Cozy and Comfortable: Holiday Entertaining in Small Spaces

From millennials to empty nesters to single adults of all ages, more people are choosing to live small. The square footage of the average single-family home fell by 73 feet from the first quarter to the second quarter of 2016, according to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and U.S. Census data. Combine that shrinkage with the rise of the tiny house trend and increased demand for micro-apartments, and you’ve got a lot of people living large in small spaces.

Most homeowners love having homes they can clean quickly, but they may shy away from throwing holiday parties or hosting Christmas dinner due to space constraints. With a few design and décor tweaks, it’s possible to maximize your space to ensure your entire extended family feels comfortable.

Designate a Coat and Bag Spot

Instead of letting guests dump their coats and bags on your bed, place a coat rack near the front door but out of the way of your main space. You could even put the rack in your apartment’s hallway or on the front porch. If you prefer guests remove their shoes before stepping inside, pair the coat rack with a floor mat.

Keep Decorations Simple

Keep it simple when it comes to decorating — think one Santa figurine instead of 20. Too many holiday decorations make your space feel cluttered. Use a simple centerpiece with a few flowers and a candle rather than a large elaborate spread. Instead of a space-hogging Christmas tree, fill a glass bowl with your favorite ornaments.

Spread Out the Goodies

To prevent guests from hovering in the kitchen, space food and drinks out to keep traffic flowing. For example, set out trays of appetizers in the living room, and place pitchers of spiked cider or decanters of wine in each room with glasses to keep people from gathering at the bar. Set out desserts in the kitchen.

Dine Buffet Style

It’s okay if you don’t have a dining room table big enough for a large sit-down dinner. Lisa Haude, interior designer and CEO of Paradigm Design Group, suggests a buffet-style meal with finger foods and small plates. Create a festive feel with seasonal music, scents, and flowers. “This allows everyone to easily hold a plate and drink as they all socialize, gather, and eat,” she says.

Maximize Dining Space

If you decide to go for the sit-down dinner, rearrange your furniture if necessary to create more space. Move the table from the breakfast nook to the family room, for example. Add table leaves (if you have them), and use extra chairs, benches, and ottomans from around the house for extra seating.

“You can get creative and use old doors and sawhorses to help ‘extend’ your table,” says Haude. “My grandmother lived in a small duplex and used this trick for holiday meals. Somehow we squeezed at least 50 people around that table each Thanksgiving.”


Entertaining in small spaces requires creative use of every nook and cranny. Use the sink as a makeshift wine cooler, and clear off bookshelves to make a beverage or appetizer station. You could even take your cue from Bakesale Betty, a popular brunch spot in Oakland, California, and convert your ironing board into an extra table.

Need to furnish your small space? With CORT Furniture Rental, you can rent by the room or by the piece. Choose a package that suits your style, with everything you need to keep you and your guests comfortable no matter the occasion.