Secrets to Small Space Entertaining from Jordan Reid of Ramshackle Glam
For years and years my husband and I lived in an apartment that was fairly average-sized for an NYC one-bedroom, but that – let’s get real, here – could generously be referred to as “teeny.” It was cozy and lovely and charming, with extra-wide floorboards, built-in bookshelves and big windows that flooded the living room with light, but it was also nowhere near the kind of expansive, party-perfect abodes my non-NY friends lived in.
But did that stop me from throwing parties? It most certainly did not. And I’m here to tell you that small space entertaining can be totally fun.
Let’s talk about the whys and hows, from decor to food to cocktails to chilling out (seriously, things will go wrong – just chill out).
It’s all about working with what you have, and finding creative ways to incorporate items that you already own into your decor (thereby saving you both time and money).
One nice bonus of small-space entertaining: unlike at larger parties, your guests are likely to notice all of the special little touches, so none of your efforts will go to waste.
•Pull in furniture from other rooms, and move any and all furniture that doesn’t serve a purpose for the party into unused areas.
•Transform key pieces (for example, use your dresser as your buffet table, or convert your dining room table to a bar).
•Expand the size of your coffee table with an inexpensive plywood board (ask your local hardware store) and a tablecloth.
•Create additional surfaces with inexpensive trays (one idea: use a large framed poster placed on an ottoman as a setup area for appetizers).
•Lights and reflective surfaces work wonders – try using a long mirror as a centerpiece and top it with candles (go for 1/2 real, 1/2 faux to minimize smoke and heat).
•When it comes to flowers, think “dramatic”, not “big”, and swap in inexpensive blooms (carnations) for pricey ones (peonies).
•No need for fancy vases: you can pull in anything from teacups to creamers to sake carafes in a pinch.
HOW-TO: AT-HOME PICNIC
My favorite way to entertain for two at home: a coffee-table picnic like the one pictured above, which I set up for a mini-celebration a couple of weeks before my husband and I moved.
•A coffee table picnic works for up to six, but you can squeeze in more guests if you create additional floor seating areas around your apartment (try to keep everyone more or less on the same “level” while they’re eating to facilitate conversation).
•Chic, cozy floor pillows make all the difference (you can even use regular old pillows and toss pretty throws over them).
•Serve food in the kitchen so the table doesn’t get too cluttered.
•Use stemless glasses and other unlikely-to-break pieces.
When it comes to food at a mini-party, the key is to make it all as easy on yourself as possible. Martha may make everything from scratch, but I certainly don’t…and when you don’t have a dishwasher you suddenly become quite fond of disposable cutlery (melamine works well too, and there are lots of gorgeous patterns out there these days).
•A nice side-effect of having a small space: you’re guaranteed to be able to chat with your guests while you cook: they’re right there. Next to you.
•Try a buffet, and serve foods that can be eaten standing up (without utensils).
•If you’re uncomfortable not offering a sit-down dinner but straight-up don’t have the space, consider serving cocktails and appetizers at home and then heading to an inexpensive local restaurant.
•Crostini is a fantastic solution for small-space serving (it can be sweet or savory, light or hearty).
•To save time and money, try serving up store-bought dips with pretty extras (for example, add capers and arugula to hummus).
•Go for a selection of small plates (tapas) rather than the traditional appetizer-entree-dessert.
•Never underestimate the impact of a really great guacamole (my recipe includes tequila. Yes it does).
•Finally, since you’re only serving a handful of people, now is the time to experiment with labor-intensive preparations you’d never make in bulk, like the Apple Salad with Avocado, Pomegranate and Blue Cheese pictured above.
The most important thing to remember when it comes to party drinks: Let your guests serve themselves, or you’ll be playing bartender all night.
The second-most-important thing to remember: nothing saves cash like a signature drink. Serve up something special (like my white sangria) and have a couple of bottles of wine, some beer, and something non-alcoholic on hand, and you’re good to go – no full bar necessary.
And, most importantly…chill out.
Because even when everything goes wrong, (that’s my husband washing dishes in our bathtub on the day when I tried to cook a fancy, multi-course meal and both our stove and our kitchen faucet went on the fritz)…
It’s still a party. And parties are fun. (Sometimes messy, but fun.)