This year one of the most exciting things my family did was move to a new apartment. Since moving in and setting up shop on the Upper West Side, I’ve been wanting to start having people over more often. Some formal get togethers and mostly informal get togethers – but I wanted to be able to take advantage of our dining nook to accommodate friends and family at a moments notice. For many years we didn’t even have enough space to own a dining table! So the fact that we even have a dining nook feels luxurious and I’m grateful for every single square foot of space. Even though we’re lucky to dwell in an apartment with space for a table – it’s still a small space by most people’s standards. Entertaining in small spaces definitely has it’s challenges, but when your home is filled with people that you adore and you break bread together, you just can’t beat it. So I’ve come up with a few tips to make the most of entertaining in small spaces. These tips were lifesavers for me when we hosted our first “Friendsgiving” this year and fit 22 people in our apartment!
Invest in multi-purpose pieces
Investing in an expandable table can be a great way to grow your space efficiently. We were thrilled to find this beautiful table on Wayfair.com with a built in leaf. These armchairs anchor the table perfectly with our existing dining chairs. It’s impeccably made, storage friendly, and so easy to transition from as little as 4 seats to 10. I can’t say enough amazing things about this table. It’s a well built piece that we’ll have forever. Just thinking about all of the family meals and parties that we’ll enjoy together at this table makes me feel all tingly inside. I can’t think of a better furniture investment than a dining table that hosts a growing group of family and friends.
I’ve collected serving dishes and platters slowly over the years. While lots of color and pattern may be tempting (trust me I LOVE color), investing in classic white plates and serving pieces is always a safe bet. I’m crazy about this brand. Your table will look put together and food always looks best showcased on white. Unless a piece really calls my name – I don’t buy it if it’s not predominantly white or cream. This is a great way to streamline your dishes over the years.
Work with what you have
While it can be tempting to pick up new linens, dishes, or decor when hosting, always take a good inventory of what you have on hand before making any decisions about where to spend extra dollars for an event. For me, I’ve gotten great use out of a simple and versatile burlap runner (similar here), mercury glass votives (similar here), and anytime I buy fresh flowers or greenery I think about what will last the longest. I picked up this fresh magnolia leaf garland for our Thanksgiving dinner and it’s dried beautifully. Don’t forget to look to your kitchen for a few finishing decor elements. Things like fresh citrus, pomegranates, or fresh herbs can look beautiful and bring just enough color to make things feel special. I have a rubber stamp place card that I use over and over which make the table look really finished and inviting. You could also invest in reusable place cards and the same benefit. Other things like complimentary linens, silverware, and dishes can easily be mismatched. In fact, I like a table with a little bit of personality and love a not-so-perfect look. Striking a good balance between casual and put together is ideal. This tip also applies to the space that you have to work with. Before your guests arrive, think about the best ways to grow your space. Rearranging your furniture so your guests have more room to mingle can make a huge difference.
Map it out
Having a proper plan in place will make things run smoothly. This is true for all entertaining, but especially in small spaces. Potluck can be a great way to pull off a menu when working with a tight kitchen and dining space. When you’ve only got one oven and limited counter space, having a few guests bring a dish or two is not only helpful, but almost necessary. I like to label the dishes that I’m contributing and set the table the night or day before. That way if everyone shows up and you’re running behind – at least the table is ready to go and things appear to be in control. I also like to think about where all of the food and drinks will live. Using extra space on ledges or furniture can be a smart place to set up dessert, drinks, or even a small buffet. This will also maximize the space on your actual dining table. Finally a tip that I preach time and time again is to physically write out a game plan. It is so helpful when you get down to the wire and you’re thinking to yourself “I know I’m supposed to be doing something – I’m just not sure what it is!” It’s also a great reference to have if you end up with an eager guest who asks how they can be helpful when they arrive.
Living in NYC for the past 5+ years has taught me that you can make small spaces work. It takes a bit more planning and forethought, but the more the merrier! What’s most important is that you’re making memories in your home with people who mean a lot to you. How about you? Do you have any great tips when it comes to entertaining in small spaces? I have many friends in the city who have seemed to master the art of a good get together.