Learn expert tricks for converting your space even if it's small to accommodate large parties.
By Karin BeuerleinMore in Decorating
If you don't have an ample bar to use as a serving station, make one. Sharon says that when she and her husband threw a party while they were renovating their house, they used two sawhorses and an unfinished door to make a generous serving table.
Don't despair if your makeshift bar looks ugly — just cover it with rented linens, and if the flat surface is susceptible to spills or stains, protect it with a layer of plastic in between. "A simple polyester blend is inexpensive and looks elegant," Sharon says. "At the holidays, linen rental companies offer promotions, so check it out."
Remember: Keep food accessible from both sides of your buffet whenever possible.
Marley Majcher, CEO of The Party Goddess!, says it's important to avoid bottlenecks. People congregate around where drinks are served, even if they're nonalcoholic, so keep your drink serving station off to the side, as Sharon did by putting hers in the dining room.
Tara also offers a great, easy bar idea for outdoor gatherings: "If you have a room that has windows that open up to your backyard," she says, "put your bar inside that room and serve the drinks through the windows. This can conserve outdoor space when it's limited."
Marley recommends looking at your existing furniture with an imaginative eye, especially near serving areas. "Our kitchen at home blends with the family room, where I have a built-in desk and shelves," she says. "The shelves are great for beverage napkins and garnishes, and the desk itself works perfectly for a self-serve bar or buffet. Bookshelves and even drawers — pulled out — at the right height make great beverage/hors d'oeuvres/dessert stations, so get creative!"
At her anniversary party, Sharon took a beveled glass shelf from her office and set it atop a bookcase in her dining room to use as a bar for drinks. She moved the dining room table off to the side to use as a gift table, removed all the chairs to the garage and put her desserts on a card table in a corner of the room. This made traffic flow easily as people served themselves.
Anywhere you have serving stations or you want social activity, get rid of the chairs. The kitchen and dining room are prime areas for people to mingle and enjoy themselves — they'll have more fun on their feet.