Tips and Tricks to Maximize your Outdoor Entertaining Space 

A lot has changed in the past year, and the shock of the pandemic and the accompanying restrictions is finally starting to wear off a bit. It is the perfect time to reorganize your space so you can maximize your comfort and leisure potential and to create a space you can truly enjoy spending time in. We have just experienced one of the fastest culture shifts in recent memory. Traditionally large, indoor parties are being replaced with more intimate gatherings being hosted in outdoor, open-air locations. Despite this change, it isn’t too difficult to reorganize your space to suit the new guidelines we’ve been presented with. Whether you’re measuring your land in acres, or counting the square feet of a balcony or small yard, making smart decisions about how to set up your space is the key to maximizing your outdoor potential.

1.  For small spaces especially, making use of your wall and/or ceiling for function as well as form can surely give you the additional square footage to allow your guests to spread out a bit. Consider wall-mounted or ceiling-mounted lighting options, rather than floor or table lamps. You may be able to replace a coffee table with a shelf or built-in fixture, which will provide a place for guests to put their drinks or food without taking up valuable floor space. Anything you are able to move from the floor to a wall or ceiling will free up valuable room for your guests to spread out a bit, which is more important now than ever. Often times, a chair and ottoman combination can be replaced with a recliner to match the comfort level while freeing up some space. Stackable or folding chairs can also be utilized to change the shape of the space before, or even midway through the event, you’re hosting.

2. Be thoughtful about not only the size of your space but also your own specific needs/what you’ll be using the space for. Do you typically host large festive parties, or do you prefer hosting something smaller and more laid-back? You might have an identical space to a neighbor or friend, but your organization of that space can really transform it into something special and unique to your needs. If you typically host dinner parties where the focal point is a meal, ensure you have a table large enough to accommodate your guests, but small enough for people to comfortably move around the space even while people are seated for dinner. Expandable dining tables are a great tool to ensure you have the elbow room for guests to enjoy before and after the meal, as well as while seated at an expanded table. If you prefer to host a cocktail-style party focusing on small bites and finger foods, shift your attention to smaller, more compact furniture sets (https://www.hanover-products.com/Small-Space-Outdoor-Furniture-_c_713.html) to give your guests options on where to enjoy their drinks and/or appetizers. 

3. When you’re preparing for guests to arrive, don’t be afraid to rearrange the furniture in your home to reflect the needs of the event you’re hosting. Your home is typically set up to maximize comfort for those who live there only, and shifting your furniture and fixtures around a bit to create more space can make an immediate and impactful difference. Your favorite chair or couch may be the center of the room, set up directly in front of the TV, which is perfect for your normal day-to-day leisure needs, but a potential rearrangement could improve the viewing angle/comfort level for your other guests as well. Consider repurposing a desk or office area into a buffet area or similar, if possible.  You may prefer to rest with your curtains drawn and the lights dimmed, but brightening up the room via opening curtains or lighting lamps will make your space appear larger and more open. Do your best to picture the event before it starts, and shift your furniture accordingly. If you are planning to adjust the furniture midway through the event to accommodate a large dinner (think expanding table) or party game (think clearing the floor for charades or similar), make sure you have a plan in place well before the guests arrive to make the shift smooth despite the additional people in the room.

4. Take care in choosing decorations and placing food/beverage displays. Consider spreading finger foods and/or small bites in various rooms, rather than have everything crowding one table. Even if the majority of your food and drink are stationed elsewhere, having a small charcuterie board or similar nearby to natural gathering points will allow your guests to enjoy a bite without constantly having to run back to the main buffet area. When setting up your main food and drink areas, use a combination of elevated and non-elevated serving trays or plates, which will make the table seem less cluttered while allowing you to place more on a smaller table. Consider combining similar foods or pairings on the same tray, rather than spreading them out. If you typically have large table decorations or centerpieces, think about swapping them out for petite décor that will keep the aesthetic of your home while creating some more room to enjoy yourselves in. When creating the bar/drink area, consider having a specialty cocktail or two pre-mixed, which can give guests something festive to enjoy without needing to display every liquor, beer, and wine item you have. While it may seem like a lot to think about, it is really just a culmination of smaller choices that add up in a big way.

5.  Finally, don’t let the process overwhelm you! Remember, at the end of the day, hosting an event is supposed to be a fun experience, no matter the size of the space that you are working with. Think carefully about the atmosphere you are trying to create, and cater your décor and fixture choices to accommodate. This is most easily done well in advance so that you are not stressing about last-minute tweaks while your guests are on the way. Smart furniture choices and creative placement of your amenities is sure to keep your guests coming back for more!