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12 Tips for Throwing an Amazing Party in a Small Space

You don't need tons of space to invite guests over. Follow these simple steps to pull together the perfect party in a studio apartment or small house.

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Reconsider the guest list

The type of party you’re planning can guide how many people you can realistically fit into a small home, says Jeanie Engelbach, founder of partyjeanie and apartmentjeanie. A dinner party, for instance, should be capped at however many people can fit at your table. People also tend to sit down more at daytime parties, so you should have a seat for each guest. But a night party could be a different story. “If it’s largely about cocktails and hors d’oeuvres and being social, you can have three times as many people,” says Engelbach. But no matter how big your home is, don’t invite more people than you feel comfortable meeting and greeting with, she warns.

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Stock up on wall décor

Bulky centerpieces and table decorations crowd up valuable surface space, says organizing expert Jamie Novak, author of Keep This Toss That: Unclutter Your Life to Save Time, Money, Space, and Sanity. Instead, keep things festive with decorations you can hang on the walls or ceiling. “Opt to hang decorations and keep surface space freed up,” says Novak. “Go with festive tablecloths, napkins, platters, or garnishes.” Engelbach recommends setting the party’s tone before guests even enter by hanging a sign on your front door that matches the theme.

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Put your TV to good use

Unless you’re throwing a Super Bowl party, you’ll probably be keeping the TV off. But just because guests aren’t hunkering down for a movie doesn’t mean the screen should stay blank. “Instead of having a big black void, do a loop of a video or a movie that might be appropriate,” says Engelbach. She recommends Runaway Bride on mute for a bridal shower, a Yule log for a Christmas party, or a slideshow of photos from Mexico for a Cinco de Mayo get-together.

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Think up, up, up

Just like big cities go for tall buildings instead of short ones, adding height to your serving stations can make the most of the space you have. “Not only is it dramatic and pulls you in, but it also builds like an apartment building vs. a house,” says Engelbach. She recommends stacking cake stands, putting utensils in tall cups instead of letting them lie flat, and pouring candy or small fruits into tall vases.

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Separate food and drinks

Keep your bar and food station near each other, and your guests will end up in gridlock. But by scattering a few serving areas throughout a small home, you’ll keep foot traffic moving and make your small space seem less crowded. Consider handing out drinks near the door, but keeping food in the back, for instance. “This allows for better flow, and guests won’t all congregate in one spot,” says Novak. When you’re not the host, check out these etiquette rules for guests.

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Clear off spaces

Your usual decorative accents might look nice for everyday, but they’ll just get away during a party. Clear out accent pillows to provide more sitting space, and consider tucking away some home décor—especially anything that might be easy to tip over, suggests Engelbach. “It doesn’t strip the room of personality and character, but it provides ample space to serve, and guests can put things down,” she says. “No one wants to carry a cocktail plate all day.”

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Keep cleaning products handy

“Everything happens, especially when a lot of people are gathered in a small place,” says Lauren Haynes, cleaning expert at Star Domestic Cleaners. “A broken vase, spilled food or liquids—you have to be prepared.” She recommends stocking up an emergency kit with your favorite stain removers and a couple rags. Just don’t let cleanup distract you from entertaining when your guests are still there, she says. Before guests arrive, use this guide to clean your kitchen in five minutes.

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Plan your menu strategically

Food next to forks, spoons, knives, plates, napkins…suddenly your serving station can get way more crowded than expected. Plan your menu right, and you can cut down on the space those extras take up. “Save space by serving finger and skewered foods don’t require utensils or large plates,” says Novak. Think outside the box by serving soup in mugs that don’t require spoons, or pre-portion crudité in cups instead of leaving out a giant platter, suggests Engelbach.

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Do food prep (way) in advance

Putting together multiple dishes can be frustrating in a small kitchen. To stay sane, do your prep work early in the day, or even in the days leading up to your shindig. Serve room-temperature dishes like a grilled Caesar salad, and freeze soup recipes ahead of time to reheat the day of the party, suggests Engelbach. Find more kitchen hacks for quicker cooking.

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Find new serving spaces

Hang a shoe organizer for a handy storage spot that barely takes up any room in a small home, suggests Novak. “The pockets can hold utensils, paper cups, and so much more,” she says. Check out other ways to squeeze more into storage spaces.

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Create some mood lighting

Swap out your usual light bulbs to set your party’s tone without taking up any extra space. Replace extra-bright bulbs with lower-wattage ones, or plug in a red lantern to give a soft, seedy glow, recommends Engelbach.

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Leave room for coats

In a small home, it’s especially important to make sure coats and handbags aren’t hogging up the social space. But don’t toss guests’ coats in your bedroom just because you happen to have room there. “Other people feel weird about going into your bedroom and taking out their coat,” says Engelbach. Instead, clear out enough space in a hall closet, or designate a space that’s easy for others to access, she says.

Marissa Laliberte
Marissa Laliberte-Simonian is a London-based associate editor with the global promotions team at WebMD’s Medscape.com and was previously a staff writer for Reader's Digest. Her work has also appeared in Business Insider, Parents magazine, CreakyJoints, and the Baltimore Sun. You can find her on Instagram @marissasimonian.