As soon as the first leaves of autumn begin to fall, we open our homes and hearts for entertaining. Backyard cookouts and picnics are traded for big harvest meals, and holiday hosting.
The good news is, you don’t need a space the size of a football stadium in order to entertain a large group. The key is to know your space, plan appropriately, and follow these tips to make your next get together a smashing success.
Open Concepts are Great, But….
For the past several decades open concepts and high ceilings have been on the ‘must-have’ list for any homeowner on every renovation or home buyer’s reality TV show. In turn people aspire to these open concept spaces. An article published in City Lab aptly stated, “Designing homes around ‘entertaining’ that happens only a handful of times a year is a wasteful, yet still mindbogglingly popular practice. When people come to visit, they are there to see you, not your open concept.”
To keep open concepts clean enough to simultaneously cook, entertain, and host is nearly impossible. Smells, messes and sounds from the kitchen waft into the rest of the house and are no longer tucked neatly behind a door. Getting space from your houseguests while you prepare for a big family meal is difficult, especially when you’re all in one, albeit large room, This is why a company out of Akron Ohio called Schumacher Homes has invented an open concept kitchen for entertaining with a real, ‘messy’ kitchen behind it to do the real dirty work. The good news is, you don’t need a fake kitchen and a real one to entertain with the best of them.
Surface Space Matters
A clean home with no clutter matters more than a bigger one when it comes to entertaining. Interior Designer Elaine Griffin told Real Simple to get unnecessary décor and every day clutter out and away, “Stash it in closets, under your bed, or even at a neighbor’s. Your bathroom should be spotless and free of your personal toiletries for the party. The rest of your house doesn’t need to be immaculate, but it should be dust-free. If you have pets, vacuum your upholstery, too.”
If your home is small, each surface you’re able to declutter will make a definite impression. In your kitchen, put away your coffee maker, toaster and any appliances that won’t be in use during your party. This creates the illusion of an open space and allows you to use your counters for serving stations if you need to. Start your party with the dishwasher empty so you can put used plates and cups out of sight and off your counter. Bonus, when everyone leaves, finish filling it, and run it. By the time you wake up in the morning a lot of the mess is cleaned.
Clear The Traffic
Do you ever wonder why all your parties end up with a traffic jam in the same area? Some crowding in common areas around the fridge, bar, or platters of food is completely normal, but you can plan some of the flow of people based on where you place things. Interior Designer Kyle Schuneman told Real Simple, “For example, put your bar on the console, your meal on the main table, and the dessert in the kitchen so there isn’t a bottleneck.” Schuneman adds that you can save money and time around the fridge or bar by creating, “a signature drink that you can put in pitchers or dispensers with cups next to them.”
Set The Mood
Small touches can make a big difference. Twinkle lights can make a smaller space seem cozy instead of cramped. Open windows or some fans to help cool your guests when it gets toasty inside. If things are feeling cramped, consider suggesting a walk between dinner and dessert while the pie cooks in the oven. This allows one person to stay back and tidy mid-party a little if they’d like.
In terms of the TV, it tends to take up a lot of space for an item that isn’t used in most party settings, that is unless you’re hosting a party for hockey playoffs, The Olympics, or the season finale of The Bachelor. Put a classic holiday movie on mute or the fireplace channel during a Christmas get together, or Runaway Bride on mute for a Bridal Shower, or one of the nice ‘Zen Moments’ channels to help keep things calm.
Keep It Simple For Your Sake
Enjoying your own party is the first step to being a solid host. If you’re run off your feet doing meal prep or taking drink orders the entire time, that’s not going to happen. Interior Designer Peti Lau told Apartment Therapy, “Make things easy on yourself. Prep food beforehand. You don’t want to be cooking the entire night, where you are stuck and can’t be with your guests. Welcome cocktails are a great way to get the party started while you get food ready! People can mingle among themselves with an aperitif/cocktails in hand!”
Know the Limits of Your Home, and Patience
You don’t need to own extra chairs for the handful of times you host a big get together. Don’t be shy about asking a neighbour to borrow some chairs, renting, or if you host more often but don’t have the space, invest in some furniture that will help. Chests or benches like the one from the Mission Collection can become occasional seating or store extra knickknacks and blankets to free up more room when the crowd is bigger can save you stress every time you host. Interior Designer Linda Cava offers sound advice, “for sit-down meals the host should be seated closest to the kitchen for the easiest access, hang coats in a closet (or borrow or buy a coatrack) so people don’t throw them on a much needed seat, and know your spacial limits — don’t over invite.” If you are set on having everyone and their aunt into your home, consider making your party an open house to allow the crowd to ebb and flow, or host drinks or coffee before or following a reservation at a nearby restaurant.