The Ultimate Guide to Holiday Entertaining in a Small Space

holiday entertaining in a small space

Hosting a holiday party is a huge undertaking, and when you’re short on space, it can seem nearly impossible. Whether you live in a studio apartment or a small house, entertaining guests this holiday season will take some strategizing — but it isn’t out of the question. With our guide to holiday entertaining in a small space, you can throw a holiday party that maximizes your limited space (without downsizing the fun!).

How to Throw A Holiday Party in a Small Space

Rethink your space

With enough creativity, anything is possible — and that includes squeezing 30 of your closest friends and family members into your tiny living space. If you want to host a holiday party in a small space, you’re going to have to get creative.

The first step in prepping for your party is clearing out as much clutter as possible. Cleaning and tidying up is necessary, of course, but don’t stop there. Consider moving or hiding any furniture, decor and appliances that won’t serve a specific purpose at your holiday gathering.

holiday entertaining in a small space

Take a look around your space and decide what absolutely needs to stay for the party. For everything else that won’t be used when guests arrive, move it somewhere else, such as a closet, bedroom or another unused room.

Is that large floor lamp taking up valuable floor space? Move it into the bedroom for the night. Do you really need all those decorative vases and books on your accent tables? Make room for guests to set drinks by clearing off tabletop surfaces. Empty the kitchen countertops and stow the toaster, blender and coffee maker in cupboards. If it’s not going to be used during the party, move it to another room or stash it out of sight.

Now that you’ve scaled your space down to the essentials, it’s time to start rearranging. Don’t be afraid to completely change the layout to fit your party needs. Push large furniture items up against the wall to create more space for guests to walk around and mingle. Pull a table up against the sofa to turn your living room into a dining room. Borrow any ottomans, stools or benches from other rooms to use as extra seating.

When it comes to serving food and drink, get creative with how you use your existing furniture. Serve hors-d’oeuvres on the coffee table or arrange a dessert spread on the bookshelf. Use the kitchen sink as an ice bucket to chill wine and other beverages. All it takes is a little imagination to make the most of what you already have.

Don’t forget to assign an area for guests to put their coats, purses and other belongings. Whether you pile everything on the bed or purchase a simple coatrack for the occasion, make sure you have a designated drop zone.

Be strategic about food and drink

What’s a holiday party without festive food and drinks? This ultra-important aspect of holiday entertaining can be tricky to plan out in a small space.

If you have the room, a sit-down dinner sets a cozy, intimate tone your guests are sure to love. Don’t have a big enough dining room table? Make your own makeshift table by securing a large piece of plywood atop two end tables and adding a festive tablecloth on top. Or gather friends and family around a low coffee table, using floor pillows and cushions for plush, laidback seating.

A room full of people surrounded by hot foods can quickly turn your small space into a stifling sauna. Turn the heat down a few hours before the party starts and crack a few windows if it starts getting too toasty for comfort.

Another great food option is laying out refreshments buffet-style. To pull this off in a small space, be sure to place the food far away from the door to avoid creating a bottleneck situation as guests arrive. Carefully consider traffic flow as you decide on the placement of refreshment tables.

Spread the food out across several tables in various areas so guests can graze as they please. Place food on tiered trays or cake stands to maximize small surface areas.

holiday entertaining in a small space

As for drinks, skip the full bar setup in a small space. Mixing individual cocktails takes a long time, which can lead to an awkward traffic jam around the bar. Instead, mix up a signature drink ahead of time so guests can grab a drink and get back to the party. To streamline cleanup and cut down on waste, set out glassware with drink labels nearby so each guest only uses one glass.

Prevent trash from cluttering up your serving spaces by placing several trash cans in plain sight throughout the party space.

Less is more with decor

Decorations are essential to any great holiday gathering, but it’s easy to overdo it in a small space. Keep in mind that simple can be chic when it comes to holiday decorations.

For your table, dress up a charming tablecloth with a few thoughtful decorations for a tasteful, uncluttered tablescape. Stick to simple elements, like fresh flowers or seasonal greenery, that won’t get in the way of conversation across the table. Sprinkle in a few Christmas ornaments or decorative pinecones for a festive finishing touch.

For the main party area, no worries if you don’t have room for a fully decked out Christmas tree! Get creative with alternatives to avoid taking up valuable floor space with bulky decor. Hang decorations like wreaths, string lights, banners and garlands to add a delightfully festive touch without infringing on the useable party area.

holiday entertaining in a small space

You can also take advantage of light to create the illusion of a larger space. Add in decorative lights and mirrors to bounce light around and make your small space feel more expansive. Choose decorations in metallic tones to reflect even more light. The result is a bright, lively atmosphere that feels anything but cramped.

Candles are a simple way to instantly set a festive mood, but open flames can be dangerous in a small space packed with people. Opt for artificial candles so a clumsy accident doesn’t become a fire hazard.

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