Type of party
A dinner party works well in a small space. Invite only four to six people, which will keep the cooking manageable. Make it informal: If you have a small place, guests will probably see you cooking, and they will be eating in the living room. A nice one-pot pasta dish or a wintry stew with a salad and crusty bread are simple combos to balance on your lap. Add some wine and a chocolate dessert and everyone is happy. And don't forget to have some games or a movie for after dinner; some organized fun later can make the evening last long into the night.
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A pre-party can also work well. If you and your friends are all going out dancing or to a big sporting event, you may want to invite everyone over for drinks and some nibbles beforehand. You'll provide a laid-back atmosphere, and you won't have to invite too many people. It's another perfect situation for a party in a small space.
Or you can go for a bigger get-together. Even small places can fit 15 people or so; you just need to make sure you're not over-inviting. Generally speaking, the better you know the invitees, the more likely they are to come. So if you want to have a party with about 15 people, invite around 20 of your closer friends. Contact them directly, and make sure you get a response -- that way, you'll be able to keep the guest list manageable.
Avoid mass emails to large groups of classmates, your colleagues or your entire softball team. These types of invitees are difficult to predict -- sometimes none of them will come, or they'll come en masse -- and with a small space, you can't take that risk. An overcrowded party can lead to damage to the apartment that puts your security deposit at risk.
Preparing the Space
One nice thing about hosting a party in a small apartment is that there's not much square footage to clean beforehand. On the flip side, there's not much storage space for things you want out of public view, particularly if you live in a studio. This is where your bathtub is handy. You'll use it to store piles of magazines, your plunger and toilet-bowl cleaner, your ironing board (unless you need it as a sideboard for a drinks setup!), and any other objects that you don't want your guests to see. Just remember to shower before the bathtub becomes storage space.
You may also want to move some furniture out of the living room to leave more space for guests to stand and chat. Put your end tables or bulky chairs in your bedroom and shut the door, then offer to take guests' coats and put them on your bed yourself. And make sure that your television will not dominate the party. Turn it off and place chairs directly in front of it, facing toward the room.
Make a playlist to provide background music. Tailor the music to the type of party: nice and smooth for a small dinner party, and upbeat high-energy for a larger gathering. You could also go for a theme: '80s music, '90s music, hip-hop, top-40 pop music, Latin music, etc. Just make sure the music is fun.
Close quarters equal more spills and less area to put food. If you're having a traditional party, avoid serving red wine (which stains and also spills easily from a wineglass) and avoid dips that drip. Consider providing snacks that don't require plates. The best bet is beer and soda in bottles or cans, and snacks such as chips, olives, cheese and crackers, and sliced fruit that can be picked up with your fingers. Don't serve food that needs to be prepared right before it's served; you won't have the elbow-room in your kitchen, and you'll have to attend to your hosting duties.
Also, spread the food around. A buffet-style service works when you have plenty of space for people to cycle in and out. It's less successful when you have a cozy space and those who want food have trouble getting past those who are simply standing and talking. Place snacks throughout the apartment; on the coffee table, in the kitchen, on the mantle -- on any flat surface you can find -- so that wherever your guests are, they will have access to some noshes.
Finally, don't forget: Let your neighbors know in advance about the party, or even better, invite them. In a small apartment, neighbors are really close, so be considerate. Nothing puts a damper on the fun like a couple of guys in uniform at the door because of a noise complaint.
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