5 Good Things I Learned About Good Hospitality in Creating a Guesthouse

Good hospitality may not be your forte, but it’s in the simplest ways that we can help our guests feel welcomed and cared for.

It’s hard to believe someone could simply “fall” into a guesthouse.

But that’s really how it happened.

And it started last summer when we moved out of our family home. We packed up the house we’d lived in for 17 years – where we’d raised our eight children – and although we only moved 17 miles from our old homestead? It sure felt like a big deal.

There were many reasons for the change, but our top priority was finding a single-level home where our youngest daughter could easily get around in her wheelchair. We hoped for wide halls and an open floorplan where she could maneuver without feeling stuck or left out.

And in God’s goodness, He answered our prayer in abundance.

Because our new home was not only perfect for her, a sweet surprise awaited us at the back of the house. We walked through the last door and entered a mostly empty room, just begging to be turned into something beautiful. Something to make the most of this breathtaking view of the Cascades mountain range.

The Cascades Mountain Range in Central Oregon

What should we do with such a lovely, tranquil space?

A guesthouse. That was my husband’s quick answer—the perfect place to create a private retreat for travelers looking for a refreshing getaway.

Except for one thing: what did we know about creating a guesthouse? About running an Airbnb?

You guessed it: Nothing.

Oh, we’d dreamed about such a venture throughout our married years. But that’s all it ever was: a dream. A dream we whispered about late at night after the last child was finally tucked in bed. Merely something fun to imagine.

I never believed it would actually happen. And suddenly, there we were.

Welcome to Cascades Ranch Guesthouse

So Matt and I set out to work, turning that big empty space into a two-bedroom, one-bath guesthouse. He oversaw the large projects, such as the overall design, walls, systems, and the outdoor area, while I worked on the interior design. It was the first time I’d delved into a project like this, but it turned out that I loved it!

Several months later, we opened up Cascades Ranch Guesthouse and were ready to welcome our first guests. Naturally, it’s been a bit of a crash course in hospitality, but we’re so glad we embarked on the adventure!

The Meadow Room
The Mountain Room
Welcome to the Cascades Ranch Guesthouse!

Lessons I Learned about Good Hospitality While Creating a Guesthouse

Now I realize that not everyone reading this is in the process of running a guesthouse. Yet, as we’ve opened our home to family, friends, and strangers alike, I’ve realized that the principles of good hospitality are the same—whether it’s a vacation rental or simply inviting people into your living room.

So here I’m sharing my top five lessons in offering good hospitality, hoping it will help you feel more confident and comfortable opening up your home to others as well.

1. Offer a Warm Welcome

You know what they say about first impressions? It’s never more true when greeting your guests. Here’s your chance to set the tone for the entire visit (no matter what their response).

First, offer a warm smile and kindness. Next, communicate that they are welcome in your home and show them where they can place their coats, purses, keys, etc., to avoid that awkward situation where your guests wonder what to do with their “stuff.”

Of course, you want to bring them into a clean, organized environment. However, that might not always be possible. Maybe your guests stopped by unannounced. Perhaps you had several children throwing up all morning or multiple meltdowns (says the mother of 8 children *wink), which prevented you from getting everything ready as you’d hoped.

If so, here’s what I suggest: focus on tidying up the central area where you’ll be staying (the living room, kitchen table, etc.). Also, ensure you have at least one clean bathroom you can offer. My third priority would be a clean kitchen, but only add that if possible and still maintain your peace (and sanity).

2. Look After the Details

I’m not saying to overthink it; merely consider what little touches might help your guests enjoy the next few hours…or days. If you’re not sure what those might be? A great place to start is to list out those details that make you feel most welcome and looked after.

If you’re still stuck, here are some examples:

  • Does your guest tend to run cold? Turn up the heat or have a blanket available.
  • Are you sharing a meal? Ask ahead of time if they have any food allergies or preferences.
  • Do they have young children? Plan for how you can best accommodate their needs too. (For instance, I try to have a box of Legos and a set of simple crafts on hand for our young guests).

3. Provide a Pleasant Surprise

Were you expecting this one? Ah, that’s the point. Everyone likes (nice) surprises! That extra touch or additional offering.

If you’ve invited your guests for tea, surprise them with a small plate of cookies too. If it’s a dinner party, set the table with an abundance of candles or fancy (even paper!) napkins. Or, if they’re overnight company, include something chocolate or a special bar of soap and fresh towels on their bed.

Who couldn’t help but feel slightly spoiled with such treats?

4. Communicate Care

Here’s one that many people miss: communicating you care is far more powerful than offering perfection. We all want to feel cared for and seen. It’s how we’re made.

So when you’re looking after your guests – anticipating their wants, offering a hand, letting them know they matter – you’re getting to the heart of hospitality.

Furthermore, not only does this bless your guests, but it’s also quite freeing for you as the host. Yes, we want to look after the tiny details, but striving for perfection is unnecessary. Isn’t that a relief? To know that, at the end of the visit, what is most important is not that “we got it right” but that we expressed love and thoughtfulness.

5. Close with a Good Goodbye

If that “hello” was the most important step of good hosting, your “goodbye” is a close second. Perhaps you’re exhausted, or things didn’t go as smoothly as you’d hoped. Put all that aside for the last few minutes so that everyone leaves on a happy note (as far as possible).

Thank your guests for coming, and be sure they’ve gathered all their belongings. Maybe send them off with a few bottles of water or even a gift bag with extra snacks or treats. Lastly, send your guests off with a kind smile and a hug (if appropriate).

So, on that note, I’ll close with a good goodbye and an invitation: we’d be glad to have you stay at our Guesthouse if you’re ever coming through Central Oregon. It’s easy: you can always book it through Airbnb, VRBO, or Booking.com. We’d love to have you!

With a warm welcome,

Lisa Jacobson

P.S. If you want to learn more about our story, you can also follow along on Instagram @CascadesRanchGuesthouse!

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