People can’t wait to be guests of Atlantic. It probably started before you moved in. We know. We get it. Who wouldn’t want to take in the sweeping views and the iconic Art Deco vibe of this stately building?
But having a few people over for a night in can be intimidating when you live in limited space and aren’t accustomed to entertaining in your new smaller space (especially for those of you who downsized from the ‘burbs).
Here are three simple hints (along with two bonus “life-lessons”) that are guaranteed to bring stress-free entertaining directly to and inside your door!
Tip One: Mood Lighting
In the always hip and fresh blog, The Kitchn, the decorators believe that “almost anything is improved with good mood lighting.”
Mood Lighting 101:
- If you can help it, don’t use overhead lights. Ever. (Wait. There is one exception: if you have a breathtaking light fixture that has adjustable lighting, turn that on and turn it down to the lowest setting.) Open your shades, turn on all the lamps you have, but avoid overhead lights for the entire party. AND make sure all lamps are on before the first guest arrives (no one will realize how bright the room was if you never have the overhead lights on!).
- Make a quick run to the dollar store and invest a twenty dollar bill (or two) in 20 battery operated tea lights (lots of times they will have two-for-one if you are lucky!). In clumps of three, scatter and tuck them all over and at different heights (shelves, counters, ledges, in plants, in vases, wall decor, etc…). A long time ago, these little guys didn’t last very long, were a funky color, and gave off barely a flicker. If you haven’t tried them in awhile, you will be pleasantly surprised. Just last week, I tried to blow out some. Seriously!
- Always use a few different sized real candles intermingled with the battery operated candles.Make sure to use unscented candles (with the exception of your favorite candle in the bathroom and in the foyer. Our recommendation? The greatest candle smell known to man: Votivo, Red Currant. And make sure to use the same scent in both spots) . *For a longer, less messy burn, place your decorative candles in the freezer the morning of the party.*
Bring the patio twinkle light strands inside and use them sparingly over the table, the bar area, and the buffet. Painter’s tape, thumb tacks, ponytail holders, ribbon, and twist ties make excellent discreet “cheats” for hanging lights without any damage afterwards. Have a bundle of lights that are all piled on the floor because the strand was too long? Unscrew those bulbs and tuck the cord in a basket, a vase, or a plant stand. Really need to hammer a nail right in the middle of the wall for the perfect drape of lighting? Don’t! Try draping the lights over an existing piece or art or use cabinet handles. Or, if you happen to have a door wreath hanger, those work great almost anywhere for temporary hooks. Remember, the look that the light strands are trying to give off is a care-free whimsical look, so it shouldn’t be perfect.
Tip Two: Station Surprises
In Real Simple’s holiday suggestions for small spaces, “flexing your creativity” is essential for small spaces and big parties.
One of the easiest ways to get your guests to relax almost instantly is to add a little bit of surprise and humor to the evening. One of my dearest friends has a TINY loft in NYC, but she has a beautiful bathroom. Every party, the bathroom is just known as the beer station. She fills the clawfoot tub up with ice (and freezes some ice cubes of her own with flowers frozen inside), pulls back the shower curtain, sets up a beautiful tray next to the sink with beer openers, cups, and cocktail napkins, and everyone loves the “Beer Room” !! It is always “the” place for party selfies!
And of course, the balcony makes a great drink station as well!
Other Station ideas?
Real Simple suggests “removing some books from shelves and use that space as a makeshift bar or beverage station—windowsills are also great for this.”
Consider the flow of your condo and make sure that you have a designated spot for the following:
- Purses and coats (best spot? Hall closet, laundry room, or bed-if you don’t need the space!)
- Appetizers: If you have a large ottoman and a large tray, use both as an appetizer station. Worried about spills? Cut an inexpensive tablecloth into the perfect ottoman size!
- Food Buffet: Need a buffet piece and don’t have one? Find something sturdy (a tray, a piece of wood, a cutting board) that is similar in size to your stove top. Use that same table cloth for your ottoman and cut another square to cover the stove top, and voila! Instant additional serving space. NOTE: Make sure stovetop is cool to touch!
- A Place to Tell Folks About the Food If You Are Not Around: The photo props that everyone has (with the long wooden sticks to hold onto) make great “labels” for the stations so that your guests can seem them clearly. Cut out a little food description( in the same shape as the prop) and post onto the stick.
- Drink Station: Another way to help with the flow is, according to Real Simple, to serve “a signature drink that you can put in pitchers or dispensers with cups next to them” throughout your home.
Tip Three: Improvise Tables and Seating
Popsugar’s usual innovative vibe reminds you to “Look around your space with new eyes for anything that could be converted into a usable dining surface big enough to accommodate your feast.”
Using anything from “kitchen carts to desks to discarded doors are fair game. Push everything together to form a big table – and don’t stress if they don’t perfectly align. Alternatively, you can DIY yourself a table for the night with some collapsible saw horses and a sheet of sturdy plywood.”
The same applies to seating. Take big thick dinner napkins, pre-wrap the silverware, and place in a big pretty basket on the floor surrounded by big pillows (this is yet another station and will encourage and remind guests to just pull up a plate and a pillow!). And don’t forget that European shams from your bedroom make great floor seating! Our cover photo and the above pillow photo are from Design Love Fest’s gorgeous photo shoot and step-by-step party guide for small spaces!
Bonus Life Advice That Works for Parties Too!
Believe it or not, guests enjoy doing something besides just standing there.
Friends love to help friends (and you will benefit as well!)
Your friends are really good people and they really do want to help you especially those that are a little nervous about being there. Make a list of several easy but helpful last minute “chores” and put it on a pretty piece of paper in the kitchen. When a few guests have arrived, pick a few fun guests and pair them with the more quiet guests and ask them to go check out the list and help you out “if they don’t mind.” You will be amazed at the energy that instantly sparks!
Laugh Loud and Often!
I directed weddings for years (I know, I know… I am not sure why either!) and as soon as something odd happened, everyone would instantly look to me to gauge their reaction based on mine. I learned that if I laughed it off (and cried later in a coat closet), the stress level decreased instantly. Dinner parties do not go off without a hitch, so just be ready for the crash, the spill, the drunk, or the wait-what-just-happened?
Brace yourself, go with the flow, dance a little, and giggle through it all. You will have plenty of time to sit in the beer tub when the guests leave! And everyone will love Atlantic’s views regardless!