

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Silver Spring: Loved the guest room article, but I agree that some of the suggestions were over the top. One thing I always provide and appreciate in a guest room is a clock -- an easy-to-read alarm clock. Also, speaking of allergies, if you want to use down bedding, have an alternative for guests who are allergic to down.

Jura Koncius: Thanks.

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Limp/lumpy pillows: Instead of buying new pillows (although it might be nice to have a couple new ones), if they are a fairly standard size and shape, perhaps the writer should look into replacing the pillow form inside. JoAnns has these on sale fairly often.

Jura Koncius: You could. Although pillows are so inexpensive you would have to see if it is worth it. Also, you could try to freshen them up in the dryer.

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Reston: Re: storage boxes that look nice

They have tons at Ikea. I got some pretty brown and white flowered ones that I get compliments on in my office!

Jura Koncius: I'm going there.

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Southern Maryland: Where are those sofa table lamps plugged in on the House Calls design? I always wonder that when I see those lamps behind the sofa with no walls with apparent outlets nearby.

Also, are white cabinets ever considered "out of date"? I am a huge fan of craftsman/arts & crafts-style kitchens with white cabinets, warm, dark wood floors, and dark colored islands. However, I want to make sure this design is not often deemed old fashioned if I decide to make this design change in my home.

Terri Sapienza: I'm not sure about the house in today's House Calls, but sometimes houses have outlets in the floors rather than the walls.

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Fresh towels daily?: I know I know, but does anyone else agree with me that people have maybe gotten too accustomed to HGTV and 5-star travel shows (if not 5-star hotels) that they expect wayyy too much as houseguests? Sure, hosts should do their best to make house guests comfortable, but guests should do their best to be good sports, and sincerely grateful to be offered shelter and company at a friend's home. Clean digs, space to put luggage and stuff? Yes. Trash can? Makes sense. Shampoo? Maybe. But new linens daily? Why not ask for VIP concert tickets, reservations at Nobu, a massage and room service while you're at it? Where's your generous guest spirit?

Jura Koncius: I'll take the massage.

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somewhere in South Jersey: Hello! Folks are always asking about creamy white paint colors... I love TUSK by Behr... I have used it on doors, windows, ceilings, woodwork, and walls in my little 80-year-old cottage, which does not get a lot of natural light. It is not too yellowy, green, brown or gray, which I found was the problem with the many paints I considered... This is my opinion; I don't work for Behr!!

Love your chats!!!!!!

Terri Sapienza: Thanks for the tip.

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for person hiding boxes under bed: Why not just get a pretty bed skirt to hide the boxes? That way you don't have to worry about what they look like.

Jura Koncius: Yes.

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"Help": We visited my stepdaughter for Thanksgiving -- she hosted 15, more or less, adults. Of course we helped in the few days prior, but when we arrived T'giving morning, on the counter was a list of chores (tidy bathrooms, pick up clutter, locate and rinse serving dishes, etc.) headed "Hey, Erin, how can I help?" So easy -- pick one and DO IT!

Jura Koncius: Wow!

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Why?: Don't like the "game" ideas to get people to help you clean up. You're the hostess, they're the guests. Just clean it up. I wouuld never ask anyone that I invited to my house to help clean up. If they offer, I decline. I've hosted T-Day the last two years and have the kitchen cleaned up in a jiffy. I jam everything I can into the dishwasher, wash the pots and pans (or leave them for later) Then I go relax with everyone else. No biggie.

Jura Koncius: There seem to be a lot of differing opinions out thereabout this. I actually do not like to put on my dishwasher while guests are still there -- to me it looks like you are trying to get rid of them. But if your house is big enough so that the dishwasher is out of earshot, then I guess it is okay.

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get them to help: Make it easy for them to help. Before you sit down at the table to eat, make sure the sink and drying rack are empty and there is plenty of open space on the counter. Have multiple clean dishcloths or sponges at the ready. Have a stack of clean dish towels and set them out right next to the place where wet dishes will go. Think "conveyor belt." Men especially will appreciate an EFFICIENT factory operation.

Jura Koncius: Those are excellent suggestions. Plenty of clean towels for drying is essential. And love the conveyor belt concept.

