How to Fit a Lot of People in Your Tiny Living Room

published Nov 27, 2019
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Credit: Laura Hoerner

Worried you don’t have enough space to every be able to host a proper get together? No fear: “Entertaining in a small space is absolutely possible,” designer Kim Lewis says. She and her family lived in a tiny home set in Austin, Texas for the last two years, where square footage is scant but flexibility is in spades. According to Lewis, one of the most important things to remember about hosting in cramped quarters is being able to roll with the obstacles that will inevitably occur. 

“My husband and I always laugh about a phrase we coined in our tiny home: ‘The shuffle is real,’” she says. “When it comes to small spaces, you have to be on your toes, ready to shuffle. This might mean you’ll have to shuffle furniture, shuffle food trays, and maybe even shuffle while you clean up drink spills. Your guests won’t mind the intimate setting if you stay cheerful.”

Over the summer, Lewis hosted 50 guests for her daughter’s first birthday—even though her kitchen and living room are a combined 270 square feet. She did this to celebrate an important milestone, but also to show loved ones that she could pull off a big event. “For our first Thanksgiving in the tiny house, we hosted lunch for 15 people,” she remembers. “We set up card tables down the center of the home, opened all the doors and feasted with family.” This November, Lewis and her family decided to rent out the property, which is about 575 square feet in all, and move to a larger address in anticipation of a new baby. 

If you’re envisioning a future of similarly large get-togethers at your place, but you’re also short on space, follow Lewis’s tips for how to fit a lot of people in your tiny living room.

Credit: Lauren Kolyn

Take advantage of unconventional seating options

“We have lots of floor pillows and even a tree stump side table that can double as a backless chair,” Lewis says. “We keep seating really casual and flexible, with ample floor space for traffic flow.” When it comes to the best furniture for entertaining, Lewis recommends lightweight side chairs, since they’re easier to move around, and a coffee table with a shelf underneath for additional storage in case someone needs to stash a plate or drink. Another option? Use an ottoman as your coffee table, so you can convert it to seating if needed.

Blur the line between indoor and outdoor entertaining

“Our tiny home features bi-fold glass doors from La Cantina that open the ‘fourth wall’ of the living room, connecting guests with nature,” Lewis says. “Our living room literally transfers into one big open space with the deck. We added fans and a tent to offer shade from the Texas sun. We also added a large table outside for more seating and games. With a small space, it’s good to have a destination activity outside to encourage people to rotate through the interior and exterior spaces.” If you’re farther north but have access to a patio or porch, consider setting up a propane heater so your guests can slip outside for some fresh air.

Credit: Dabney Frake

Take a “less is more” approach to decorating

“Monochromatic color themes work well for a party in a small space,” Lewis says. “We also hung most of the decor for my daughter’s party, which keeps the floor space clear. For flowers, I foraged wild flowers from our yard just before the guests arrived.”

Spread out the food and drinks

Food becomes more accessible when placed around various table surfaces,” Lewis says. “Place food on an entry table or coffee table, for instance, so people don’t have to go far to nibble on snacks. The goal is to disperse guests so they don’t congregate in one area. We use our kitchen island as a buffet and pass around food and drink to encourage guests to graze.”