When I was a kid, I couldn’t wait to be an adult with a big-girl apartment, for one reason and one reason only: so I could host the cutest dinner parties the world has ever seen. Fast forward to this year when I moved into my first studio apartment, and I can confirm that I have indeed hosted a cute dinner party or two, thus fulfilling my childhood dream. However, this dream come true also came with a series of tough realizations, mostly related to hosting in a small space. When your kitchen, dining room, office, and bedroom are all one room, hosting becomes a bit of a challenge. In addition to all the other stressors that come with entertaining, I also have to worry about the fact that red wine is in distressingly close proximity to my white duvet cover.
Whether you live in a studio yourself and want to up your hosting game, or you simply want advice on making the most of a small living room when guests are over, these hosting tips will make parties of all kinds in a tight space not just tolerable, but fun. After all, no matter how big your living space is, you deserve to throw an unforgettable party.
1. Make use of every piece of furniture
When hosting in a small space, everything that can be used as a seat should be used as a seat. This means taking advantage of your couch, dining chairs, counter stools, ottomans, and any other seating options to ensure that each of your guests has a spot where they can at least perch. This is especially key if you’re serving food. While hosting in my studio apartment, I’ve moved my couch to maximize seating at my dining table or even thrown cushions on the floor to make sure no one is awkwardly standing while holding a plate.
2. Maximize the use of every surface
Now take that seating rule and apply it to serveable surfaces. Small-space hosting requires taking advantage of every possible counter or tabletop surface available to you. Before your guests arrive, make a plan for how you’ll use each surface in your home during the party, whether it’s for serving food, playing games, or setting down drinks. If your kitchen is part of your hosting space, factor in the counter space that might be taken up by dishes or cookware. This way, when you’re in the midst of hosting, you won’t find yourself attempting to balance a large platter of food on an end table that wasn’t necessarily meant to carry said platter.
3. “Involve” your guests in the cooking process
If you are like me and want to have as much control over the menu as possible when you have guests over, this can be a tough one to execute. However, the reality of small-space hosting is that chances are, your guests are going to end up in your kitchen whether you like it or not. Since hosting in my studio apartment, I’ve started actually encouraging the party to start in my kitchen. This way, guests can mill about my kitchen island and pour themselves drinks while I finish making the food. Inevitably, someone will offer to help, and even if I refuse, the fact that I’m cooking and chatting simultaneously takes away the stress and formality of the dinner party itself.
4. Turn down the A/C or open a window
This one should be more obvious than it was to me the first time I hosted in a small space. Within about half an hour of guests arriving, my apartment was already stifling. I now know that small spaces can heat up quickly, so shortly before your guests arrive, turn on the A/C or open a window to ensure proper ventilation. Especially if you have a larger group coming to your gathering, crowded and slightly cramped will feel much more manageable if it’s not sweltering, too.
5. Get creative with serving platters
If you live in a small space, you likely don’t have tons of room to store serving plates, platters, and utensils. So instead of going out and buying serveware that you’ll struggle to store after the party, get creative with what you already have. In the past, I’ve used cutting boards as serving platters, mixing bowls as salad bowls, and teapots as pitchers. What can I say? Sometimes it’s about function over form, and hosting in a small space is definitely one of those times.
6. Keep decorations to a minimum
Though decorating can be such a fun part of hosting a party, you want to avoid your guests feeling like that tinsel-covered wall is starting to press in closer and closer. Keep bulky decorations to a minimum and instead dress up your space simply with fresh flowers and lit candles. It’s enough to make your guests feel like it’s a special occasion without cluttering your precious space with decor.
7. Limit your beverage options
My sincere apologies to the mixologists in the room, but when hosting in a small space, sometimes whipping up everyone’s drink of choice simply isn’t an option. Bar carts, though very fun, can take up prime real estate that might be better used for other things. Resist the urge to try to serve everyone’s ideal type of beverage and stick to one or two options. This lets you limit the drink-serving to one defined space, rather than taking up multiple surfaces with all sorts of mixers and bar tools. When in doubt, set a big pot of mulled wine on the stove or a margarita pitcher on the counter—these are guaranteed hits that don’t require a ton of space.
8. Keep the sink clear for easy cleanup
If you’ve been on hosting TikTok anytime in the past year, you’ve probably seen someone fill their sink with ice to use as a cooler for cans and bottles. While this hack works great for the gals who have large kitchens with plentiful countertop space, those of us with limited surface area need to be slightly more aware of where dirty dishes are going to end up. Since other surfaces are likely to be full, keeping your sink open for dirty dishes and glassware throughout the night will ensure that tables and countertops stay fairly free of clutter as the party progresses. Don’t worry—in your next place, you’ll be able to fill the sink with ice to your heart’s content.