If you’re someone who wants to throw a party, but are worried that your space isn’t big enough to host, don’t fret—you don’t need a gigantic dining room or sprawling backyard to entertain. With some creativity around furniture setup, menu design and decor, you’ll have everyone enjoying themselves in no time. Embrace those close quarters and keep reading for some expert tips around planning and hosting a party in a smaller living area.
1. Clear out the clutter
When getting ready for your party or event, Seri Kertzner, chief party officer of Little Miss Party Planner, shares that clearing out as much clutter as humanly possible is a must. “Clear areas like countertops, coffee and side tables, as well as your dining table if you have one,” she notes. “You can always put these items into a closet or under a bed if needed—having clear spaces offers a sense of calm and allows your guests to comfortably set their glasses down when they want to.”
2. Get creative with seating
Don’t fret if you don’t have a formal dining room, it’s time to get creative! “If you are limited on seating, put a few throw pillows and blankets on the floor around the coffee table and/or couch and encourage your guests to kick off their shoes if they would like to!” highlights Kertzner.
Another suggestion (if possible) is to rearrange your furniture and place seating around the periphery of the room. “This will open the space up for mingling and allow space for people to sit down without feeling like they're sitting in the middle of it all,” shares Emily Monus of Emily Monus Events, who adds that you can keep the coffee table in the center to use as a snack station. “Also consider creating food stations in different strategic locations—put the cheese and cracker platter on the coffee table, the casserole on the stove in the kitchen and perhaps the drink station on your kitchen table, so you don't have everyone all jammed up in one spot trying to get to the food and drinks.”
Finally, Kate Whelan Pesci, owner of Kate Whelan Events, notes to consider any outdoor space you might have access to as well. “If it’s cold, you could rent or purchase a patio heater or even place a fire pit for warmth,” she says. “Lay a cozy blanket on each seat as well—IKEA has great, affordable neutral polar fleece options.” You might even wish to make it festive by offering a hot cocoa or mulled wine station outside and use a crockpot or beverage urn to keep things toasty.”
3. Invest in a bar cart or rolling kitchen island
Devin Shaffer, Decorilla's affordable interior design expert, shares that one secret to being the ultimate entertainer—without letting your small space get in the way—is to invest in a rolling kitchen island or bar cart. One more tip from him: “It's important to be intentional about what is used to ‘style’ your bar cart to ensure you’ll love it and use it all year long,” he says.
4. Set the ambience with lights
Many of our experts recommended getting creative with lighting options to set the ambience.
“Indoor string lights have become an obsession of mine, and to be honest they've been life changing, especially when hosting guests and/or needing to create a unique ambience in my space (which is extremely small and not well lit),” says Shaffer. “There are hundreds of styles, but opting for simplified forms such as Edison bulbs, lanterns or globes will guarantee that you get the most out of the lights and they might even end up being a permanent staple in your home.”
5. Stay away from the oven
Thinking about what to serve can always be tricky, but we have you covered. “I find that when you start cooking a large meal in a small space, the fire alarm goes off, the space gets overheated, you start to sweat, etc.,” says Kertzner, and alternatively recommends options like charcuterie and cheese boards (so festive and pretty!), crudités with dip, or perhaps a Mediterranean platter consisting of hummus, pita, and tzatziki.
Lisa Cokinos, founder ofLC Events LLC, echoes this sentiment. “Finger foods that are one serving and easy to handle are also best in tight situations,” she says, adding that bringing out foods in strategic waves will help minimize clutter and congestion. A few of her suggestions? “ I would recommend charcuterie cups and mini skewers (i.e. caprese, meat, fruit) to begin with and then move on to small plate offerings that can be refilled (i.e. sliders, crostini, sushi).” For dessert, she says you can add a festive flair by lining platters with candy or decorative paper to present bite-sized offerings to your guests.
6. Keep the drinks simple
If you have the space, Cokinos recommends providing a full bar, but if you don’t, limiting the choices is the way to go. “Provide only one beer and a choice of red or white wine along with only two spirits,” she says. “If you are hoping to provide a signature cocktail, pre-mix the cocktail and place it in a vessel to be dispensed.”
7. Decorate with candles and flowers
When it comes to decorating, two things that won’t overwhelm a small space are candles and flowers. “If your space is really small and you're worried about someone’s sweater catching on fire, use battery operated candles,” says Kertzner. “I also absolutely love a fresh touch at a party—flowers are key. You can simply arrange a few bud vases with one stem each and place them around your home for a pretty addition.”
8. Decorate your bathroom
One unique tip from Monus is to go all out when it comes to decorating the bathroom. “Everyone will likely be using that space at some point during the night, so why not create a magical and unexpected bathroom experience?” she says.
9. Look to the walls and ceilings
Here’s one last fun decor option: “Attach paper honeycomb decor to open wall spaces using removable mounting foam or wrap existing artwork in holiday paper just like a gift,” suggests Whelan. “Hang tinsel, bunting or ornaments from your chandeliers or light fixtures. If the fixtures are metal, use magnets with a little hot glue on the decor for easy install.”