The kids might be running around the house in school holiday-induced excitement, and friends and relatives popping round with all the gossip - but chances are you’ll hear nothing as you single-handedly fight your way through the clutter in the spare room.
Giving it a makeover so it’s fit for guests is often the last-minute task of the season, with the rest of the family mysteriously melting away as soon as it’s mentioned.
Unfortunately, all too often we haven’t even got a clue what’s accumulated in there and dread clearing it, according to a survey by Spaceslide, online sliding wardrobe systems and storage specialist.
“These rooms are usually a repository for things that no one can find a space for elsewhere, from seasonal clothes to sports kit and board games,” says Jon Gough at Spaceslide, where shelving systems start from £83.40.
“Often, it’s a room only used around five times a year for visitors so the clutter easily mounts unnoticed.
“Adequate storage, which maximises space, helps hugely whether it’s wardrobes with sliding doors or open shelving. Making the most of every inch of room, from under-bed storage to better use of room in an existing wardrobe, will all make it easy to organise possessions.”
It’s not too late to transform the spare room into a cosy sanctuary with the addition of new, attractive bedding and accessories, and a bit of decor TLC.
In the New Year you could take advantage of the sales and invest in kit which could significantly improve the room and render any more of those frenzied seasonal sort-outs unnecessary.
A comfortable bed is a vital ingredient for the spare room - guests who’ve slept properly will be much better company than those who haven’t.
“The popularity of the fold-away bed rocketed in 2012 and is tipped to continue in 2013,” says Jamie Dean, head of design at Betta Living, fitted furniture and storage specialists.
Their fold-away beds start from £1,494, and can be bought as part of a room design.
“These beds are now very affordable, comfortable and robust and have the great advantage of allowing the room to be used for other purposes,” says Dean.
“Many people want to use the spare room as a craft or ironing room, exercise room or home office for most of the year and don’t want the space cramped by a bed.
“While they often have to be practical spaces it’s not expensive to bring the ‘wow’ factor with small touches such as plinth or headboard lighting.”
A sofa bed is another easy way of increasing sleeping space and can be used anywhere in the home but works particularly well in a room which doubles as an office. John Lewis’s Bizet small sofa bed with a foam mattress is currently £799 online.
Sofa Workshop’s Cairo Stool-bed, £679 for a single, £924 for a double size, is available in range of attractive furnishing fabrics.
A bedroom with a well-dressed bed - think cuddly textures like wool, velvet and cashmere - will instantly turn a spare room into a comforting retreat.
This time of year, many shops are running sales, and it’s a great opportunity to bag bargain bedding. Just don’t get overwhelmed by sale fever and buy a luridly patterned duvet set simply because it’s on offer - there’s probably a reason why the store’s got loads left.
Bedding featuring silhouettes of robins is nice and wintry and an Anorak Kissing Robins duvet cover is well-priced at £45 a single duvet cover, £14 a pair of pillowcases, John Lewis.
Debenhams currently has up to 50% off on selected bed linen sets bought online. It’s always worth browsing HomeSense stores which are a good source of discounted designer bed linen.
Brilliant lemon and pink lightweight quilts, £68, from online company Reason Season Time can’t fail to brighten a dull space.
It’s key to have everything in easy reach of the bed - visitors won’t appreciate stumbling around in a strange room in the dark to locate a glass of water.
If style’s paramount, and your guests are truly special, you could splurge on a bedside chest upholstered in lush pink velvet, L’Amour 2-drawer chest, £595, Alexander & Pearl.
Alternatively, simply give a second-hand or old bedside unit a new lease of life by spray-painting it in a dazzling shade. Plasti-Kote has an excellent range of colours and finishes, £7.98 for 400ml, B&Q.
It’s always helpful if a spare room is more than just somewhere to sleep so that visitors will feel encouraged to retreat to it for a break or when the intimacy of the season is wearing a little thin.
If you have space in the bedroom, give over a corner for somewhere to sit and read, listen to music or make phone calls.
Oliver Bonas has a handsome velvet Tub Chair, £385, available in a variety of colours including eye-popping brights such as raspberry pink.
If there’s not much room, a multi-coloured Pop footstool, £179 from Dwell, could be handy for perching on.
Don’t overlook the small finishing touches.
A pile of new towels, decorative padded coat hangers in the wardrobe, and a couple of pretty cushions on the bed may be all that’s needed to create an inviting atmosphere.
And if there’s seasonal decoration throughout the rest of the house, don’t leave out the spare room. A string of twinkling fairy lights around a bedhead or mirror is enough to hint at festive style.
Spare room snip: Orla Kiely Flower Stripe towels, hand towel, £14, bath towel, £22, bath sheet, £36, and Home Comforts pillowcases embroidered with Nighty Night and Sleep Tight, £29 a pair, all John Lewis. Padded, embroidered hangers, £16.99 a pair, Retreat Home.