Entertaining in Small Homes

krustytoppJune 30, 2006

OK, maybe this should go in the Entertaining forum...

How do you provide hospitality to guests in your small homes, especially if you have a one-cook kitchen, a tiny or non-existent dining room, and no guest rooms?

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Krusty - Are you concerned about party type entertaining or overnight guests?

For parties, I finally opted for brunches. Found make-ahead recipes on Epicurious.com, Bloody Marys, Mimosas, shrimp cocktail. Done.

Overnight guests are treated like visiting royalty (so said an old friend from high school). I do the cooking and all etc. No room in my kitchen for 2 people. Just keep it simple and it works for everyone.


    Bookmark   June 30, 2006 at 6:55PM
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Hi krustytopp and Carol!

My DR will seat 8 or so, but if it is a group bigger than that or we just want to be more casual, we usually serve buffet style, and sit "wherever"...in the den, some at the table, etc. If you are relaxed about that and don't let it worry you, and concentrate on just having fun with your guests, it usually doesn't bother anyone else, either. We sometimes use our dining table as the buffet surface, or even the counter or a sofa table, decorated with candles and flowers or gourds, etc (seasonal type things), and I often use pretty baskets to hold silverware or napkins, or even pretty crystal cruets and small vases. If you have a coffee table, you can use that for some of your serving or eating area. Some people even now have upholstered pieces that double as coffee tables, for extra seating.

If guests are a bit more spread out, in conversational groups, while eating, I try to circulate a bit to make sure everyone has everything they need.

I am a big one to "cook ahead", as Carol mentioned, too---or you can cook some and use a good carry-out service for part of your spread. There are quite a few cookbooks geared toward those make-ahead recipes and menus, and also good recipes on the internet, too. We also cook out/grill when we can. That makes for even more room inside and outside as guests move about, and less cooking (and heat) inside.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2006 at 7:26PM
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This is something I've thought about too, especially when we got rid of the daybeds in the livingroom.
In the past, my hubby and I pushed those together and slept there and put guests in our room. We can't do that anymore!!
Our dining room can seat 6 comfortably, and when the kitchen is done, it will sit 4. We bought a set of television trays so that if people wanted to eat in the living room, they could.
Buffets are the best here. I figure I could use the tops of furniture in the dining room for dinners, and put dessert in the kitchen with beverages. Now that we are going to have the kitchen remodeled, I have the luxury of enlarging it, and also adding spaces that I think will be needed. The back of the kitchen will mainly be office, but it will have a long expanse of counter, and a small bar sink set into it (with a cover over top when we don't use it)...just for parties.
I'm also planning on creating more outdoor space. We have a metal dining set which can go outside (when I get the side patio built), and I also want a back patio. We have a tiny deck too, but it could seat 10 people comfortably.
I just can't wait for the day we get all this stuff done so I feel like I can have people over and entertain in a nice, clean space. Not one that has been waiting to be overhauled for 8 years!!


    Bookmark   June 30, 2006 at 7:43PM
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We just had 25 people here for Dad's 90th birthday. We have a large kitchen, though. I have a kitchen/dining room that is completely open to the family room, so for those who stayed in that area (near Dad), everything was right there. We brought out my 8 ft banquet table and learned that if it is butted up against the cupboards on the peninsula side of the kitchen, you can walk around the other side of the banquet table near the fridge. This gives a nice circle for setting out a banquet. The table leads to the counter of the peninsula, the main counter is parallel to the table and provides more space for food, then you exit the circle in front of the fridge, where you entered. The dining table still fit on its end of the room, so folks who wanted "proper" dining seating sat there. It sat six. Then there were seats in the family room for six on the furniture and two more on the raised hearth (I provided pillows). We moved the antique octogonal occasional table out of the foyer and put a card table and four chairs there, set the octogonal table in the front living room (our library/music/office room) so two could use it for dining, then sat two on library easy chairs, two on desk chairs, and two more on stools to eat at big desks in that room. We also had a card table set up in the hall outside the bathroom and the three bedrooms. If you kept the table on a diagonal, the diners sat on the far side and then moved the table into place, and no one wanted to use the bathroom, it could have worked for dining. I saw folks sitting there later, but no one ate there, I think.

