Here Are 10 Things People Immediately Notice When You Have Guests Over, And 5 They Couldn’t Care Less About

Harry Luke
Harry Luke
12 Min Read

Having people over at your house, whether it’s for a casual get-together or a fancy dinner party, can be stress-inducing — especially if you have anxious or perfectionist tendencies.

Perhaps you’re someone who obsesses over every detail of your home needing to be pristine. Maybe you find it hard to enjoy hosting because you’re preoccupied with what guests will think of your space. But there’s no sense wasting time and energy agonizing over stuff that isn’t going to be very meaningful — or even noticeable — to your guests.

That’s why we asked experts in all things homes and hosting to tell us what guests actually notice right away about your house — and what they’re probably not really paying attention to at all. Here’s what we learned:

1. The Scent

A variety of lit and unlit candles on a surface, some in holders, creating a cozy ambiance
Anastasiia Krivenok / Getty Images

The smell of your home greets guests right as they walk in, said cleaning expert Becky Rapinchuk, the woman behind Clean Mama. And you want that first sensory impression to be a good one.

“We don’t always recognize the smell of our own homes so it’s important to open a window, turn on a diffuser or burn a candle if there’s a smell to cover up,” she told HuffPost. “If your house has a pet smell, change litter boxes, wash pet bedding, and do a quick vacuum.”

2. The Lighting

A cozy living room at sunset with furniture and windows offering a view of trees
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Good lighting helps create a welcoming ambiance in your home — and your guests will take note, said Los Angeles interior designer Megan Hersch, founder of Studio MG Interiors.

“This can be as easy as adding a few more table lamps around your spaces or increasing the wattage in some bulbs,” Hersch, who is also the founder of the e-design firm roomLift, told HuffPost. “But a dimly lit home is a turn-off. We all want to see each other and feel comfortable moving in and around the spaces in your home, so light it up.”

The right lighting can turn an ordinary space “into a magical setting,” Las Vegas event planner Brooke Primm, the creator behind The Uncommon Hostess, told HuffPost.

“Instead of relying solely on overhead lights, try incorporating different light sources if your gathering is during the evening,” she said. “If you are hosting during the day, make sure to draw all window coverings for a bright and inviting vibe.”

3. The Clutter

Living room with moving boxes and furniture, indicating packing or unpacking for relocation
Edwin Tan / Getty Images

When entertaining, guests will notice at a glance how tidy or untidy your space is. Straightening up common areas and keeping surfaces like your coffee table and kitchen counters free of clutter can help create a more relaxing atmosphere.

“We all know this and even I have a hard time sticking to this mantra, but a clear space is a clear head and that is something your guests will also feel,” Hersch said. “Make space to put away what you need to and of course, only keep what brings you joy!”

4. If The Kitchen And Bathroom Are Clean

Modern bathroom with a walk-in shower, toilet, and vanity. There's a frosted window and tiled walls
Nazar Abbas Photography / Getty Images

You don’t need to work yourself into a frenzy deep-cleaning every nook and cranny of your home before having people over. But a basic cleaning of the kitchen and bathroom will make a good impression.

“If you know that your guests will be in the kitchen, take a couple minutes to wipe down counters and clean the fronts of appliances,” Rapinchuk said. ”In the bathroom, wipe down counters, put out fresh towels and clean the toilet.”

5. Houseplants

Indoor space filled with various houseplants and a wicker chair near a window, providing a natural, cozy ambiance
Kseniya Ovchinnikova / Getty Images

Incorporating some greenery into your home decor adds a vibrant pop of color and texture to the space that guests will appreciate. Plus, houseplants have mood-boosting properties, which will help cultivate some good energy for your gathering.

“Each room [in my home] has an abundance of plants, and guests will always make comments on them!” Donovan Ho, founder of the West Coast home and lifestyle blog Hothouse Jungle, told HuffPost. “Whether compliments on the beauty of the plants, or stating that they can’t keep plants alive — they’re always a conversation starter.”

6. The Entryway 

Entrance hallway with a wooden console table, mirror on the left, and doors straight ahead
John Keeble / Getty Images

If you have a traditional entryway in your home, Los Angeles interior designer Brooke Spreckman, owner of Design Hutch, recommends “going to town on most finishes and fixtures in this space,” she said. Because it’s the first room guests notice upon walking in, it’s an opportunity to do something eye-catching.

“The floor can be an accent, your lighting can be more creative, the wall finishes can stand out. Artwork can be oversized — or just unique in general,” said Spreckman.

7. Interesting Furniture 

Two modern chairs with a small table and plant between them, in front of a wood slat wall
Westend61 / Getty Images/Westend61

Ho said he always receives compliments from guests on different pieces of furniture in his home, “whether it’s a funky chair or cool velvet sofa.”

