How to Host a Party in Your Small Apartment: Tips and Tricks

Food blogger and author Cathy Erway, right. Photo via Cathy Erway


    Living in Brooklyn often means having at least a little more space than our Manhattan-dwelling peers — but that doesn’t mean it’s always easy to set out a holiday spread for 30. Or even a sit-down dinner for eight. But whatever space you’ve got, there’s always room for a party.

    Here are some expert tips for entertaining in any square footage.

    Remember that close dining quarters can be a good thing. “[In] small New York apartments in general, the kitchen is usually close to the dining area — which can be really great,” says Cathy Erway, author of The Art of Eating In and The Food of Taiwan and blogger at Not Eating Out in New York. “You can really not have to worry about being a person in the kitchen all the time, and being a person entertaining or sitting down. You can do that very gracefully because you’re very close — you can still hear the conversations and talk.”

    Entertaining in Small Apartments -- Tips for Brooklyn Living

    Photo: Erin Boyle

    Get creative with your surfaces. Cover up surfaces with cutting boards, baking sheets or other trays to make a little bit of extra counter space. “A big cutting board or tray propped on an end table or placed atop a counter can provide a pretty and sturdy backdrop for serving drinks or dishes,” says Erin Boyle, the minimalist blogger behind Reading My Tea Leaves and author of the book Simple Matters, which comes out in January. “In the case of needing to create temporary tables, a small tablecloth can work wonders in turning an otherwise untraditional surface like the top of a bookshelf or an ironing board into a sideboard.”

    Clean up as you prep. “If my husband and I can tackle all of the dinner-prep dishes before any guests arrive, it means cleanup is that much more manageable and dinner can be enjoyed without there being a towering pile of dishes in view from the table,” says Boyle.

    Entertaining in Small Apartments -- Tips for Brooklyn Living

    Photo: Cathy Erway

    Don’t worry about the lack of traditional seating. When planning your menu, choose foods that don’t require more than one utensil, so it’s easier for guests to eat while standing up. Or, use pillows to make the floor look more appealing. “The floor can seem really unglamorous but if you pull out pillows everybody kinda has their area,” says Erway, who lives in a one-bedroom apartment in Prospect Lefferts Gardens.

    Entertaining in Small Apartments -- Tips for Brooklyn Living

    Photo: Laura Leebove

    Maximize your table space. If you’re hosting a potluck or setting up a buffet, make more room on your table (and make it look better) by using serving vessels with different sizes and heights. This could mean displaying treats on a cake stand and freeing up the space underneath it, or perhaps serving candies in a tall flower vase.

    Entertaining in Small Apartments -- Tips for Brooklyn Living

    Photo: Erin Boyle

    Keep decorations simple. “If I want to add a little something special to my table settings, I opt for a sprig of rosemary or a bit of string tied around a pretty cloth napkin,” says Boyle.

    Cater the guest list to your space. This is a no-brainer, but do what actually fits into your home. For Boyle, whose Brooklyn Heights apartment measures less than 500 square feet, this means keeping gatherings to about eight people. For Erway, whose home boasts a huge dining table, dinner parties can handle 12 to 16 guests, while a potluck-style blowout can fit 25.

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