For those in small homes, holiday entertaining can feel daunting, or even impossible. But with a little planning, that needn’t be the case.
“I don’t think anyone who enjoys hosting should stop themselves from entertaining just because of space constraints,” says Sarah Carey, editorial director of food and entertaining for Martha Stewart Living magazine.
There is an art to small-space entertaining, and a few things to keep in mind to help things go smoothly.
“In a small space, it’s important to keep it simple. Make it easy on yourself by having everything prepared and in place before guests arrive, so that you can enjoy yourself with them. If you’re having fun, your guests will likely have fun, too,” Carey says, adding that, particularly in close confines, a stressed-out host risks ruining the party.
The most common mistake, she says, is thinking that more is more. Less is definitely more.
“Just be realistic about what you can do and provide. You can be a very generous host without going overboard,” she says.
Clear the deck and set the mood
Preparing your space ahead of time is especially important when entertaining in a small home, says Stephanie Sisco, home editor at Real Simple magazine.
“Focus on the powder room, entryway and kitchen, making sure the clutter is cleared off countertops, personal items have been removed from the bathroom, and you’ve made room for coats and scarves,” she says.
She suggests putting an essence-oil infuser near the front door to set the mood, and having a fan going, since small spaces tend to warm up quickly. And it’s nice to have a playlist at the ready.
When laying things out ahead of your event, consider where people will be congregating so that the drinks are separate from the food area, if possible, and people aren’t blocking the entryway, Sisco suggests.
Cook ahead of time
“Make-ahead food is great because you aren’t cooking in the kitchen at the last minute, and you can utilize that space for entertaining,” says Carey. “Putting a few last-minute touches on things as people are arriving is OK, but you don’t want to be in full production mode.”
Think crudite and aioli, or hummus, or maybe spiced olives as a cold appetizer. Also, “casseroles are back in fashion and are always crowd-pleasers,” says Sisco.
Make a statement
“A large centerpiece adds focus to a party. A ham, Gravlax or smoked salmon platter are all great make-ahead ideas,” says Carey. “Make one or two and place them in a few different spots — maybe one on the kitchen counter, one on the dining table or sideboard — to spread out the ‘revelers’.”
Instead of a full bar, set out a couple of punches, one with and one without alcohol, and a couple kinds of wine.
“A full bar is not something you can do in a small space, so keep it simple and people will know what to do,” says Carey.
Send them home with a treat
“Make a cookie or two — no need to go crazy — but make them super special,” suggests Carey. “Box them up as a reminder of a sweet evening spent with friends.”