Just because you live in an apartment in Albany, doesn’t mean you can’t entertain, especially during the holidays. While it may be more challenging to host an unforgettable soiree in an apartment rather than a sprawling house, you can still make it happen—and ensure your guests have a wonderful time—by getting creative with the space you do have, and how you use it.
Here are some tips for making your apartment-party an absolute smash:
Don’t Sweat the Seating Situation
It’s easy to get hung up on your apartment’s available seating (or lack thereof) when planning a party, but don’t let the numbers get you down. Remember, not everyone needs to sit down at all times; many people will stand and talk, and circulate around the space as they mingle, so be sure you’ve cleared out a large central area where guests are free to move. And what you can’t offer in the way of chairs, you can somewhat make up for in alternatives, such as throw pillows or blankets on the floor. And if you really need it, you can always rent some tables and chairs from your local party equipment supplier.
Use the Entire Apartment
Why limit socializing to just the living room? Encourage guests to spread out and mingle throughout the whole apartment. That means you’ll need to make your bed and clean all the various spaces to make them welcoming (and less potentially embarrassing), and enhance each area with mood lighting, snacks, places with coasters where guests can put down their drinks, and possibly even some interactive/conversational items, such as a “blank sign” set-up on an easel, where guests can sign/draw/personalize a communal art project.
Mix for the Masses
A great way to minimize the amount of space you’ll need for various beverages and mixers is to pre-make a few large batches of one or two signature drinks you’ll be serving at the party. Give each guest a cup (if you’re using plastic, grab a Sharpie and write their name on it), then serve the drinks from pitchers or punchbowls. If your guests are using glasses, upgrade the Sharpie method and provide either wine charms or custom drink stirrers with each guest’s name written on them.
Finger Foods Are Your Friend
Make it easy on yourself when it comes to serving food, and stick to a finger food-only strategy. Focus on the classic make-ahead platters, like crackers and cheese, deli meats, shrimp cocktail and crudité, as well as hot hors d’oeuvres you can easily pop on a cookie sheet and heat in your oven, like mini turnovers, jalapeno poppers, bacon-wrapped scallops and the ever-popular pigs-in-blankets. Avoid anything that requires cutlery to eat; not only is it messy and inconvenient for guests, it will also add considerably to your cleanup. You can also cut down on plate/bowl usage by combing similar items, such as fruit, into one individual serving.
Make Music Democratic
Of course, go ahead and create music playlists in advance, but use a collaborative streaming service like Spotify, so your guests can add to/modify the tunes once the party is underway. This gives partygoers a fun way to interact and spend time, while also preventing your own specific musical likes—including guilty pleasures—from dominating the airspace.
Don’t be afraid to break the rules and use your apartment space for unconventional purposes. Need a cooler for drinks? Try filling a non-essential sink or bathtub with ice. Need an extra dining surface? Throw a tablecloth over your coffee table. After the party these solutions can revert back to their boring everyday intended uses.
Keep It Simple
Eliminate clutter wherever possible in advance, as clutter only makes a small apartment seem smaller. For table centerpieces, go with smaller, simpler designs, as opposed to large, complicated pieces. And to enhance the sense of open space, use tablecloths and linens with clean, solid colors, rather than patterns.
Instead of thinking horizontally, go vertical. When table surface area is limited, use the walls and ceilings instead as your palette for decorating. Put accent décor like strings of lights, streamers and floating bud vases up high on walls and ceilings, so you can save table space for other uses.
Embrace the Light
Don’t let your guests feel like they’re trapped in a dark closet. Use ample lighting, either with indoor lights, or natural lighting, if your party is being held during daytime hours. Hanging mirrors on the walls can also create an impression of extra space and all-important breathing room.
Stash the Trappings
Find a couple of unseen, out-of-way places to stash your guests’ coats and bags. Clean out a closet in advance if you need to, or turn your shower rod into a closet rod for coat hanging. If your apartment has storage, stash guest belongings there until it’s time for them to leave.
Keep it Cool
Remember, it’s easy for an apartment to turn into a sweltering sauna when it’s packed with party goers, so consider your climate ahead of time. Even if it’s winter, turn on the AC thermostat so that it will kick-in and cool down automatically if the apartment reaches a certain temperature. Also, try not to keep the oven on longer than necessary; if you’re serving hot appetizers, have them ready as early as possible. You can also create a welcoming “cool-down room,” by cracking a window and using a fan in a secondary room such as a bedroom, which (hopefully) won’t be the center of the event. A non-sweaty guest is a happy guest.