Entertaining gurus and interior designers weigh in with their very best advice for hosting a small soirée with gusto.
Options are always good, but too many options will leave you crunched for space. "My recommendation is to pre-make a cocktail in a large drink dispenser and stack glasses alongside it," says Amanda Saiontz Gluck, creator and author of entertaining site .
These serving platters are as pretty as they are functional. "I always recommend three-tiered platters or cake stands for small spaces," says Gluck. "I love them for desserts of tiered brownies, cookies, fruits or cheese and crackers. Just remember they're not great for appetizers that require cutting, like a block of cheese."
While flowers make lovely decor around your space, they may not be the best option for a centerpiece. "On a small table, it's a good idea to add height," says Boston-based interior designer . "Use a narrow hurricane or tall vase and fill with cut branches to create a dramatic centerpiece; you can even spray paint the branches in a metallic paint for added glamour. Since the branches aren't full and the vase is clear, it also allows for uninterrupted conversation across the table."
Let the bar cart itself be part of your decor. "A properly accessorized bar cart is a functional sculpture," says San Francisco-based interior designer . "For interest, select a bar cart made out of more than one material, such as brass and glass or chrome and lucite. You can also consider displaying large-scale coffee table books on the lower level for an unexpected twist."
It's a current trend that's also a space-saver. "A small table can quickly overflow with plates, glasses and bottles, so keep table decor to a minimum by going up," says Louise Beukes, founder and editor-in-chief of lifestyle and entertaining site . "The current trend toward hanging decor is perfect for this. Think garlands of draping foliage or giant arches of balloons sweeping over the table."
It may be tempting to immediately welcome your guests with sips, but let them walk to the back of the room to find them. "People will naturally congregate around drinks and food, so try to place both towards the back of your space to draw people in and prevent a bottleneck as guests arrive," says Beukes.
This will make cleanup easier for you the next day and save space during your party. "Make sure to have several visible garbages so people can throw things away mid-party," says Gluck. More trash in the garbage means fewer cups, napkins and paper plates cluttering your serving surfaces.
Yes, we're looking at your pouf. And that bean bag you insisted on keeping. And any other seating that any guest will avoid if they want to socialize with other guests. "A pouf may be great when you kick your feet up after a long day, but come party time, they are too low for seating," says Gluck. Removing low side tables that don't make good serving surfaces can also create more space around the couch.
One thing you should definitely not sacrifice for space? A good coffee table book or photo. "In general, I love to display items that lead to a story," says Gluck. "Maybe it's a coffee table book of the coast of Italy where we took a recent trip, or pictures of family and friends. These things make for great conversation starters."
If you're comfortable having guests linger in your bedroom, opening it up could be an easy strategy to offer partygoers more space. "The key isn't using the best spaces, the key is to use every space," says Munroe. "Make a point to walk through the home and make sure every room has a purpose as a destination. For instance, lay out a mixed drink bar on the dresser in your bedroom and make it a destination for a signature cocktail."
Your space will probably already be busy with items, so don't clutter it with too much color, too. Instead, opt for different shades of one color. "In a small space, I like to keep colors monochromatic," says Nayak. Plus, a monochromatic color scheme is rarely not chic — it adds instant sophistication to your soirée.
You can only add so much decor to a small space, but you can certainly add endless amounts of ambient music. "Create a playlist that starts slow and speeds up as the night gets going," recommends Gluck. The element that may add the most mood to your small space may be the least visible.
The soundtrack to your party is certainly important, but chances are the music combined with everyone's chatter will quickly rise in volume in a small space. Create quiet zones for guests who want to converse with each other. "Create areas for guests to get away for quieter conversations, and add soft furnishings to absorb at least some of the sound," says Beukes.
When you're trying to conserve space, flowers may seem like a frivolous addition to your decor, but they can add major ambiance to the party. "Even if you have limited space to display food and drinks, find a little spot to put an arrangement," says Gluck. "I also always love flowers in the powder room."
Lighting is key for creating ambiance with what you already have. "Turn off the overhead recessed lights and turn on table lamps and dim chandeliers," says Munroe. "This will create a warm, inviting glow, enhancing conversation and relaxing guests."
Remember: Plenty of people equals plenty of body heat. And in a small space, all that body heat can make a big difference. "Small spaces can get hot and stuffy pretty quickly, so turn up the air conditioner beforehand, or open as many windows and doors as you can to let fresh air in," says Beukes.
It may seem like a kitchen tool that's just taking up space, but your cutting board can serve as a handy serving platter. "Don't sacrifice having a large solid wood cutting board out," says Nayak. "Not only is it functional, but it adds warmth to your kitchen, and you can also use it for serving and displaying appetizers or breads."
Just because a surface has one purpose at the beginning of the party doesn't mean it can't serve a totally different purpose later on. "A welcome drinks counter can become a beautiful dessert display, and a canapé table can be changed into a late night cigar and whisky bar," says Beukes. "You can even move your dining table away to open up the space for a dance floor."
Electric lights aren't the only way to add ambiance to a small space. "I love using candles when entertaining," says Nayak. "They help soften the mood and create a relaxing atmosphere when placed around the home."
If you only remember one of these tips, remember this: Every surface shall be used in a small space party. "If you can sit on it or serve from it, use it when entertaining in a small space," says Nayak.
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