Clever Design Hacks for Getting a Living Room Holiday Party-Ready

Holiday Entertaining

Clever Hacks for Getting Your Living Room Party-Ready in a Snap

Follow these easy steps for stress-free hosting.

December 18, 2018

We've partnered with American Signature Furniture to show you how to transform your space for the holidays. Like the furniture you see in the video above? We got it all from American Signature Furniture.

I love having people over to my apartment during the winter season, be it for an impromptu wine and cheese night (complete with comfy blankets and reality television) or a full-blown holiday party. Actually, I loved having people over to my old apartment. Complete with an airy communal space (airy for New York City standards, at least) and a kitchen island with seating, my last place was perfect for hosting. But my new digs? Well, let's just say the living room is on the smaller side (it does have a fake window though!) and there is nary a kitchen island in sight.

So I turned to Food52's art director and bona-fide hostess with the mostest, Alexis Anthony, to find out how to turn any living room (even my itty-bitty one) into a celebration-ready space that can fit everything on your checklist: dedicated spots for food and drinks, comfy seating, and festive accents you won't need to spend all day arts and crafts-ing. Check out Alexis's handy decorating and party-throwing tips below, and get inspired by watching her transform a living room into a holiday party in just four simple steps (which will each take you 10 minutes or less!):

Photo by Mark Weinberg

1. Do a little rearranging.

Making a living room feel big enough to comfortably fit your guests doesn't mean you need to haul your furniture into another room. Instead, "I normally clear off all of the surfaces in the room [from the coffee table to the side tables] so I can use them as a buffet or bar," Alexis explains. Post decluttering, wipe down those surfaces and you've got your blank canvases for party fare.

As far as seating goes, "Move chairs closer into the coffee table if you're serving food there," she says; this invites people to sit back and have a bite, instead of hovering over with a plate. To create extra seating, "I'll put pillows on the floor of my apartment because it's small," she adds.

2. Add some seasonal touches.

"During the holidays, I think it's nice to have a little bit of sparkle," Alexis explains. So she'll take branches of seeded eucalyptus and give them a quick spritz of metallic spray paint; this works with other things too—she's even spray-painted whole fruit before. Once dry, she'll arrange them on the coffee table next to other seasonal elements.

Like what kind of elements? "Any sort of dried branches or flowers are good because you can buy them in advance and don't have to worry about them surviving," she explains. She often prefers these make-ahead options over running out to the flower store at the last minute: "This way, you can take your time putting together the arrangement and not be sweating."

3. Prepare some treats for your guests.

That side table you were thinking of hiding in the bedroom to make extra space? Turn it into a makeshift bar—and save space by curating the offerings. "I recommend just one signature cocktail instead of a full bar, especially if the side table you're using is small," Alexis says. Simply set out your spirit of choice, plus all the ingredients your guests will need to mix up the cocktail, and don't forget a recipe card. A serving tray helps ensure that condensation won't ruin the table's finish. (You can also just stick with wine if you want to take a hands-off approach.)

With all of the doodads cleared off the coffee table, it'll work perfectly as a buffet for appetizers. For the menu, keep things simple and finger-friendly. Stick to recipes that can hit the table in just 10 minutes or less: parmesan and mustard pinwheels, herbed ricotta and anchovy crostini, soy sauce butter popcorn, and smoky fried chickpeas for people to munch on (a cheese board never hurts, either).

4. Set the mood with lighting.

To create a warm and cozy atmosphere, Alexis suggests dotting candles in mix-and-matched votive holders (you can also use flat-bottomed glassware as a candle holder in a pinch) and spreading twinkling string lights around the coffee table. To keep that candle-lit ambience, don't rely on super-bright, fluorescent-y ceiling fixtures to keep the room lit; instead, use side lighting like table or floor lamps.

You can also use lighting to organize the space: "You can use light to accent your bar or other pieces of furniture," Alexis says. This will (literally) put the spotlight on different areas of the room you want to draw attention to, whether it's a cocktail-making station lit-up with a reading lamp or corner of the couch where people can curl up and chat.

Bonus Tip: Don't serve anything you wouldn't want spilled on furniture.

"I almost picked a Negroni to serve as the cocktail," says Alexis, before someone savvy pointed out that serving darker-colored spirits or red wine could lead to a nasty spill. Instead, you may want to stick with lighter-colored cocktails and white wine or bubbly to protect your couch, carpet, and throw pillows.

Make sure your home is ready for the holiday season and beyond! With help from our partner American Signature Furniture, makers of thoughtfully-designed, wallet-friendly furniture that turns a house into a home, we're excited to share tips and tricks for hosting friends and family this holiday season. Like the furniture you see in this article? You can find it all—including the featured Plush sectional and handy Cairo end table—at American Signature Furniture.

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Erin Alexander is the Brand Partnerships Editor at Food52, covering pop culture, travel, foods of the internet, and all things #sponsored. Formerly at Men’s Journal, Men’s Fitness, Us Weekly, and Hearst, she currently lives in New York City.