Your Guide to Holiday Home Prep
What can you tackle before that first knock on the door? Planning around a realistic timeline will ensure your holiday hosting duties go off without a hitch.
Written by Cody Torgersrud
The first signs of fall mean the holidays are on the horizon. Whether you’re hosting family fete or opening your spare room for in-laws, there never seems to be enough time for pre-holiday home prep.
But, some strategic planning (read: start now!) will save you the stress of scrambling before the first knock on the door. Whether you’re just in need of extra place settings or hoping to pull off a foot-to-ceiling strip down, here’s a handy timeline to get you to holiday hosting happiness right on schedule.
3 to 4 months ahead: Major aesthetic changes
Anticipating a house full of guests can be a great motivator to finish those lingering DIY projects, fix any nagging issues or bring an overall upgrade to the look of your home. Changes that can have the biggest impact on a space include
- New floors: Freshening up your flooring can make all the difference in revitalizing a room. Replacing an outdated material will go a long way, but a refinishing or a deep clean are great options for less of an investment.
- New paint: Nothing makes a space feel new like a fresh coat of paint. You can choose a new color or simply touch up the old, but the important thing to remember is that you don’t want to make a painting decision in a rush. Choose a color you’ll love long after the in-laws have left, rather than something that will wow your guests but isn't practical for day-to-day living.
- New trim: If you really want to kick a room up a notch, update trims and details. Make sure you choose the correct look and style for the architecture of your home, and ensure that the scale is correct for the space.
Know your time frame before going into a project. There are things you can do in a weekend, but many home projects take months. If you’re working with a hired professional, make sure they know your timeline and give yourself a buffer for unforeseen delays.
6 to 8 weeks ahead: New furniture
Once you’ve moved into a new home, it’s not uncommon for one or more rooms to go unfurnished while you search for the right piece, but the holidays can creep up and force you to expedite those decisions. The added pressure can work to your advantage to choose furniture that is perfect for your home, including
- Dining sets: This is one of the most common pre-holiday purchases. To choose the right one, take measurements of the space and take account of how many guests you’d like to accommodate—the dining table you choose should fit your hosting needs but also fit the space that the table is in. Don’t forget to account for clearance for dining chairs too.
- Sofas and sectionals: If you’ve spent previous holidays with all six cousins squeezed onto the love seat, it may be time for a new modern sofa. A guest-ready living room is marked by plenty of room for a group to sit comfortably, so we like to include as many options as possible. Make sure to request fabric samples well ahead of time so you can feel confident that the one you choose will stick around for a long time.
- Guest beds and sleeper sofas: While you want a comfy space for overnight guests to sleep, it’s also important to choose pieces that will work for you when they aren’t in use. Look for a guest bed with storage built in or small-space-friendly sleeper sofas that won’t break the bank (or Aunt Mary’s back).
Furniture often has lengthy lead times (how long it takes to be shipped and arrive at your door), so check stock levels and lead times before you order to be sure it will be delivered in time. If something is in stock now, don’t assume it will be when you’re ready to order.
4 to 5 weeks ahead: Update lighting fixtures
Lighting is the jewelry of the home—it’s a crucial piece of making a room “work.” Whether you need to brighten up a space for function or want to add some drama with a lighting centerpiece, lighting updates are a quick way to update a room. If you aren’t getting enough from your dining room chandelier, add some wall sconces. If you need more light in the living room, try a floor lamp or a pair of table lamps. If curb appeal is lacking, new outdoor sconces or landscape lighting can really step up your entryway. Take a look around, and you might find a need to add
- A "wow" piece: A stunning chandelier isn’t only for the dining room; the entryway, living room and kitchen are all spaces that can have a major impact with statement-making light fixtures. If you have low ceilings, look to a beautiful flushmount fixture to get the job done.
- Functional fixtures: Walk through your house with your guests’ eyes. Is there enough light in the spare room? Are the (unfamiliar to them) hallways too dark? Ensure that there is enough light for everyone to “live” there safely.
- Landscape lighting: Once the summer heat subsides, the cooling weather can be a great opportunity to update or install landscape lighting. Proper landscape lighting can amp up your home's exterior aesthetic and help make your outdoor space part of your entertaining area (weather permitting).
Order lighting fixtures to arrive well before you schedule an electrician visit. While most fixtures arrive just fine, transit damage can occur—so inspect your fixture when it arrives so you know it will be ready to go on installation day.
3 to 4 weeks ahead: Finishing touches
Head counts, checklists—it may seem like you have plenty of time, but this is the right time to tie up all the loose ends, like
- Tabletop stock-up: Make sure all guests are accounted for in plates, flatware and glassware. Have what you need to step up your tablescape, like a standout centerpiece and stylish placemats and table runners.
- Textiles: Floor coverings are a must for keeping stone, tile and wood floors comfy underfoot. If any rugs are looking raggedy, it might be time for a replacement. In guest rooms, make sure you have fresh sheets that can make your guest feel like they’re in a five-star hotel.
- Storage: A coat stand, luggage rack and/or chest of drawers can go a long way in the guest room to keep items off the floor and bed.
If you're going to invest in new things for your home before the guests arrive, make sure it's nothing too precious that won't be able to stand up to any revelry-related abuse.
1 to 2 weeks ahead: Get gift ready
Depending on your family traditions, the holidays may call for gifts, like:
- Host/hostess gifts: If you aren't on the hook this year for offering your space and time, woo hoo! But remember that throwing a party is a big undertaking, and picking up a small token could mean the world to your gracious host.
- Gift exchange: Start by thinking of the recipient’s hobbies or interests—coffee drinking, book reading, art making—and choose something special that they might not buy for themselves.
- Self gifting: It’s a thing. This can be a great time to splurge on something for your own home, like a special throw or a new centerpiece. Get it in time for guest arrivals so it can be enjoyed by all.
A beautiful and functional gift is often a home run. Make sure its novelty doesn't overwhelm its function, and you'll be sure to give something that makes the receiver think of you every time they use it.