Good news: you just bought an amazing beach bungalow in Montauk. Bad news: you want to invite your friends and family for the bungalow-warming party of the century, but you’re getting claustrophobic just thinking about what the big day will look like. Don’t trash that Facebook invite you just spent 20 minutes of your time on.
“Don’t let space be a barrier,” said EG Event Group owner and event planner Eric Gunhus, who plans events in New York City and the Hamptons. “Entertaining is our way of expressing who we are to those we care about. Regardless of your space, you can always find a way to entertain with stylish detail.”
Gunhus shared five tips that will make it as easy as A-B-C (D-E) to entertain in a small space.
A. Arrange a Plan
“You have to be impeccably prepared,” advised Gunhus. “If you have a plan, if you do things ahead of time, that’s what’s going to make it a success.” First, decide how long the party will be and what type of party you want to throw. Once you have that squared away, you can figure out how many people will be on your invite list. For a dinner party, you’ll need to think about how much seating you have at a table, whereas a cocktail party is more ebb-and-flow. Gunhus recommended as a rule of thumb inviting one person for every 50 square feet, but you can get away with more if it’s a longer party. “The more hours you have, the more people you can invite because they’re not going to be there at the same time as if it was for a shorter party. You’ll have early people, the height of the party and the trailing off point.”
Also, do as much as you can in advance. Gunhus likes to put out serving platters with post-it notes saying which foods will go where and flowers the day in advance. “Then on the day of you’re not worried about all those things. You’re just worried about putting the food out, setting up the drinks, having a relaxing bath and shower and getting ready rather than frantically running around.”
B. Beverage and Food
When it comes to setting up food and beverage stations, a good flow is key in preventing your space from feeling cramped. “Try to get beverage and food on opposite ends of your space no matter how small,” Gunhus said. “People are going to gravitate towards both areas and that really helps to open your space up.” Set up your bar in the kitchen. The sink makes for a perfect ice receptacle and Gunhus recommended covering a stove with thick Plexiglass and using it to stash your back-of-bar supplies and beverages. Keep the drink menu simple with one to two wines (Gunhus loves to do champagne. “I think it’s great to greet someone with something that’s sparkling.”) and a signature cocktail like a martini or sangria to avoid having to set up a full bar.
Place your buffet offerings on coffee tables and credenzas, and consider clearing out a bookshelf and using it for cutlery. If you have your heart set on a dinner party, go for it. Opt for one-pot meals, like pork loin and roasted vegetables, which can easily be broken up into individual servings on one plate per person.
C. Candles and Color
“No matter what you do adding sparkle makes any sort of gathering turn into an event,” Gunhus beamed. Gunhus loves to put tea lights on every service, nook and cranny. “Adding tea lights just creates magic. It creates enchantment.”
Chances are you already have a decor or color scheme, so Gunhus suggested playing that up to keep the look cohesive. “If your small space is earth tones or if your small space is jewel tones bring that into the linens, the flowers. A singular color scheme opens up a space, otherwise, it just looks busier and more claustrophobic.”
“Your place should look like a photo shoot. Everything that’s in view should look like it was placed there for a reason,” Gunhus said. Ditch that stack of newspapers and pick up your pup’s insane amount of toys. That bulky old table your mom forced on you? If you can’t turn it into a food station, it’ll look awesome in your bedroom—with the door closed.
E. Effortless Entertaining
Nothing makes a pad feel smaller than a host elbowing guests, running around in a panic and inadvertently calling attention to every small imperfection. “I think the most important part is just to be relaxed and have fun,” Gunhus said. “No matter what, just make it feel easy and everyone will have a great time.” If panic is part of your DNA, consider hiring a pro. “It might sound like you’re adding another body to the mix but you’re creating a better environment. They’ll keep things in check so you don’t have to. You want to be present for your guests.”
Stay tuned. In our May issue, Pulse will share top tips on how to decorate a smaller space.