The Washington Post

A Host of Choices for Guests

Clever sleeping options let visitors feel at home even in a small apartment

“I have family and friends that tend to stop through because they know that I love to host,” says Carrie Schenkel. In fact, she loves to host so much that she keeps five spare SmarTrip cards, labeled “Guest 1” through “Guest 5,” in her wallet so out-of-towners don’t have to waste time figuring out the Metro machines.

She has another secret weapon: “I couldn’t do it without my pull-out couch,” the 31-year-old Ohio native says.

Like many D.C.-area apartments, Schenkel’s one-bedroom in Southeast D.C. doesn’t offer much space for guests. After spending a weekend sharing an air mattress with her grandma on her living room floor as her parents slept in her bed, Schenkel decided it was time to find some extra sleeping options. She invested in a two-seater sofa that fits easily in her living room and pulls out into a full-size bed.

“I hear it’s very comfortable,” she says.

Sleeping solutions have changed a lot over the last few years, says Maxwell Gillingham Ryan, founder of and author of “Apartment Therapy’s Big Book of Small, Cool Spaces.”

“Manufacturers are much more aware of people in small spaces, and they’re coming up with more solutions. Before, American designers didn’t really think it was an issue. They were doing everything big, big, big,” he says.

Ryan’s favorite line of sofa beds, made by American Leather, offers a variety of sizes, from an armchair that pulls out into a single bed to a three-seater that pulls out into a king. All sizes come with Tempur-pedic mattresses, which don’t have springs or bars, so it’s much more comfortable to sit on the mattress when it’s rolled up into a couch.

For very small spaces, the contemporary furniture store BoConcept, which has stores in Georgetown and Tysons Corner, sells an ottoman called the Xtra that pulls out into a single bed and costs $499.

One customer who had just moved to the area bought two for her studio. “She was planning on family coming to visit quite often,” says Jose Gutierrez, a design consultant at the Georgetown store. She used the two ottomans as a coffee table by pushing them together and putting a tray across both. “She also had two different sleeping spots,” Gutierrez says.

If you have the space, larger pieces can give you more sleeping options. BoConcept’s Melo is a two-seater sleeper sofa that allows each cushion to be pulled out separately into a single bed. If both cushions are pulled out, it forms a queen-size bed. But at 5 feet, 8 inches wide and $1,795, it’s not for every apartment or for every budget.

If new furniture doesn’t fit your budget, air mattresses and camping pads are acceptable solutions, says Ryan.

“They’re inexpensive and they sit in your closet, so someone can sleep on them in a pinch if you have a really small space and don’t get guests often,” he says.

Once you’ve got the sleeping arrangements down, think about other things that your guests will need. Anna Kucera, owner and principal designer of Alexandria-based Gracious Living by Design, says hosts should aim to provide hospitality, comfort and privacy.

Privacy isn’t always easy to come by in small spaces. Kucera suggests putting up a wood or fabric-covered screen to provide guests a little bit of solitude.

Another useful investment is a small table on which guests can set a drink, book or phone. “A great piece for that is a garden stool.” says Kucera. They’re typically inexpensive and come in a variety of colors.

“It’s really important, no matter how big your space is, to have multifunctional items in your home,” says Kucera.

Schenkel agrees that comfort is key and says she always keeps soft sheets, a down comforter and several spare pillows just for guests. She also has a wicker basket, which she keeps stocked full of towels and extra toiletries, such as miniature toothbrushes, toothpaste and body lotion.

“I love just having people feel welcome. It’s important to me,” says Schenkel.



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Vicky Hallett · June 1, 2012