If your humble abode consists of a few hundred square feet and a coffee table that doubles as a dining room table, you know the challenges of small-home living. The thought of trying to fit any more bodies into your apartment might give you anxiety, but even the smallest spot can be transformed into a home for holiday hosting with a few tricks of the trade. It just takes advanced planning, organization, preparation, and a bit of creativity. Here to help you are party planners, professional chefs, and event caterers.
Manage the guest list.
When hosting a big holiday like Thanksgiving, you may be tempted to extend an invite to everyone you know—but remember the size of the space you're working with. For a successful feast and fête, be sure to have a final guest count so you can plan accordingly. "RSVPs are imperative so that you know exactly how to place the seating to maximize your space," says Anthony Taccetta, celebrity event planner. This might mean following up more than you'd like with a few of your less-organized guests, but it will go a long way in helping you out before and during the big event.
Prep, prep, prep!
"Being in a tiny place means a smaller kitchen and appliances, so the best thing you can do is prep everything a couple days prior," says Cristen Faherty, owner and creative director of Cristen & Co. in Cohasset, Massachusetts. This starts with the cooking. "For any dishes that lend themselves well to reheating, or are served cold, cook ahead, the day or two before," Maria Marlowe, chef and author of The Real Food Grocery Guide. "Even gravy can be made the day before—after cooking the turkey on the big day, simply add the pan juices when you heat it up." Remember: There's nothing wrong with serving a few store-bought items!
Ask guests to bring dishes.
Hosting the event doesn't mean you have to be the sole chef. Especially when you're working in a small kitchen, it can be hard to have many different dishes cooking at once. If they didn't already offer, ask your relatives and friends to bring some appetizers, side dishes, or desserts. "Focus on making a few key dishes extra delicious and let your guests focus on some of the other contributions," says Marlow.
Check your inventory.
Do you have enough plates, chairs, flatware, and glassware? "If you don't have enough, shop for a few extra pieces then mix and match!" Faherty suggests. "Especially for Thanksgiving, vintage and rustic designs are perfect." The charming theme will also make guests feel more at ease and relaxed.
Rearrange the furniture.
This is a must when you have a small space to work with. You want to think about creating as much standing and sitting room as possible. "More space and a better flow for your guests are key to a successful dinner party in a small apartment!" adds Faherty. "Push some tables against a wall or bring another table in the middle of your living room."
Have a plan in place for coats and bags.
"You do not want to take up valuable space for your guests with bulky outerwear," says Taccetta. If you have a doorman, he recommends talking to the building in advance about setting up a coat check as guests arrive. Otherwise, clear out enough space in your closet, or even on your bed, to accommodate the number of anticipated guests. Bottom line: Make sure their belongings don't get in your way!
"Create an inviting ambiance with lighting, whether it is stringing globe lights across the table or lighting lots of candles," Faherty says. "Remember not to crowd the table though with arrangements or décor or you won't have enough room for everyone plus all those dishes of Thanksgiving classics." A few small bud vases are the perfect touch, and fun place cards take up next to no room.
Clean as you go.
This is not the easiest task to accomplish, especially when you're trying to maneuver yourself around a tiny, crowded room. Faherty notes, however, that it's much easier to clean a little bit at a time than to let tons and tons of plates pile up in your sink. "Consider serving the meal in courses, so you can wash the first set of dishes first and then clean up again after the second course," she says. If you're lucky enough to own a dishwasher, put that thing to good use!
Finally, take the pressure valve off.
"No one expects you to be perfect," says Olivia Colt, owner of Salt & Honey Catering. "Even when I have everything planned and feel ready to take on the day, I inevitably know something will go wrong or won't go according to plan—I just have to roll with the punches and be open and receptive to the universe playing a joke." Worst case scenario, you can order takeout and just enjoy the holiday in the way it's meant to be enjoyed—sharing a meal with close family and friends.