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3 Ways to Deal When You Don't Have Enough Seats

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When you hear that someone doesn't have Thanksgiving plans, there's only one thing to do: Extend an invitation. It's the time of year to not think so hard about How will I do this? or How many people are too many? or Will we have enough turkey?—just keep asking loved ones, work friends staying in town, and (if there's ever a time to do it) passing strangers to please come over for dinner, and then keep cooking up a storm.

Everything will fall into place; it always somehow does. But if you're in the very particular bind of having invited more people over than you have seats, with not much time to problem-solve, here are some ideas about how to cope. May the size of your home never stop you from extending an invitation.


1. Work with what you've got.

Photo by Mark Weinberg

When I polled our editorial team, all of whom live in relatively compact New York City apartments but love to entertain, about how they cope when there aren't enough seats, their most common suggestions involved getting creative with furniture and objects that could double as seats. Sam uses her boyfriend's amplifier as an extra chair, Kenzi flips over storage crates, Leslie clears a little room on the floor by the coffee table—and we all agreed that laps can be seats as well ("+1 snuggling," said our co-founder Amanda Hesser). If you aren't comfortable asking your guests to sit on each other, look around.

  • Shimmy a side table or two up to a low, deep windowsill.

  • Drag hallway or front porch benches to the long sides of the dining room table (they'll squeeze more bodies than chairs), then use the dining room chairs to fill in around a couch. "Two benches will do the work of eight chairs—and then some," says our office designer Brad Sherman.

  • Use ottomans, poufs, step stools, and blocky side tables as chairs—since they're all low they can seat people around a coffee table.

  • If you've got stairs (even a little ladder leading up to a loft), seat a few people on the lowest step and pull over a side table for them to put food on.

  • Kitchen counters are seats (just move the dishes right to the table).

Photo by Mark Weinberg

2. Make it a BYO event.

Bring your own chairs, that is. When one of my friends moved into a new apartment but hadn't furnished it yet, I walked over with a folding chair under my arm for a Sunday night supper. Lindsay-Jean says she asks people to do this "on an all-too-regular basis"—but at a time of year when guests are always asking what they can contribute, a folding chair doesn't even require that they turn on the oven. Nobody will be offended at the request—they'll be glad to have a seat!

3. Pick some up!

"Even if they're a little rickety, they'll do for one dinner," Caroline Lange says of the thrift store chairs she's found for last-minute dinner guests. The Salvation Army will probably have something, and if you live in a big city, check the local Craigslist for giveaways and garage sale announcements or even peruse a service like Move Loot that will deliver used furniture to your door.

If you want some seats that can save the day for your next big event as well, pick up folding chairs from a reliable home goods store. Here are 3 we love:

  • Slim Folding Chair (Poppin): Folding down to just an inch thick, Brad recommends these to clients who can stack them under beds or in closets when not in use.

What are your best tips for making extra seating out of thin air? All ideas are fair game in the comments.

Tags: entertaining, seating, dinner party, thanksgiving, hosting