Nov 14, 2023
How to host a dinner party if you don’t have a dining room
You don't need a grand dining room to host a dinner party to be remembered, experts assure Decor Ideas. Project Inspiration. Expert Advice. Delivered to your inbox. Thank you for signing up to Homes &
You don't need a grand dining room to host a dinner party to be remembered, experts assure
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Dinner parties are synonymous with formal dining spaces, lowly lit and styled to the max, but how do you host a dinner party without a dining room?
There are plenty of places to put a dining table if you don't have a dining room, but it can make space tight and mean doubling up on some of your space. That being said, there are some simple ways you can host without having to sacrifice guest numbers.
Here's how to master the fine art of hosting without the fine dining experience, with tips for professionals.
When most dinner party hosting tips focus on dining table styling and how to set a table for any occasion, it can be hard to know where to start when left without. This is what designers and hosting experts recommend when in a tight spot:
In the absence of dining rooms, there are plenty of other spaces that could serve perfectly well as a hosting space and fit a dining table in. We are not on about your bedrooms, of course, but your kitchen and living spaces.
‘It's quite an art to throw a dinner party without the luxury of a dining room area, and transforming a small space into a multipurpose layout – you have to get creative. First things first, pick a roomy living area or an open layout that can accommodate a table and your guests comfortably. Then, as you would add extra seats to a small dining room, mix up the seating options to accommodate more people – think odd chairs, benches, etc. – and arrange them in a way that encourages people to gather around for some good conversation,’ suggests Madison Popper, interior designer and founder of Chill Casa.
Based in Miami Beach, Florida, Madison Popper is the founder of Chill Casa Home, a leading interior design studio focusing on luxury residential design.
If you don't have space for a dining table, then a coffee table can work just as well for small-scale hosting, says Kacie Barlow, homemaker and founder of home blog, Home and Zing.
‘I recommend arranging floor cushions, poufs, or even a mix of chairs and benches around your coffee table or any available flat surface. This idea has a casual and comfortable bohemian feel for a relaxed evening in.’
Clear the dishes away, and this space can then double up as a place to play games for an evening without tech.
Not all dinner parties have to be formal, Madison Popper, interior designer suggests switching things up and going for a no-table theme instead:
‘If you're lacking a grand dining table, fear not. Get your hands on some expandable tables, look around for solid side tables or use your kitchen island to serve as your dinner hotspot(s). When it comes to food, set up a buffet-style spread, it saves space and gives your guests the freedom to dig into various dishes at their own pace. Small plates and finger foods keep things casual and relaxed, letting everyone enjoy the feast without feeling confined.’
To save on space, Madison also recommends cutting back on your decor – ‘I like to keep the decor simple so the place doesn’t feel cluttered – less is more. If you want to make the night extra special you can make your dinner party themed — guests can come dressed to impress and ready for a night of cozy mingling and delicious food.’
If the formal approach is more your style, then renting a dining table and clearing furniture out of an existing room could be a good alternative – especially if you are looking to impress, says Kristen Kane, event planner and owner of Kristen Kane Events.
‘If renting a table, you will need to keep in mind the dimensions of the room, what furniture will remain in the room, and how many guests will need to be seated. In small areas, you will likely need to go with a rectangular banquet table as round tables will take up too much space. A six-foot banquet table can seat six to eight people and an eight-foot banquet table can seat eight to 10 people; the latter numbers are if you plan to seat people at the ends.’
Since her introduction to wedding and event planning and coordination in 2007, Kristen Kane has worked on hundreds of weddings and events. She has received numerous recognitions and awards from The Knot and WeddingWire.
Whether you have an open-plan living room or a small kitchen, multi-functional or convertible furniture can be a godsend for frequent hosts lacking a dining room.
‘Invest in versatile furniture pieces. A drop-leaf table can transform from a console to a dining table, saving space when not in use,’ says Kacie Barlow, homemaker. ‘Folding chairs or stackable stools can be easily stored away when your dinner party ends.’
These folding chairs are designed for outdoor use, but they look stylish enough to be used indoors at temporary tables too, and fold neatly away for tidy storage
If you have the luxury of good weather and outdoor space, dining out on a patio or balcony can offer a cozy nature-themed event, says Millie Hurst, Solved section editor at Homes & Gardens.
There are also plenty of ways to stay warm when dining outside so you can take your event into the night, or into the start of the fall season without making guests uncomfortable.
When hosting without a dining room, it helps to match your menu to the space you agave – this might mean forgoing large three-course meals in favor of food guests can pick at, says Kacie Barlow, homemaker.
This food arrangement doesn't have to give off kids' party vibes, however, Kacie reminds us: ‘Opt for a menu that suits your space. Tapas-style dishes and beautifully laid-out charcuterie boards encourage mingling and don't require a formal dining setup. Consider food stations that guests can visit at their leisure.’
When sitting a lot of people around a smaller table for dinner, opt for chairs that don't have arms to help fit more of them around without it feeling as cramped. It can also help to have an expanding table that can be folded out as required. Alternatively, opt for having two separate tables beside one another so people can still converse, but people are not left feeling like they have been squashed on the end.
If you do not have a dining table, it is still possible to host using finger foods that guests can casually graze as you chat or mingle. This can create a more relaxed atmosphere that encourages your guests to feel more at home and comfortable in your space. Rearrange your furniture to offer multiple comfortable sitting options for guests, such as armchairs and sofas, and welcome everyone into your kitchen or living room for a relaxed evening catching up.
When hosting without a dining room, it is clearly important to reframe the event and consider it as something separate to the formal diner parties we are so used to. Whether you are having friends and family over for a catch up, or meeting with co-workers to celebrate at home, creating a less formal environment is simple when not constrained to a traditional room, allowing for a more unique experience that is sure to be remembered.
Decor Ideas. Project Inspiration. Expert Advice. Delivered to your inbox.
Chiana has been at Homes & Gardens for a year, having started her journey in interior journalism as part of the graduate program. She spends most of her time producing content for the Solved section of the website, helping readers get the most out of their homes through clever decluttering, cleaning, and tidying tips – many of which she tests and reviews herself in her home in Lancaster to ensure they will consistently deliver for her readers and dabbles in the latest design trends. She also has a first-class degree in Literature from Lancaster University.
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