With the holidays just around the corner, you might be thinking about having the gang over to ring in the new year or inviting family for a holiday meal. If you have never entertained at home because you think your abode is too small, think again. While a small house or apartment might be limited in terms of square footage, you can still throw a great party. Consider the following tips when planning your next soiree.
Rethink your meal. If you live in a studio apartment, having 20 of your nearest and dearest over for a seated five-course meal might be pushing the limits of how you can entertain. But fear not. You can still throw a memorable party, just change how and what guests will eat. Opt for a cocktail party in a small space and serve finger foods that can be eaten by hand and don't require heavy cutlery. Cocktail shrimp, cheese and crackers and fresh-cut vegetables and dip can all be easily managed without worrying about balancing. Encourage guests to mingle by doing away with most of your chairs, storing them offsite. Clear off any dressers or desks so people have a place to keep their wine glasses and snacks.
Repurpose what you already have. The key to using small spaces effectively when entertaining is to reuse what is already at your fingertips. The bed in a small apartment can be pushed against the wall. Throw some decorative cushions and pillows on it and voila, you now have a couch. To keep beverages chilled, stock a scrubbed-down tub or your kitchen sink with ice, then fill it up with your drinks of choice. In addition, throw a festive tablecloth over a stand-up ironing board placed against a wall and keep it attached with clips. The result is a decorative stand for holding beverages, snacks, plates and napkins.
Store guests' gear. In many parts of the country, holiday parties are synonymous with wearing thick, warm jackets. If you're in a small space, simply throwing jackets onto your bed may not work, especially if you are planning to use the bed as a couch. Instead, clear off one dresser or chair and neatly stack jackets on top of each other. Another option is to buy extra coat hangers, then hang guests' coats over the doors. If nothing else, consider buying a coat rack. You might not want to use the bathroom curtain rod to store jackets as the weight from heavy coats -- especially if they are wet from snow or rain -- could break the rod.
Remove what you are not using. In a small space, every square foot counts when entertaining. Before your next party, remove furniture you do not plan to use. Your kitchen table might only make it awkward for guests to maneuver around while grabbing snacks. If that is the case, stash it in storage or ask a neighbor to hold onto it overnight. Other items you might want to consider removing are coffee tables, nightstands and floor lamps if you already have sufficient light. In addition, find a home for items cluttering the floor, including suitcases and books.
Clear off the countertops. Your kitchen countertop will likely need to do double duty and serve as a snack table. Clear off your countertops completely of any small appliances not needed for your party, including stand-up mixers, toasters and microwaves. If your stove will not be in use during your party, place cookie sheets on top of the burners and use them to hold bowls of snacks. If you are still short on space and are not using your kitchen sink to store beverages, consider placing oversized cutting boards over your sink to store food.
Take it outside. If you have a balcony, patio or terrace, encourage guests to go outside by running a heat lamp or lighting candles on a cold winter's night. If your backyard is big enough, use a fire pit to encourage guests to mingle outdoors. A cool patio is also the perfect place to keep cold beverages chilled without taking up space in your refrigerator. By using the outdoors, you can significantly increase your entertaining square footage while keeping your party from feeling too crowded.
Megan Horst-Hatch is a mother, runner, baker, gardener, knitter, and other words that end in "-er." She loves nothing more than a great cupcake, and writes at I'm a Trader Joe's Fan. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.
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