Everyone likes to have friends over once in a while – even people who aren’t every-weekend entertainers. But entertaining guests gets a lot more complicated the less space you have; if you don’t have a formal dining room, a big open kitchen, or even much space at all beyond your ordinary living areas, there isn’t exactly space to install a home bar, game room, or extensive home theater. But that doesn’t mean entertaining isn’t possible. In fact, choosing a few small, multitasking pieces of furniture can make it possible to entertain a crowd without sacrificing space you’d miss when you’re home alone.
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I’m going to lead with something strange: if you want to be able to host a party in your living space without crowding your floor plan, consider using a serving cart as an accent table. This is a somewhat unconventional option, but hear me out. Repurposed antique furniture is in in a big way right now, and an antique metal cart with glass or mirrored shelves fits the bill to a T – slightly aged, slightly sophisticated, and eye catching because it’s unusual. But it’s also an incredibly practical option for a couple of reasons. First, they’re small – rarely larger than your average accent table (and often even smaller than the Nicoline cart pictured here). Second, they’re mobile, usually with locking wheels or at least handles that allow you to pick up the whole table and move it. Most importantly, though, they’re designed for the job, with room to store bottles and stemware, ice buckets, or even platters of food. When you’re not using it, it’s a lovely statement piece, but when you have your friends over, you have easy access to a full (if petite) bar.
TV Trays (But, Like, Nice Ones)
Okay, so TV trays aren’t the pinnacle of fine dining or high class entertaining, but if you don’t have a lot of space, and you want to serve food or drinks to a crowd, they’re a step above balancing a paper plate on your knee. The trick is to avoid generic TV-tray looking TV trays like the plague and opt for something with a little more designer flair. Personally, I really like this Coyne tray table, which has a slightly more elegant appearance, folds up and out of the way when it isn’t in use, and comes with two extra, matching trays that are perfect for serving snack. A setup as simple as this can turn “I’m eating a frozen dinner in front of the TV” into something a touch more swanky. You can also find sneaky designer accent tables that only have legs on one side. These look like completely average accent tables when they aren’t in use, but can be maneuvered in front of the sofa for a slightly nicer looking (yet still tray-like) setup when you’re entertaining.
Decorative Wine Rack
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This is a pretty simple option, and a smart one for anyone who drinks a decent amount of wine: store some of your wine right in the room you’ll be entertaining. Those fancy wine refrigerators are becoming all the rage, but if you don’t have the space for a spare appliance in your kitchen, just go old school. A simple wood wine rack will do the trick, allowing you both to keep the wine you’ll be drinking right at hand and giving you a chance to show off some of your favorite vintages. Is this the best option if you’re a big time wine collector? No. But if you enjoy drinking wine with friends, this is a great way to go. You can find everything from petite tabletop racks that will hold a bottle or three to latticed console tables that can hold two dozen or more. The best part is, even rather large wine racks are only about as deep as a wine bottle, meaning they can easily be stowed up against a wall or behind a sofa without taking up much space at all, but will add a sophisticated air to your space even between gatherings.
Sneaky Accent Table/Serving Tray
Maybe my favorite item on this list are small accent tables that double as serving trays. These are petite, attractive pieces that – most of the time – work just like any other accent table in your space, but that have a few subtle features that make them useful when you have company. Some tables will have simple, stylized handles that allow them to be easily lifted and moved (some even have one or more detachable tabletops for even greater flexibility). Others have grooves carved on the underside of the tabletop that allow you to store stemware close at hand, while others still will have lovely scalloped designs that make them perfect for storing bottles of wine. Generally these tables are quite small, so they won’t be obtrusive on a day to day basis, but have enough hidden features that they can make a big difference when you’re entertaining.
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If your biggest challenge is not having enough seating to accommodate the company you’d like to have over, consider replacing your existing coffee table with one that includes hideaway seating. This is a design that’s pretty common in outdoor furniture and becoming moreso indoors, but essentially consists of a totally ordinary coffee table (maybe slightly on the tall side) that has four small, square cushioned seats tucked underneath the tabletop. When they aren’t in use, the table has a fairly solid, square appearance, but when needed the chairs pull or roll out from underneath, leaving a sleek table on an X shaped base and plenty of seating for four. Now, these squat stools aren’t as swanky as a recliner or anything, but they’re more comfortable than a folding chair and take up much less space when you aren’t using them.
So even if you’re stuck with a small living space, never fear – choosing the right furniture can make a big difference in your ability to entertain.