While the Frugal Rock home is a not 'tiny' home** by any stretch of the imagination, one thing it doesn't have is an open floor layout or a dining room. Our house has four smaller rooms on our first floor making our floor plan not as conducive to large gatherings. We have gotten good at hosting 10 or less in our small space, and while at times it feels 'cozy', I would not say it feels cramped. Here are some things I do to make the place feel company ready:
1. Set up a Separate Drink Station Out of the Way
So one of the main joys (and struggles) of small kitchens is that they are immensely compact and efficient. I dig my galley style kitchen and have cooked dinner-for-two and for much larger groups in that small space. HOWEVER, if 8 people are also trying to get coffee or make drinks while I'm trying to bake/sauté/shake it makes me a cranky cook and also prevents my guests from getting their refills. No bueno all around.
Recently having hosted our annual Christmas Day brunch I experimented with sending our guests to our game room (converted from our spare bedroom) and set up a coffee station. Having a new year's soiree? It could be a drink cart! Kids party? Try a hot cocoa or lemonade station! Either way it helps move people out of congested areas (the kitchen) and mingle in a different area of your home. Making a drink station for your next event? Pay attention to the extras- flavor syrups, peppermints and other extras made our station a hit.
2. Consider a Variety of Seating Options
One of the challenges of small home living is where to put everyone when they come to visit! There are some great ways that you can maximize seating in small space. My number 1 is to think outside of your living room, and see if there are furniture from other areas of the home that may be repurposed to your dining/living room for the day. Think: chairs, ottomans, and even cushions can be repurposed for floor sitting. Forget matching- no one will notice anyway, since you'll be throwing such a great party!
Standing Room Only: Have a really small place? Chairs can also be removed to free up space if you have given up the idea of people sitting down. Taking away bar stools so people mingle more at the counter, or chairs around the table so people can graze are biggies. If seating wasn't plentiful enough for all, still ensure that you have some vignette spaces for more intimate conversation.
3. Know Thy Space: Have a plan for your meal that matches your place
One of the things about small spaces is that they can make formal, sit-down meals challenging. That's why it's good to have a plan in place to make things as easy as possible for your guests. Don't stress if you don't have a table large enough to fit everyone- maybe set up two different seating areas; like an adult version of the kids' table. There are some positives to this, as it can get your guests talking to people they may not know as well. You can also ditch the formal meal altogether and plan your event after a typical meal-time. For example, have people over later in the evening for drinks and desserts- no one will come expecting a full meal and makes your job as host easier.
4. Rethink The Fridge
When I was a kid, my parents had two fridges (one in the house, one in the garage) and a deep freezer. The Frugal Rock household had talked about adding a small deep freezer in the basement, but with really working hard to cut our electrical costs, a deep freezer would have been a step in the wrong direction for us. Fridge space is often a challenge no matter the size of your home, but in a small space, you likely also have smaller appliances.
So what to do? Channel your summer self and think of your outdoor BBQ's and utilize coolers, ice buckets, etc. to ensure adequate space in your actual fridge for important food items. Keep extra items, beverages, chilled champagne- whatever you want to have on hand but don't immediately need in a cooler, out of the way. In a colder climate? Time to go retro- like 1800's retro and use the outdoors for your cooling needs (fun fact: modern refrigeration technology was invented in 1876, bet you always wanted to know that right?). The snowbank cooler is very effective for short-term needs. I have thrown champagne, bottled water- even a container of milk in a snowbank (short-term) during a party to keep everything cold!
Hope these ideas help you look at your space with fresh eyes! Already a confident host? What are your small space tricks to hosting a great party? Never have people over? What keeps you from hosting gatherings with family and friends?
* According to Harvard's Joint Center for Housing Studies, in 2014 1 in 4 Americans spent about 50% of their monthly budget on rental housing alone.*
**An official "Tiny Home", one the big trends in small living, is typically less than 200 sq. feet. I give people tons of credit for living that way, but too small for us!**