MCA-How to Host Thanksgiving in a Small Space-1

One of the most fascinating characteristics of the seven fundamentals that make up The Art of Space is that they work for any size space. But hosting a holiday dinner party in a small home can take a little more invention. These simple tips for how to host Thanksgiving in a small space will help you create a successful event and enhance everyone’s experience.

1. Define Your Needs. This sounds remedial, but it’s important. You have to know what you’re going to do to do it right. Know:

  • Number of guests?
  • Cocktails before/after dinner?
  • Sit down or buffet-style serving?
  • Menu items?

2. Inventory Your Assets:

  • All available surfaces: dining table(s), cocktail tables, side boards, console tables, kitchen islands, etc.
  • Serving pieces, dishes, glasses and flatware

3. Make a “Battle Plan”, including:

  • Event timing: When do people arrive? What will you be doing before and after dinner?
  • Course timing
  • Each surface’s function for each course

4. Work The Puzzle. All of your surfaces can easily transform themselves into serving surfaces, and some of them can do double duty throughout the evening. For example, an early-evening cocktail bar surface can become a coffee and desert station after dinner. Choreograph the evening like a dance, so you can move seamlessly through your schedule.

To get you thinking, here’s how a well-planned, small space Thanksgiving can work:

The living room cocktail table is the perfect place to set up the appetizer course, with small plates, napkins and serving ware arranged on the table in advance. Chairs from the dining table are pulled into the living room to add temporary additional seating, then moved back to the dining room for the meal.

This also frees up space around the dining table, providing ample circulation space during the cocktail hour, when the smaller dining room sideboard is set for cocktails. Wine and glassware for dinner is set up in advance on the dining room’s larger buffet.

With the comfortable and intimate spacing around the cocktail table, the party of ten enjoys an easy flow of conversation. Serving finger foods helps the host avoid the need for additional silverware for the appetizer course, which is served on platters set on the cocktail table. Since the appetizer table was prepared ahead of time, the host has time to sit and enjoy, as well.

The kitchen island and breakfast table are used throughout the evening for staging courses. In this case, the entire party fits at the formal dining table, but this same set up could have easily managed twenty guests, with the ten additional guests using the living room. As long as you have a place to sit or a place for your plate, most guests will be comfortable.

For larger crowds, it’s easy to convert your kitchen island into a buffet. Treat it just like you would a table. A linen tablecloth, silver candelabra and fresh florals can easily turn a typical kitchen work station into beautiful buffet table. The island’s proximity cooking surfaces makes setting up the food and keeping it hot much more manageable.

While dinner is being served, the living room cocktail table is quickly transformed from an appetizer station to a place for after-dinner conversation and drinks. Meanwhile, the cocktail bar in the dining room is cleaned up and converted to a coffee bar. And as easy as that, you have ten well-fed guests and a highly successful party!

Plan ahead. Think through the layers. Choreograph the “dance.” Use the seven fundamentals as your guide. The results will be so smooth that your guests will be able to focus on the food and each other rather than the size of your home. Using your space to create an environment where your guests can fully enjoy each other’s company is real key to successfully hosting Thanksgiving in a small space.

Mary Cook & Josh Kassing

Written By

Mary Cook & Josh Kassing

Founder and President of Mary Cook Associates (MCA)