There is a charming sentimentality about school vacations that has remained unchanged in India—it’s that time of the year when people everywhere have always been habitually struck by a deep longing to spend time with their extended family. The months of May and June, in particular, feature in countless literary memoirs and fictional narratives, with references of children gathering in ancestral homes, climbing trees, stealing mangoes from the neighbour’s orchards, getting their knees bruised and jostling for space in that crowded joint family pic. It is amazing how nearly all ancestral homes in small towns and villages could easily make room for these annual family get-togethers—even 30 to 40 people could coexist without prickly issues of space and privacy getting in the way.
However, in case of nuclear families living in urban areas, apartments don’t exactly allow for a large clamour of the big fat Indian family. Most space-starved flats in metros cannot factor in the guest room. If you are facing these issues, fret not. The following ideas can help you be prepared for guests any time of the year:
The wooden pull-out sofa-cum-bed, which became quite the rage in the 1980s, has lost much of its fan following by now, thanks to its unwieldly structure. (After a heavy dinner, it’s the last thing anyone would want to grapple with.) In comparison, the foam sofa-cum-bed is comparatively much easier to unfold—and lighter on the pocket too! The two-seater option can turn into a comfy sleeping space for an adult (or two kids).
Pro-tip: Look for ones with removable covers and zippers to allow for multiple design options and easy washing. Available on Amazon.in
Komal Behrani, a Mumbai-based interior designer co-founder of Panache Designs, feels bunk beds may seem like a cool option but they could eat up a lot of vertical space in the bedroom. “Wall-mounted beds are a smarter choice. There aren’t too many furniture stores that offer this option, so speak to your carpenter and get one customised to suit your space.”
Pro-tip: On Amazon India, take a look at the Ebco’s vertical wall bed fittings that come with clamps; with this, a made-to-order mattress is all you need to save the hassle of carpentry.
Sleeping bags and inflatable mattress
Seema Arolkar-Lad, a Mumbai-based travel buff who often ends up hosting pajama parties for her 7-year-old daughter and her friends, feels that one can save a lot of fuss by just keeping a few sleeping bags handy. “They are so convenient and comfortable when you are sleeping outdoors. It only makes sense to have more of these at home. They can be easily stashed away and hardly take up any space. And kids would find it particularly exciting lined up next to each other on the floor snuggled in these!”
Pro-tip: Check out the wide array of inflatable beds (that come with a manual pump) on www.amazon.in, or Quechua’s camping mattress on www.decathlon.in.
Have a corner big enough to hold a futon? Then get one immediately. Apart from their value as great boho decor, futons make for convenient couches and beds.
Pro-tip: When opened up, futon beds tend to be rather low-slung. Some people may also find them a bit hard on the back. You could place a downy quilt or featherbed on top for more height and comfort.
“An extra-wide windowsill can always turn into a great sleeping area, especially if you have large bay windows,” says Behrani. “Place a well-padded mattress on top, throw on a quilt or razai for extra softness, and, voila, you have a wonderful niche to sleep in.”
Pro-tip: To make your guests feel truly cared for, you could install a detachable shelf near the sill, as a place for a wireless charging dock for phones and to keep spectacles and books.
“Old apartment spaces always had a loft in the kitchen that was often framed with doors and converted into storage cabinets. I had one in my previous house that I turned into a cosy sleeping niche,” says Bengaluru-based child counsellor Jaya Iyer, who hosts her 20-member extended family in her three-bedroom apartment every year.
Pro-tip: As such lofts are at the same elevation as the ceiling fan, ventilation can be a problem. But it’s one easily solved—just install a wall-mounted fan or place a portable cooler in the loft.
Order the ever-reliable gaddas that can be put together in a couple of days by your local upholstery maker. Or purchase padded, foldable mats that are quite a hit in all supermarkets these days. Make sure you have at least four to five of these stashed in your bed storage.
Pro-tip: After use, wrap them in plastic covers with naphthalene balls or camphor to prevent the musty odour that usually comes with prolonged storage.