Being in Helsinki, I often find myself coaxing friends and family to visit. Beautiful as the city is, it doesn’t fall within the usual suspects of must visit places such as Paris, London or Barcelona. Only with a combination of cajoling, threats, and flat-out logic, do I manage to squeeze a day or two out of old friends, who use Helsinki as a stopover on the way to Stockholm. Joke’s on them though, because once they do come, all I can hear is “Gee, I wish I could stay longer” or my favourite “Why didn’t I come sooner, it’s amazing?” – I know. I told you so!
To be fair, I encourage visits in the summertime, and this past season did not disappoint. Finnish summer is the equivalent of a Jamaican winter. There is a sweet warm breeze that glides over your whole being, and the sun takes on a slight orange glow that renders the sunset like a Van Gogh painting. It’s the feeling of nostalgia and wonder, the two states of past and future perfectly complemented, creating balance. You’re relaxed, but more importantly present in the moment. So you’re in a good mood. And what better way to celebrate than with your loved ones?
My thoughts exactly. But if they’re taking the 3000+ km journey, there are a few things you can do to make their stay particularly agreeable. Whether you’re entertaining in the city, or hosting a brief sojourn by the countryside, here are a few trusted tips to satisfy even the most selective personality.
1. Linen for bed linens
Scratchy bed sheets are the stuff of nightmares. That dry paper feeling, rubbing against bare skin after an eleven hour flight, just seems like a cruel joke. Take the plunge and invest in a proper linen set. Not only will it last longer than cotton, it’s eco-friendly too, using far less resources for its production. Plus, because it’s the designated guest set, it’ll stay fresher longer, as it’s used less. I also recommend linen towels for the same reason. Believe me, your guests will thank you. Try Lapuan Kankurit – the textiles are beautiful and the colour palette is tastefully muted.
2. Lights, music, and flowers
Setting the mood for a relaxed evening requires three main ingredients. Sight, sound, and scent. Even if you run out of time (or energy) for anything else, invest a few moments in this trifecta. Candles are my preferred method of lighting, though with little ones running around – you can try soft lit lamps with dimmer switches. As a nice touch, set the light in the guest room before your company arrives – it’s an easy and warm welcome. Low and soothing music is a must have. Normally, I have Bebel Gilberto and Lianne La Havas on rotation, and that seems to do the trick – extra tip, a good speaker goes far. Try Bose speakers, it’s fantastic for small spaces if you don’t already have a sound system. And the icing on the cake? A robust bouquet. Having a gorgeous floral arrangement is not only visually stunning – with the right varieties it’s fragrant and inviting – all the right elements for a memorable evening.
3. Guest book
Dust of that guest book and get the camera ready. Taking pictures of guests and having them leave a personal note is always a winning touch to a great stay, and is a fantastic keepsake you’ll refer to for years to come. For convenience, try instant cameras – though the quality is less impressive than its regular counterparts, the ease of use ensures that the pictures go in. And try different pen inks for separate years – colour coding makes it easier to see memories over time.
4. Prep the little ones
If you’re entertaining the little ones in tow, planning requires more finesse. The most important thing is letting your children know what is going to happen and when. This temporary addition to their routine, allows them to digest this new information, and know what is expected of them. It’s also a great time to discuss boundaries, and respecting the personal space of others, as well as consideration – learning when to engage, and when observe. It’s always more fun (and work too), with guests whose kids are the same age as your own, but the same rules still apply to little ones and grownups.
5. Plan ahead and keep things simple
It doesn’t have to be a stressful occasion. Try to relax, and do some preemptive work. What does dinner look like? One pot entrées are always a failsafe, as well as roasts and oven baked dishes. It’s good to know of any allergies and preferences so I recommend asking beforehand. Providing simple yet vital amenities such as blow dryers, towel sets, soaps and chargers already in the guest room makes things easier for guests, and allows more time for entertaining. These may seem like little things, but trust me it counts!
From host to guest
Whenever I find myself as the guest, I like to bring a small but iconic gift for the host. It works on so many levels, because you’re always remembered, and you’re sharing a bit of your values with a loved one. In this regard I appreciate Iittala’s collection because there’s something special to be had at any price point. It really is the thought that counts.