Wondering how to throw a dinner party in a small space? It's not impossible, my friends! Whether you live in an apartment or a house, you're reading this because your dwelling is on the tiny side. I have the same glorious problem at a cozy 1,000 square feet. But I've lived in much smaller and over the years I've gotten better at handling the chaos of having friends over.
It doesn't take a remodel to successfully host a dinner party. Just follow this guide and you'll be throwing Martha Stewart-worthy parties like a boss.
Compile the Guest List
The first step you should take in throwing a dinner party is making the potential guest list. Try to keep the number to 2-4 people if this is your first party. Only invite those who are close friends or at least forgiving ones because if something doesn't go according to plan, you'll need the support of their easygoing nature to brush off the embarrassment.
Also take into account whether or not the guests are on friendly terms. Two enemies at a party would be uncomfortable. Two enemies at a party in a small space would be downright miserable. Keep the experience light and fun by avoiding any drama!
Plan the Menu Accordingly
If you have a small living space, chances are you also have a small kitchen. Miracle of miracles our current kitchen is actually the largest we've ever had, capping out at about 85 square feet. (Don't be jealous.)
It's enough space to make a mean turkey sandwich but I could never comfortably cook a four course Thanksgiving turkey dinner.
One of the easiest parts of the night is planning the menu and you should do so while keeping the space you have in mind. Your guests will already be, er, cozy so try to avoid cooking something that requires you to run in and out of the kitchen and dining areas.
Plan the menu around easy recipes like crisp cucumber sandwiches and a hearty entree of pasta. I've made the following menu for different guests multiple times. It's cheap and easy and I'm always pleasantly surprised at the feedback. Comfort food puts a smile on guests' face faster than Jim Gaffigan.
- Spaghetti and Meatballs
- Crisp Romaine Salad
- Fresh Bread from Your Local Bakery
- Goat Cheese/Honey and Crackers
- Hummus/Olives and Crackers
- Booze, Booze, and More Booze
This example isn't the fanciest of menus. But most of it can be prepared ahead of time and requires very little babysitting by the host - you!
Prepare the Home
What makes a small space seem even more crowded? Clutter. So get rid of it. All of it. Even if it takes you a weekend to do it.
Also keep in mind that multiple bodies in a small space can really start to heat things up and not in a good way. I turn the thermostat down at least 5 degrees from our normal temperature a few hours before everyone is expected to arrive. I freeze a bit for a little while but between the wine and everyone rubbing elbows I defrost pretty quickly.
Rearrange the Furniture
If the stars have shined upon you and you have a large dining space in your small home, lucky you! The rest of us small home dwellers are a bit jealous but we're glad for you regardless.
My living/dining room combination is around 220 square feet, which isn't unmanageable. The first thing I do when having a group of people over is scrap the floor plan. I don't care about Dining Room or Living Room labels. I move the dining table into the living room and the couch into the far, lonely corner of the dining room. Which brings me to my next point...
Use Decor to Deceive
Okay, no you don't want to be a very deceptive host or hostess. But do you suffer from the lack of an oversized dining table like I do? Don't panic because it's not really a problem. Throw a nice tablecloth over a foldable card table and no one will even notice.
Create a space that uses your dining table as the main focal point. Outside of the food, you should spend a lot of time making sure your decor game is spot on. Place out a small vase of flowers, use the proper table setting (pictured above), and leave small place cards or favors for your guests.
No one feels comfortable when the host acts like a slave. Your guests came to see you and spend time with you. The fortunate thing about a small space is that you have very few places to hide. So embrace it and be present with your guests. Do as many things as you can before every one arrives, like meal preparation and decor.
Now I hate making my guests work but sometimes it's unavoidable in a small space. Have all of your decor, place settings, and finger foods prepared before they arrive, then ask them to help move the table or bring out the food when it's actually time to sit down and eat.
The best part about throwing a dinner party is the connection and bonding that can take place with your guests. In a small space, there's much more bonding because you're packed inside like a couple of sardines. No problem, you've got this.
I've thrown and co-thrown dinner parties in both small and large spaces and I can honestly tell you that the main difference between the two is that the dining room table will probably have to be moved to the living room in one of them.