Make The Most Of What You Have

Is your small space keeping you from entertaining? Some would-be hostesses hesitate simply because they don’t have enough room. But don’t let a tiny apartment or small backyard stop you from having a good time. These party experts help you make the most of the space you have.

Entertaining in small apartment

double-duty furniture

Carol Smyth, an interior designer with Chrome Consulting in Vancouver, offers these tips for making your existing furniture fill several functions:

  • Use two coffee tables to form a buffet or dining table.
  • Turn your four-person table into a 10-person table with a sheet of plywood covered with a tablecloth.
  • Empty some shelves on your bookcase to make space for plates, utensils and food platters.
  • Fill your sink with ice to create a beverage cooler.

Artist Violette Clark lives in a small home called the Magic Cottage. “Since it’s such a small space,” says Clark, “it’s difficult for me as the hostess to get from one area to another, so everything has to be self-serve.” Here’s how she has accommodated as many as 50 people in her 800-square-foot downstairs:

  • She uses the large kitchen island (in a small kitchen) as a buffet table.
  • She also uses the living-room coffee table for food.
  • She creates a bar for self-serve drinks by draping fabric over the washer and dryer in her tiny laundry room off the kitchen.
  • She provides guests a permanent marker to mark their cups -- then she only needs as many cups as she has guests.
  • She leaves the coffee pot on and posts a sign saying "mugs" on the kitchen cupboard, so folks can help themselves.
  • Cream, sugar, wine glasses, etc., are placed beneath the cupboard for easy access.

Move things around

Martha Alburquerque, founder of Lela Luxe magazine, lives in a 400-square-foot one-bedroom apartment in Manhattan. She loves to entertain and does so successfully with these tricks:

  • Buy functional furniture, such as more seating and fewer bulky cabinets and shelves.
  • Move furniture toward the walls to make room for movement. Place dining chairs against the wall for more accessible seating and more space for guests to mingle.
  • Move as much furniture as possible from your entertaining space to your bedroom.

Take the party outdoors

Kathy Peterson is a design expert, best-selling author and TV correspondent. She takes on small backyards in her book Great Outdoor Decorating Makeovers:

  • Use mirrors to give the illusion of a larger and brighter space.
  • Keep outdoor furniture in scale and consider using lightweight pieces that can be easily moved.
  • If you have a tree canopy above, hang votive lights from the limbs to enlarge the space. (Use caution and common sense, please!)

When all else fails …

Rachel Hollis, founder of Chic Events in Los Angeles, is the go-to event planner for Paramount, Entertainment Weekly and celebs like Al Gore, Marcia Cross and Jaime King. Here are her tips:

  • Forgo the traditional sit-down dinner in favor of a more casual, relaxed environment.
  • Go Moroccan! Put out a few brightly colored pillows and throws, and encourage guests to get cozy on the floor.
  • Offer small plates instead of one main course so people can eat standing up or perched on the arm of your sofa. Appetizers and skewered foods that don’t require utensils are ideal.
  • Instead of a full bar, offer beer, wine, and one signature cocktail (in pitchers) instead. This arrangement can be set up in a limited space and will look chic.

Sara Gaum, owner of the VendorBar.com event planning website adds these clever ideas:

  • Keep decorations off precious surface space. Hang them instead — use lanterns, fairy lights or banners. And let the food serve as decoration too, with colorful platters and festive garnishes.
  • Spread out the drinks and food so guests won’t try to congregate in one spot.

Let the party begin!

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