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P.G., Md.: Can you provide some suggestions on the best way to camouflage a flat panel TV? I've got a lot of books in my living/dining room/library and the TV screen looks like a black abyss. I like watching TV... but I don't like looking at the black hole when it's not on.

washingtonpost.com: Must-See TV (Post Home Section, Jan. 31)

Terri Sapienza: Does it hang on a wall? Sit on a console? Stand in built-in bookshelves? It would help me answer to know where it currently sits.

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Hyattsville, Md.: Hi! Submitting early, because I will be busy working the register at Community Forklift during your chat (I am one of the "Reuse Associates" at the Forklift, the thrift store off of Kenilworth Ave that sells reclaimed, antique, and green building materials. Thanks for giving us the occasional shout-out!!!)

Anyhow, I am getting ready for my sister to visit my tiny apartment for the holiday, and am trying hard to make it comfortable. Since my "guest room" is the living room couch, I recently replaced my flimsy end table with a sturdy little chest of drawers (1'W x 1'D x 2.5'H), so she'll have a place to put her socks, undies, pocketbook, cell phone, etc. The bed linens she'll use can be packed away in the coffee table/ottoman during the day.

One of my biggest pet peeves when crashing with friends is having no place to stick toiletries in the bathroom. So I've cleared out a shelf for her, and also supplemented my measly towel rack by adding a row of hooks to the back of the door (and, I have to brag, it looks really cute! I made the hooks out of vintage "hot" and "cold" faucet knobs that I found at Community Forklift for a couple bucks each).

Lastly, I hung one of those cheap "over the door" metal hook racks on the door between my bedroom and living room -- so she'll have hooks on her side of the door to hang up her robe and clothes. It's not screwed in or anything, it just hooks over the door lip -- so when she leaves, I can just remove the rack and throw it in the back of my closet until the next time I have visitors.

Lastly, I'm laying in a supply of hot cocoa, tea, and cider for late nights gossiping and catching up around the Christmas tree!

- Ruthie

Terri Sapienza: Wow. You are a very thoughtful host! Lots of great ideas. Thanks.

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British manners: At least from Regency times, the ladies were expected to withdraw to the drawing room while the gentlemen drank and smoked and peed in pots in the sideboard before they joined the ladies. Currently, this has evolved to the women clearing the table while the men talk. I'm ready for it to evolve again so everyone helps. (My British husband and son help).

Jura Koncius: Gulp.

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Annapolis, Maryland: Yes, I do mean twin size. If you use twin comforters, there is never enough material to cover over both "ends" of the mattress.

Jura Koncius: Try www.everythingfurniture.com. Also www.justdaybeds.com.

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Boston: About guest rooms, I take extra care for frequent visitors. A few years ago I bought a robe for my sister in her favorite color... it lives in the guest room closet so she needn't pack one when she visits. And the bed has polyfill pillows, but there is a down set in the closet in case guests prefer down. People appreciate these small touches, and they weren't expensive. And the rest of the furnishings are as nice as the rest of the home... no more or less.

Jura Koncius: That is the point. Small touches do not need to be expensive.

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Marimekko: how could you print the designer tip that if there are 70s Marimekko sheets in the closet, it is time to upgrade!? Many people like me would JUMP to have those vintage, highly collectable sheets. Though pups and kittens at the shelter would look fab swaddled in gorgeous Marimekko.

Jura Koncius: I do think the dogs and cats will love those graphic prints. The problem with bright colored sheets like Marimekko is that that fade horribly, so anything 30 years old looks pretty tired after all those washings.

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daybed covers: check out JC Penney online - they have a really HUGE selection of daybed accessories.

Jura Koncius: Thank you.

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Washington, DC: Guests helping vs being a good hostess: I suppose it depends on who is the guest. Family events where everyone is expected, everyone takes part in everything. Invite-only parties are different, that's when I take on all the prep and clean-up.

Jura Koncius: Yes. That is a good distinction.

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Silver Spring, Md.: I think providing bottled water in a guest room isn't a very green thing to do.

Jura Koncius: That's why a carafe of water with a glass is a good idea.

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re: Fresh towels daily?: You know, even the hotels don't do this anymore.

Jura Koncius: Agreed.

