Learn expert tricks for converting your space even if it's small to accommodate large parties.
By Karin BeuerleinMore in Decorating
Even entertaining experts sometimes panic when they're expecting a large crowd at their home for a party. "Last year was my 25th wedding anniversary, and I live in a two-bedroom townhouse," says Chicago event planner Sharon Ringiér. "We wanted to include a lot of our friends for dinner, but I was concerned because we had nowhere to seat them. I ended up converting my living room into a dining room, my kitchen became the buffet, and the dining room housed desserts and drinks."
You can follow Sharon's lead: Get creative, think about crowd flow and be willing to repurpose your stuff to make it work.
If you're having a formal dinner, you need space for chairs and tables, plus walking room all the way around. For most people, the living room works best. Sharon moved most of her living room furniture to the garage (see next tip) and rented six-foot tables, nice fruitwood chairs and linens to create a new dining area.
If tables and chairs are still a tight fit in your cleared-out living room and you're not having a formal dinner, consider going Moroccan-style, Sharon says. Set out stackable plastic milk crates or electrical wire spools and top them with a table round (you can find an old beater at a flea market, a restaurant supply store or a catering company).
Cover the table with upholstery fabric and tuck it under, then crisscross runners over the top so that each end lands in front of a seated guest. Scatter throw pillows around the room for seating. "It's a different kind of experience, a fun change of pace," Sharon says.
Any furniture you clear out to make room can go here, and it makes a convenient place for guests to escape the fray.
Tara Wilson, president of Tara Wilson Events, says: "If you have rooms or areas of your home that you don't want your guests to access, find a way to silently but beautifully convey the message. For example, I'll place the buffet station in front of doors that I don't want accessed, or an arrangement of tall vases filled with floating candles on the staircase landing to deter guests from going upstairs."
Sometimes you need to hide part of a room when moving items isn't practical — say, if the den opens up to your office space. Hanging swags of fabric or curtain panels is a festive way to keep your items hidden and separate from the party area.