Entertaining in Small Spaces: Ideas for Styling a Coffee Table Party

Reality check here! More and more of today’s entertaining takes place in modest urban venues, rather than spacious suburban homes. So we’re kicking off this timely series on Entertaining in Small Spaces to address this.

A case in point. You have a birthday coming up and would love to celebrate at home with friends. But home for you is a 850 sq. ft. condo unit, studio or loft. Is a birthday bash even thinkable? Well, if you at least have a coffee table (or a piece that serves as one), you can party! Yes, it will be simple. And yes, it will be a bit of a squeeze. But just see the chic inspiration we present here for entertaining in contemporary urban style!

So, first up in our series: ideas for Coffee Table Entertaining for the Modern Host.

Party Around the Coffee Table: Focus on Food

With space being so limited, decide on what party fare you’ll be serving. Then, have it do do triple duty! 1) to please the palate and fill the tummy; 2) to provide decorative appeal in coordination with plate ware and glasses, linens, and a small centerpiece; and 3) to be the “party activity”—as in wine or cheese tasting, make your own appetizer, mix your own drink!

Coffee table party ideas for small urban spaces.

See how each of the above examples focuses on the food in one or more of these ways:

1 – Olive Oil and Wine Tasting Party – What a fabulous concept for a small gathering! Very “modern urbanite,” elegantly styled, and easy to pull together—just grab some tips from A Fabulous Fete.

2 – Hot Chocolate Party – Here it’s the striking teal and black plate ware, of course from West Elm, that makes the style statement. Chic candle holders, flatware and napkin rings plus blue florals are fab touches, too!

3 – Casual Sunday Lunch – From Brazilian blog Sua Casa Sua Festa, we noted how a single food item can be the star of the occasion. Here, a cheery red tomato pie sets the tone, complemented with crusty breads and flavored cheeses. So inviting!

4 – Sleek, Sophisticated Cocktail Party – Top designer Timothy Whealon shares on One King’s Lane how he serves simple snacks in fabulous silver and glassware, and keeps the champagne flowing in elegant flutes. Your digs may be far humbler, but the point is: serve with style and flair!

Party Around a Coffee Table: Play Up Colors & Patterns

Entertaining in a small space for urban dwellers

Again, owing to the small space, you’ve got to get the surrounding elements—furniture, decor pieces, lighting—in on the act. They will all help set the mood of your gathering.

5 – Lovely lighting – The warm, golden lighting of this coffee table setup we found via Apartment Therapy creates a cozy vibe perfect for chatting over wine and canapes.

6 – Color cues – If you have a furniture piece with a distinct color, like this lovely lime green couch (image spotted on Pinterest), use it as a decor cue! Echo it in party items like glass ware and a bunch of grapes. Or add matching napkins and a leafy arrangement.

7 – Sitting pretty – How can guests resist gathering round a coffee table in front of a fire place—graced with comfy floor pillows, ottomans and stuffed poufs? Gorgeous inspiration from Camille Styles (photo by Wynn Myers).

8 – Modern minimalist – In this sushi party setup featured on HGTV, food again leads the way. But see how the minimalist table setting, muted colors and graphic patterned pillows support the Japanese aesthetic perfectly. Plus keep your space from looking cluttered!

9 – Pick a motif – Pink floral-print pillows are the focal point of this chic party setting seen on Maggie Louise Confections. From there, it’s an easy step to adding pops of pink through fresh flowers, tinted glass ware, and even pink champagne or punch.

Two keys to entertaining in a small space, then, are: 1) let the food and drinks work triple duty (since you won’t have room for much more), and 2) bring your home elements into the act to amp up the party ambiance.

Stay tuned for more practical topics in our series on Entertaining in Small Spaces!

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