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How to make your living room work for parties

Julie Sprankles is a freelance writer living in the storied city of Charleston, SC. When she isn't slinging sass for SheKnows, she enjoys watching campy SyFy creature features (Pirahnaconda, anyone?), trolling the internet for dance work...

Make your furniture work for your entertaining needs

When laying out your living room, there's more to consider than simply where to put the TV. Factoring in the dynamics of your entertaining style will ensure you're always ready to welcome guests into your home without the huge hassle of having to rearrange your entire space (or, you know, your life).

Why? Because, aesthetics aside, you should always arrange furniture according to how you live. Yes, you want it to look beautiful, too — don't worry, form and function are not mutually exclusive. We turned to industry experts to zero in on tips for making your making your house a home with a living room that's the perfect party venue.

Tip No. 1: Skip sofas and go for settees instead

Sure, you could opt for the classic furniture configuration of a sofa paired with two club chairs or a large L-shaped sofa with one or two club chairs. But if you really want to encourage conversation, buck tradition. "Love seats and settees are great paired with chairs and poufs or ottomans," says Kathryn McKay, founder of the event style brand Ruffled Feathers. She added that the two-person seating is a great way to avoid the awkwardness of a third wheel in conversations.

Make your furniture work for your entertaining needs

Alternatively, you could also use a daybed to connect two smaller seating areas. These options not only allow for easy dialogue, but they help the living space maintain an open, airy feel.

Tip No. 2: Nesting furniture is your friend

Charleston-based interior designer and hostess extraordinaire Melissa Hunter of MW Hunter Custom Interiors swears by nesting tables as the ultimate in multi-functional furniture. "Nesting tables are great. You can shift them around, leaving the big one beside a stationary armchair. Then you can function around the two smaller ones — like bringing in more chairs from the dining room and situating one of the nesting tables between those."

Make your furniture work for your entertaining needs

This is ideal, since your guests will need ample opportunity to sit their drinks down. Plus, they can be collapsed when not in use, so they're great space-savers. Also falling under that umbrella are nesting ottomans, which can is the perfect piece to stash beneath a console table when not in use and pulled out for big social functions.

Tip No. 3: Think vignettes

Floating furniture in the middle of the room as opposed to pushing it to the walls will make it easier to delineate distinctive areas in your living room conducive to mingling, even if it does seem counterintuitive. Explains McKay, "It's good to think of it in terms of areas for people to congregate, and vignettes are the best. If you've got a lot of people, you don't want a big, gaping room where the conversation is lost. Incorporate places to stand and talk so that mingling is encouraged. To that end, cocktail tables and high boys are fab."

Make your furniture work for your entertaining needs

Perhaps one of the most overlooked furniture "vignettes" out there also happens to quite possibly be one of the best when it comes to fostering a sense of intimacy — arranging four armchairs around a coffee table. Not only is it amazingly functional (there are clear sight lines and walkways to pretty much any point in the room), but it is also ideal for people who have a tricky shaped or sized living room. Or, as Hunter suggests, create several smaller seating areas of only two chairs and a nesting table. "I try to group in twos. That way, if you came in and sat down, you and I could start a conversation and hold it while the party continued around us."

Tip No. 4: Stagger table space

Here's a scenario everyone is familiar with — you're hosting a party and you place all of your food in a central location... say, the island top or the dining room table. Only what inevitably happens is you create a huge bottleneck of people milling about in the same space.

Make your furniture work for your entertaining needs

"When I do the food for a party, I start by putting some on the cocktail or coffee table," explains Hunter. "Using nesting tables and other small surfaces, I disperse the food throughout the entertaining area, which makes it easier for people to serve themselves. By breaking up the menu throughout — finger foods on the cocktail table, sweets on a nesting table, etc. — everyone can move freely and I can circle around and play hostess."

This post was brought to you by Value City Furniture. For more inspiration, visit their blog at

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All images: American Signature Furniture

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