Many homeowners love entertaining guests at home, particularly over the holidays. The problem: Plenty of us have small or even teeny homes that aren't exactly accommodating to tons of visitors. So do you trim your guest list to the bare bones, or pack 'em in like sardines?
Neither. There are actually many genius ways to host a large number of guests in a limited amount of square footage. Check out these brilliant small-space entertaining ideas from the pros to make your next soiree a huge hit, regardless of how little space you have to roam.
Pull up a stool
"A set of ceramic garden stools in front of the couch can be used as a coffee table, side tables, or for extra seats when entertaining," points out Gale Sitomer of G Sitomer Design in New York City.
Or consider a multipurpose ottoman.
"I love the ones with flip-top lids that can stand in for seating, trays, and storage," says Jamie Novak, organizing expert and author of "Keep This, Toss That."
Many people tend to gravitate toward a big central table in the home, but a few smaller ones can make much more sense—especially when it comes to entertaining.
"With small tables that fold or nest, you can bring them out as needed and move them around and then stack them when they're not in use," explains Novak.
But if you want a single table, get one that expands with extra leaves or a drop-leaf that opens up. To maximize the table space you do have, create elevated areas using tiered platters or cake stands. If you don't already own these, you can turn some bowls upside down and rest plates on top.
"A bookcase is a very versatile piece of furniture when entertaining in a tiny house," says Novak.
The shelves can hold all the everyday stuff you own (books, collections), but when you're having a bash you can clear it off and set up plates and cups, she says. Or arrange an instant buffet by lining your empty bookcase shelf with sturdy rattan mats to hold party food.
You can also arrange a few liquor bottles, mixers, and glassware on another shelf for a fast, self-serve bar. And to keep people from squeezing between you and the stove every time they need ice, empty your kitchen sink and fill it with cubes. Guests can grab a few for drinks, and you can stash wine bottles to chill.
No small abode should be without this three-in-one secret weapon.
"Use a kitchen cart to store glasses, plates, and serving pieces; prep on the upper surface; and then wheel your appetizers on it to serve guests," recommends Jenny Popis, a spokesperson at Lowe's. A bar cart functions similarly—it can be an end table, holding a lamp and magazines—as well as a spot for stirring drinks or serving dessert.
Opt for smaller plates. "Try 8-inch ones, instead of 12-inch," suggests Novak. Smaller plates fit in smaller cabinets and on smaller tables.
"And when you're entertaining, the 8-inch size is much easier for guests to carry around," she adds. The same holds for glassware in a tiny house. Use smaller, all-purpose glasses for red, white, and sparkling wines (those big Burgundy globes shatter in a heartbeat).
The last (and best) bit of advice is to dig deep in your cabinets and closets for anything you can use in a new way. For example, you might string Christmas lights overhead to decorate and illuminate—and you can remove a couple of floor or table lamps, which frees up space in the process.
"Or take advantage of kitchen items like pitchers for flowers or place single booms in a few old wine bottles," suggests Bronwen Smith of B Floral in New York City.
Smith also recommends bud vases lined up on your dining table or grouped on side tables: "They're small enough to store for future parties, and they can be used as decor even without flowers in them."