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The First Things Guests Notice When They Come Into Your Home, Experts Say

You only get one chance to make a good impression.

Inviting guests to your home should be fun, but it can easily turn into a stressful experience. Before visitors arrive, you'll likely want to put on a presentable outfit, clean your space, and make sure there are plenty of delicious snacks and refreshments. But if you really want to make a good impression, you should consider how your home looks from an outsider's perspective. Not sure how to do that? Don't worry. Here, home and interior design experts tell us the first things people notice about your house. Get them in order and your invitees will remember.

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The smell.

candles in glass jars

As soon as your guests open the door, they'll be greeted by the scent of your space—and it's your call if it smells like freshly baked cookies or cats.

"The way your house smells is always the very first thing guests will notice," says Joshua Blackburn, director of design and construction at Evolving Home. "While you might be used to the way your house smells, it might put off your visitors."

Fortunately, there are easy ways to spruce things up. Blackburn suggests opening the windows to let in fresh air or boiling water with citrus peels. You could also light a favorite candle or set up a diffuser.

Andra DelMonico, lead interior designer for Trendey, recommends avoiding heavy perfumes and overly flowery smells, which could make it seem like you're covering something up. Instead, try something fresh like citrus, vanilla, rosemary, thyme, or basil. "These are all comforting and welcoming," she says.

The color.

blush pink room
iStock / onurdongel

You've probably heard that certain wall colors are better suited for different rooms. For example, calming hues in the bedroom and something neutral in an open living room. But the color that guests first see when they enter can leave them with an overall impression of your home.

"Typically, a more minimalist color scheme gives the feeling of an airy, open space, while a more playful take on dark or bright colors reflects a more maximalist design aesthetic," says Yasmine El Sanyoura, home designer at Opendoor.

In an overview of color psychology, paint company True Value explains how different hues will help you achieve your desired impression. Red, for example, projects confidence and creates an energetic feeling. Green feels balanced and relaxing, while yellow gives off happiness and optimism.

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The lighting.

brunette woman opening white window

Just as color can affect our mood, so can light. "Is it dark and dreary or is it airy and light, giving it an inviting feel that makes you want to stay a while?" notes El Sanyoura. "If natural light is an option for you, ensure that curtains and shades are up during daytime visits to make the space feel warm and welcoming."

If natural light isn't possible, El Sanyoura recommends "dimmers and light bulbs with warm tones so you can set a tone that's bright and cheerful and leaves a positive impression."

The clutter.

This photograph is of a garage lined with shelves full of things stored at home including, tools, cleaning supplies, holiday decorations and sporting equipment. The garage door is open.

It turns out, your mom may have been right when she insisted on decluttering every room of the house before guests arrived. "If you have piles of stuff everywhere, your home will feel cluttered and dirty, which can feel uncomfortable for the people visiting," says DelMonico.

Again, there's an easy fix here. First, trash or donate the items you don't use or need. Then, find a storage solution for the remaining items so they're not out in the open. "The goal is to clear off flat surfaces and open up the floor space," DelMonico says. "You want to showcase your furniture and decor, not the clutter on top of it."

One way to manage clutter easily, according to Jen Stark, founder of Happy DIY Home, "is by creating designated storage containers for different types of items and placing them strategically around the house." This way, if you have last-minute guests coming over, you can do a quick cleanup.

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The personal touches.

Photo wall picture frames

Clearing clutter doesn't mean making your space devoid of personality. In fact, it should do quite the contrary.

"I cannot overstate the importance of photo art and decor to liven up a space and draw a guest's eye to the little details of your home," says Christy Biberich, interior designer and founder of Christy B. Home.

Biberich suggests things like framed photos, art, and accessories like throw pillows and curated bookshelves. "[These] little touches will elevate your space and draw your guest's eye towards them—and your design prowess," she says. "They're easy to create, and you probably have the items necessary to style them in your home."

Not only will these pieces look fantastic, but they can also serve as fun conversation starters when you invite company over.

Dirt and grime.

dishes soaking in the sink
Shutterstock/Studio Light and Shade

Finally, you'll want to give your home a solid cleaning before guests arrive. Paige Anderson, an interior designer at Nitido Design, suggests starting with the basics, like making sure your furniture and decor are in the proper place (for example, if your sofa tends to slide across the room, you'll want to set it in a straight line). "Doing this will make your room look more professional and spacious," she says.

Then, move on to the smaller touches, like tidying up the kitchen, dusting, and vacuuming. Each of these tasks will make your home look and feel refreshed—which will make guests feel comfortable and welcome to settle in for a great visit.

Juliana LaBianca
Juliana is an experienced features editor and writer. Read more
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