I’ve never lived in a home blessed with ample space, and to be completely honest, it doesn't bother me in the slightest. From a 400 sq. foot bachelor apartment to a small two-bedroom urban house, all of our homes have been small in size, and I really kind of prefer it that way, despite the challenges that come with packing a family and a few pets into cramped quarters.
Thankfully, our lack of space has never placed limits on our ability to entertain, even in that too-tiny apartment back when we were childless adults learning our way around a kitchen, and admittedly we’ve been fairly creative when it comes to feeding a crowd in our space ever since.
There are so many reasons that people refrain from casual entertaining in their home, but the one I hear about most frequently is the perceived lack of space available to comfortably play host to a crowd of friends. It’s disheartening to think that there are folks out there holding back from the gathering of dear ones simply because they feel there isn’t enough room to have friends and family over to share a meal.
So, this is where I'm going to come in and help. I'm here to tell you that you absolutely can have people over this holiday season, and that you can entertain and feed them well, even if you live in the smallest house in town. These are some of my best tips and tricks, simple ideas that I've put into practice more times that I care to count.
- To start with, if you’re feeling short on space consider maximizing serving surfaces by going vertical – use cake stands and tiered platters to elevate food, which will allow you to squeeze more into a small area. If you don’t have cake stands, set a pretty plate on top of an inverted wine or water glass and voila - an instant serving stand.
- If you’re having decorations at your party hang them from the walls and ceilings in order to keep tabletops and counters free – you’ll need them for drinks and food, and somewhere for people to put their feet up in relaxation. Alternatively, focus on sprucing up one main area - the buffet, bar, or a mantle - and leave the rest of the spaces clear of clutter in order to have room for things listed above.
- Be open to rearranging the furniture if it’s necessary. Move an end table to another room, or place a large floor plant in your bedroom; push sofas and chairs against walls around the perimeter of the room, opening the floor space for easy movement and more seating.
- Folding tables and chairs create non-permanent seating and dining options and can easily be tucked away under beds or sofas, stored in a basement or garage or in the back of a closet up against a wall. A coffee table and throw cushions can easily double for a dining space when you have a small group over.
- If you don’t have enough seating for all of your guests serve the food buffet-style, which automatically signals that the meal is more casual affair. Guests can help themselves to a plate of food and find a spot to sit or stand wherever there is space. No need to fuss with place settings, just make sure everyone has a decent napkin and the utensils required for the meal they’re eating.
- Tidy small spaces like tables, mantles and bookcases of everyday items such as books, magazines, remote controls, etc. in order to create small spots for people to put down a glass or plate.
- While it’s fine to set out a buffet of foods for people to choose from, make sure each conversation hub has something to pick from. I like the idea of adding small bowls of nuts, olives, chips, and popcorn to the corners of a room for my friends to nibble on while chatting with other guests. This will keep guests from having to continuously walk around the area, cluttering up the corners and hallways.
- I don’t believe in buying furniture just for the purposes of entertaining – if you don’t have a sideboard clear a shelf on your bookcase for the champagne bucket and platter of nibbles, making a self-serve bar area.
- Store small appliances in a cupboard, closet or another room leaving lots of counter space for meal prep and/or a buffet.
- If you have kids coming to your place and there isn’t enough space to seat them with the adults, set up a kid’s table in another room, like a basement playroom, kitchen, or patio, if the weather is nice. Kids don’t notice the cold quite like the adult, and even in the winter they would be delighted to bundle up and eat at a picnic table in the snow.
- Clear space in your coat closet to hang you guest’s jackets. Move your items to a bedroom closet for the night so your friend’s coats can be hung up. If you don’t have a coat closet, revert to the old-fashioned method of storing jackets on a bed. No one will mind and you can even have older kids create a ticket system and be in charge of collecting the coats at the end of the evening.
Now, it's your turn. What are you best secrets for entertaining in a place you feel is too small? In my experience, even the largest of homes have some space challenges so I'm curious to hear how you get creative with your too-small rooms.
This post is partially excerpted from Gatherings.
Looking for more holiday how-tos? Check out the rest of the series here:
- How to Fill a Bread Basket
- How to Make Homemade Fruit and Nut Crisps
- How to Make Three Easy (Gluten-Free) Appetizers for the Holidays
- How to Give an Impressive Hostess Gift