“Guests also usually notice the array and mix of traditional and modern decor pieces throughout the house,” he added.

8. Empty Walls

Empty room with bare walls, hardwood floors, and multiple windows
Nuchao / Getty Images/iStockphoto

According to Hersch, bare walls can be a bit of a downer. Adding some art and framed photos can do wonders for a space.

“Walking into a home that feels like someone hasn’t finished moving in feels less than welcoming,” she said. “It’s worth spending some time and budget on hanging art. There are great collections, pre-made gallery walls in fact, on Etsy and even Pottery Barn. Don’t be afraid to get a larger piece too!”

9. The Music 

Vinyl record playing on turntable with blurred background
Madelyn Mulvaney / Getty Images

Music sets the tone for your gathering, so choose something that helps create the vibe you’re going for.

“You can create a playlist that matches the theme of your party or choose songs that are relaxing and soothing,” Primm said. “I personally love playing the ‘Bridgerton’ soundtracks since they’re familiar songs but not too distracting.”

10. The Temperature

Person adjusting a digital thermostat on a wall
Maryna Terletska / Getty Images

Temperature is one element some hosts forget about, but is quite important to your guests’ experience.

“Making sure the temperature in your home is comfortable is key,” Primm said.

And Here’s What Guests Probably Aren’t Paying Attention To

On the flip side, there are things that hosts may fixate on, but actually aren’t all that important to guests. Here’s what’s not making much of an impression, according to our experts.

Small Decor Details

A cozy living room corner with a wooden side table, decorative items, and a couch with a throw blanket
Followtheflow / Getty Images

Several of our experts agree that little decorative elements tend to be overlooked by guests.

“No one is going to notice if a vase isn’t meticulously placed or if a pillow is fluffed perfectly,” Primm said. “The little things we may obsess over in our homes are the things your guests may not even take a second look at.”

When hosting, it’s a good idea to minimize the number of small decor pieces on any tabletops and counter spaces, “as those surfaces are likely to be used by your guests,” Spreckman said.

“To avoid them feeling cluttered, don’t worry about having a ton of decor set up,” she continued. “If you usually have your surfaces styled in a way, but they’re not perfect for hosting, less is more in these cases.”

How Thoroughly You Cleaned 

Person cleaning a glass table with a cloth
Carlos Barquero / Getty Images

In terms of cleaning up before guests arrive, do what you can but try not to stress about it too much.

“While I always tidy up — sometimes a deeper clean and sometimes just a quick tidy — guests never comment on how clean the house is,” Ho said. “I learned to not overly dwell or be paranoid on how clean and presentable the house is.”

And if your book shelves are a little dusty, chances are guests won’t notice.

“Don’t have time to dust? Dim the lights and no one will know,” Rapinchuk said.


Bedroom scene with unmade bed, side table with a vase of dried flowers and a candle
Johner Images / Getty Images/Johner RF

Your guests likely won’t be spending time in the bedrooms, so don’t sweat it if your clothes chair is piled high or your bedspread is looking a little crumpled.

“Close the doors if they aren’t guest-ready,” Rapinchuk advised.

Fancy Silverware And Dishes

Elegant table setting with plates, silverware, and a folded napkin under natural light
Wang Yukun / Getty Images

It’s not worth splurging on expensive plates or silverware for your dinner guests, Hersch said. Why blow your budget on something they won’t care about?

“There are so many fun place settings. Tiffany is by no means required to have a fun and lively dinner party,” Hersch said. “With the right atmosphere in your home, Target can be more than fabulous!”

Dining Chairs

A modern dining room with a table set for two and various chairs around, adjacent to a bright window
Alvarez / Getty Images

Guests probably aren’t going to notice your dining chairs unless, of course,  “they’re insanely uncomfortable,” Spreckman said.

“Guests usually spend their time sitting in a dining chair rather than looking at them,” she continued. “So if you have spent all your money on every other furniture item when re-doing your house, and are tapped for splurging on dining chairs, just buy something neutral, simple and affordable in the meantime. Because that is the least-looked-at item when hosting.”

And a final thought: It’s easy to get caught up in thinking things need to be perfect when you’re hosting, Primm said, when that’s just not so.

“So many times we let the fear of not living up to a certain standard stop us from gathering,” she said. “But when it comes down to it most people just want to create memories, feel connection and to be brought together in a meaningful way. Make sure to focus on connecting with the people in your home, the rest will follow.”This article originally appeared on HuffPost.

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Harry Luke is a Professor in University of Galway. Harry's journey has been marked by a relentless pursuit of knowledge, creativity, and a commitment to making a positive impact on the world around him.