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Churchton, Md.: We live in a very small 50's cottage by the Bay. Our living room is in the center of the home and is very small. We recently purchased a chocolate brown leather sectional couch for our living room and we love it. However, the room now looks too dark with the burlap walls. A friend suggested that I go with blue to offset the dark brown couch. Any suggestions? Thank you.

Terri Sapienza: You could go blue. But if you like your current wall color, you could use it again, but just go a few shades lighter. You could also do a creamy, warm white on the walls and accessorize with blues and greens or just about any color you want.

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Bed boxes person here: The bed is tall and all the skirts I've seen would be too short or I would need it to be handmade. It just seems like it would be just way too much fabric and make the bed heavy looking. Any advice on that?

Jura Koncius: You can find pretty long bedskirts out there. Look online at www.countrycurtains.com - they have 18-inch bedskirts. .

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D.C.: On guest rooms -- we are lucky to have a room that has only one function -- housing guests. We keep a basket of travel/trial size toiletries, and have a variety of types of hanger in the closet. I have learned a few tricks from visiting friends who paid real attention to details, and also by asking guests what they would like that they didn't have. Personally, I like hangers with clips that work for skirts and slacks, as well as tissues and a reading light. And as a person with allergies, I second the idea of pillow covers under the pillow case. (None of this is expensive.)

Jura Koncius: Very true. Thanks.

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Alexandria: You can put stuff -in- the dishwasher without necessarily starting it, of course, so why would it matter if the dishwasher is out of earshot or not?

When my 3 siblings and I were teenagers, my mom married a man with five sons. A couple of those sons were married and had kids. Our Thanksgiving dinners with "just family" never had fewer than 22 people in those days. We most definitely learned to help! My mom is gone now, but when I made her special cranberry relish for our much smaller T-day dinner this year, it made me smile thinking of all the years we had together.

Jura Koncius: Thanks for sharing this. And yes, why didn't I think of that - load the dishwasher to make room in the kitchen, but don't start it unless you have one of those very high end Miele or Bosch models... Fisher & Paykel anyone?

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Daybeds: Has the poster looked at places that sell a lot of daybeds? Pottery Barn and West Elm come to mind. Maybe even try Pottery Barn Teen or Kids (or other kids sites), since they sell often daybeds, too. (Don't worry, they have plain neutral bedding as well as the stuff with basketballs and butterflies all over it!)

Jura Koncius: Butterflies? Hmmm.

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Under bed boxes: Be sure to measure the distance from the floor to the bottom of the bed frame before shopping for storage boxes. I have six inches of space, and some of those boxes are taller than that.

Jura Koncius: Good tip.

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party clean-up: If it's an "invite" party that's not on a big family holiday like Thanksgiving, why not hire a teenager or college student in the neighborhood to do the cleanup for you while you enjoy your guests? If they come before you sit down, they could also help get stuff from pots to serving dishes, start the coffee and tea while you're eating, etc. -- but no clanging and banging to wash the pots and pans during the meal!

Jura Koncius: You are so right. The clanging and banging of pots is what is so inhospitable during a party!

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Old Town Alexandria: Hi folks! Am resubmitting as I am desperately in need of advice. My cedar facade home has been stained and painted a dark, dark brown. There are no shutters (and I wouldn't be allowed to add them). Trim around windows is off white. Door is a coral red. (I bought the house this way; not my tastes!) The problem is the house is dark and sad. Any advise on how to make it more pleasant looking? I have read that painting over stained cedar is not wise. Right now it has the dubious distinction of being the darkest house in Old Town.

Terri Sapienza: Why not repaint the door? A robin's egg blue color would be lovely, and brighten up the brown a little. Maybe you could also hang white window boxes and plant colorful flowers, and put an urn or planter by the front door.

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Not exactly for the guest bedroom: I always leave the coffee-making supplies out in the kitchen. If the guest gets up before I do, they're not stranded, waiting for their morning joe.

Jura Koncius: I remember my friend Linda Lawson from North Carolina had a beautiful tray with coffee mugs, silver teaspoons and all the necessary sugars, sweeteners etc all set up next to her coffee pot in the kitchen when she had guests in her lovely home.

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Bedding for the guest room: Hi ladies, our guest room is painted Glidden Eclectic, which is weird purplish color (I do call it the grape ape room, but it's not getting repainted anytime soon). So I've had a tough time trying to find a duvet cover or comforter that goes, but I don't want just plain white. Any thoughts? The room doesn't get a lot of light and has natural wood blinds and oak floors. Thanks!

