Entertaining in Small Spaces
A dozen products that will help you make the most of your low square footage
You've got the big heart of a holiday party host, but you're trapped a small space. Now what? You can start with space-smart furnishings to accommodate dining and overnight guests. Invest in multifunctional pieces that make the best use of what little space you have. Also, look for folding items that are easy to move and tuck away post-party. Here are 12 sharp products for the spatially challenged.
For sit-down dinners in small spaces, buffet-style serving is recommended to free up room at the dining table. Optimize space-saving at your countertop buffet with this tiered, multi-compartment server. The two 3.75-quart Stainless chafing dishes on the upper level can be removed to reveal a functional warming tray. The lower level gives you another warming tray with it's own variable heat control. Cool-touch handles and non-stick feet ensure safety. Plastic lids are included. It's 25¾ inches wide by 15 inches deep by 18 inches high. About $130; Nostalgia Electrics
This 28-hinge island requires no assembly and folds to a slim five inches for easy everyday storage. The butcher-block top adds extra food prep and serving surface while the two built-in shelves allow you to stash backup utensils and plates. You can soup up your island add-on storage for knives or for wine bottles and stemware. It's available in a natural wood finish, with the smallest workspace measuring 20 inches by 24 inches. Prices start at about $229; Space San Diego
All the burners on your tiny stovetop in use? Take your friends back to summertime this holiday season by throwing some food on the grill. Ideal for condo living (where building management often doesn't allow propane and charcoal grilling), this electric model goes from patio to kitchen with ease; use it on the provided stand, or directly on your tabletop. The 200-square-inch, non-stick cooking surface can accommodate an entire small bird, but temperature zone settings allow for cooking a variety of foods at once. A center-channel drain catches runoff liquids for easy cleanup, and cool-touch handles add safety. About $100; Applica/ George Foreman Cooking
Getting crowded around the dinner table? Pull out your five-piece folding dinette to accommodate last-minute party crashers or create a quick kid's table. When folded, the sleek piece can serve as a narrow entry table. But when guests arrive, it morphs into a 29-inch-high table with seating for four. Measuring 29 inches high, 36 inches deep, and 58 inches wide, it slims down to 13 inches wide when closed. It's available in Natural or Espresso hardwood finishes. About $250; Linon
This tiny end table opens to reveal a handy storage compartment. The smart design of this unit ensures that you lose no available surface space when the unit is open—the door, as shown, serves as usable shelf. The interior is large enough to fit a few full-sized bottles during festivities, but after the party feel free to use this as a clutter-buster: stash books, magazines, remotes and other everyday items. Measuring 23½ inches high by 23½ inches wide by 12 inches deep when closed, the table opens to 24 inches deep. About $450; MoMAstore
In small spaces, use wall space to store vertically when possible. These wall-mounted wine racks are a stylish way to do just that. Made of solid mango wood, the units are available in a variety of slim styles; the M series is shown here. Even when it's not fully stocked, creative design makes this storage option equal parts function and wall art. Available in Espresso, Deep Burgundy, and Vintage Natural. Sizes start at 36 inches high by 6 3/8 inches deep by 3 3/8 inches wide. About $229; Space San Diego
This clever take on the classic Murphy bed is a freestanding unit that requires no in-wall installation. During the holiday meal, it functions as a table. After dessert, when the tryptophan has sunken in, it opens to reveal a 10-inch-thick innerspring mattress in models ranging from king to long twin to accommodate any size of drowsy overnight guest. The headboard features a ledge to rest a glass of water and a midnight snack. Optional features include additional shelving, drawers, and dimmable lights. It's available in a variety of melamine and hardwood maple finishes. Units range from 85 to 89 inches in height and from 45 to 78 inches wide, depending on bed size. Chairs are not included. Prices start at about $2,500; Inova
Small-space party tip: Go DIY and unhinge a door (to open up the space), then place it atop a small table to expand your dining surface. Now you're going to need a few extra chairs. The Stakmore line of folding chairs is designed to complement traditional dining room sets. It features comfy upholstered seats and a variety of supper-worthy styles and finishes. Best of all, these chairs fold flat for storage when the door gets rehung. Shown here, clockwise from left: Shaker Ladderback, Music Back, Chippendale, and Lattice Back. About $100 to 140 per pair, depending on the style; Stakmore
Do you really need a coffee table in your tiny space? Probably not. Up the comfort factor in your living area with a multifunctional ottoman instead. During down time, you've got a plush footrest. When guests arrive, you can leave it where it is or push it against a wall to serve as seating. Top panels can be removed to reveal loads of storage space, or you can have yours outfitted with a folding bed to accommodate overnighters. If you choose the sleeper option, top panels can be positioned to serve as a padded headboard. Beds are available in single, double, or queen. Ottoman sizes start at 39 inches long by 28 inches wide by 17 inches high. About $1,155; UrbanMode
Overnight guests will likely bunk in a living area. Give them some added comfort and privacy with a divider. This one features cut-out discs on axis hinges to let light through and to create usable surfaces to set down beverages or show-off small collectibles during the party. Or, keep the vents closed during the festivities to block off views of sleeping and dressing areas. Each panel is 72 inches tall by 24 inches wide. Shelves are 18¾ inches in diameter. About $1,800; Space San Diego
Want to make your own divider? Here's How to Make a Folding Screen Using Old Hinges and Shutters.
A well-planned small space can be cozy instead of crowded. Add to the comfort with this portable fireplace. The bio-fuel-powered unit allows for smokeless indoor warmth, and the weather-proof galvanized steel casing can withstand outdoor use. Removable glass panes held in place by heavy-duty magnets make for safe, easy lighting. The flame burns for 2½ to 3½ hours. The unit is 20 inches high by 8 inches deep by 28 inches wide. About $3,300; Ameico
Can't spring for the pricey portable fireplace? Well, use what you've got—your DVD player and TV—to mimic the glow of a crackling fire. This DVD, shot in 16x9 high definition, is specially formatted for widescreen plasma and LCD television sets. You'll swear embers are popping off the screen. Create the ambiance without the fire hazard, and draw chuckles from party guests all at once. About $15; Plasma Window