Terri Sapienza: Why don't you want a white cover? It might be your best option considering the wall color. If you thing plain white is too boring, add some throw pillows in other colors and patterns that go you like and that go with the walls.

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about those fresh towels: Didn't say I expected fresh towels daily (tho I provide that for my guests.) I just don't want to use the same still-damp towel for 3 days. That's why I employ the "may I do some laundry?" ruse.

BTW, reusing damp towels is a culprit in fungal skin problems like yeast infections and jock itch. (sorry to be gross, but ask your doctor)

But maybe I'm just the fussbudget on the chat today. Dirty dishes left overnight? Ewww!

Jura Koncius: Well, here's more about those towels...

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No Room: I am not a good hostess/innkeeper nor do I want to be. We have a spare bedroom that I purposely do not have set up as a guest room. It is my yarn room. Yes, my yarn gets its own room. Our cats have their own bedrooms too. Reading some of these posts about putting out soap and stuff is why I don't want to ever host anyone overnight. My guests are already getting free lodging. Is it really expecting much for them to bring their own toiletries? I mean, I can just see someone complaining I don't have the "right" shampoo stocked. Sure, I'd love to have loved ones over but not if they expect me to wait on them like a hotel would.

Jura Koncius: I think the point here is that the best overnight guests don't expect anything, but they are thankful for little touches you might extend to make them feel welcome.

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Guest Room Comments: We have friends who trust us with their house. They also have down everything -- and I'm allergic to down. The looks I get when I ask for extra towels to use as a pillow substitute!! I have to do this in fancy hotels too (Sheraton, Marriott, Hilton) because they don't cater to allergic visitors. Not to mention the time I slept in the car outside a hotel because all the rooms had brand new foam mattresses that made me sick.

Jura Koncius: Wow.

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Bethesda baby room again: Thanks for the ideas! We aren't finding out if it's a boy or girl, so thought a yellow or blue could work for either.

Jura Koncius: Congratulations.

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P.G., Md. part 2: The TV sits in a bookshelf. Thanks, I'll check out the link.

Making a game of helping the hostess clean up has its moments, but the fact of the matter is, these are your CHILDREN, and the English lady is correct: it is absurd to expect the women (daughters-in-law) to clean up while the men go off and who knows what.

Which is why I suggested the stern mini lecture from Granddad. These children really should know -- and the grandchildren be taught -- that helping your family is an equal opportunity thing.

Terri Sapienza: Since the TV sits in a bookshelf, you could always hang a large painting in front of it (hang by a screw that's in the shelf divider above) and simply take it down whenever you want to watch something.

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Guest Rooms: If friends and family are crashing with me, they understand it's not going to be a hotel experience. It's going to be an air mattress on the floor of a studio apartment. On the plus side, it's free, Metro accessible, and comes with a side of bourbon.

I call before they arrive and ask if there's anything in particular they need from the market. I put out fresh sheets and towels. But A FRESH TOWEL EVERY DAY? Who really expects that? For me, as the hostess, that would involve hauling a laundry basket down to the basement every morning.

Fuhgeddaboutit!

Jura Koncius: Everyone has their limits...

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Olney, Md.: My Mom has been rotating family photos in her home for years. I see her several times a year, and each time, she puts a different childhood photo of me. She does the same when my sister visits. I really feel quite at home seeing that.

When she visits me for the Holidays, I make sure that her favorite bedding, a quilted piezyna, Polish for comforter, is on the guest bed, freshly made, along with guest linens on the dresser.

Also I make sure that the large clothes closet has plenty of hangers, and that a sturdy folding wooden TV tray with legs is positioned to hold her luggage.

A guest bedroom has to be both welcoming and functional. Spending the extra money for the comforts of home, is well worth it.

Jura Koncius: Love your attitude.

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Jura Koncius: Well, quite a lively little chat today. Lots of ideas for guest rooms -- or not. And some things to think about for the clean-up of the holiday dinner... Hmmm. Meanwhile, back to wrapping and card writing. See you all next week.

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Editor's Note: washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions. washingtonpost.com is not responsible for any content posted by third parties.


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