We have a laundry room right off the kitchen/dining room, so put the drinks there. Soft drinks were buried in ice in the laundry sink, and beer was in ice in a cooler on the floor. A garbage can for cleanup finished off that space.

Since it was my house and my father-in-law's birthday, my inlaws wanted to keep my work down to a minimum. My BinL had the event catered. The restaurant was only a half mile away. They arrived with two people who carried in the food in mere minutes, my in-laws set it up, and we served with no fuss. I got to spend most of the party sitting in the library with the dogs, who were leashed to the leg of my desk. Casey Jones is a counter-cruiser and would have had a ball with the buffet! I found that the other daughter and sons in law would wander in, and I got to know some of them (I have only ever seen these people before at my wedding and two funerals). We let the actual niece and nephews spend time with Dad in the family room/kichen/dining room. It was MUCH cooler in the library, anyhow, as it was a 90 degree day and the sun sets on the family room side of the house. I had the patio set up to seat five hardy souls outside the family room, but I don't think anyone went out there.

Overall, the party worked very well. It is not the way to entertain if you want to impress folks with your beautiful layout, because every stick of furniture in the space needs to have a role in seating the crowd. LOL! But it flowed well and all had a good time.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2006 at 2:51AM
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Wow! Just how small are your small homes? 25 people for a party? A library in the house? Dining rooms that seat 6-8? That sounds marvelous. Perhaps everything is relative.

My home is 1056 square feet total. I can't imagine having that many people here at a time. Maybe it has to do with layout?

How big or small are your homes???

    Bookmark   July 1, 2006 at 8:53AM
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My home is a little more than 1400 sq feet. I have only been here for a few months. This weekend my next door neighbors are preparing Indian food, my daughter is making some finger foods and I am taking care of the rest. Another couple will be joining us..they live across the street. My daughter and her hubby are bringing guitars and songs to entertain all. We will be on the patio IF it doesn't rain..if it does we'll all be inside. Should be interesting!

    Bookmark   July 1, 2006 at 9:57AM
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My home is 1056 square feet total. I can't imagine having that many people here at a time. Maybe it has to do with layout?

I think a lot of it has to do with layout. I have almost 1000 square feet on the main level, and my dining room can handle eight for dinner (though it's a tight fit on the table itself). If I could get people downstairs (can't; some guests are in wheelchairs), I'd have even more room for entertaining. But this house is pretty good on space relative to its size and I don't insist on cluttering it with lots of furniture and knickknacks.

I think the buffet suggestion is a good one. For larger meals, I like to put the food on the peninsula adjacent to the dining room and let everyone fill their own plates. That way I don't need to make room at table for serving dishes. Saves space twice!

    Bookmark   July 1, 2006 at 10:10AM
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My home is 1800 sf, and my home's layout is pretty useful (we have worked on that). We have tried to make every single s.f "work" for us, which sometimes takes some re-thinking. I have a center hall entry, with the common areas to the left of that, the private/bedroom areas to the right.

In our common area, the (former) LR and small DR are at the front of the house, the kitchen and den/FR on the back (typical 7Os traditional/ranch layout). These two areas used to be fairly separate, but we wanted more flow, so we cut a 6' door opening between the LR and den, which opened things up a lot (the difference was amazing).

We still weren't using the LR very much, and the DR was almost too small to use, so we switched their functions. My DR (old LR) now *can* seat 8 (we usually have it set up for 4-6), and the old DR is now a sitting area/library type of room. It is cozy and very nice for reading, as it is a bit away from the den, and can also be used as a serving area if needed.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2006 at 10:59AM
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i try not to entertain "big" during cold weather.
when it's nice out, i have a nice size porch and deck.
i can sit 6 in my dining room, but the kids have to sit at the table in the kitchen.
when i remodeled my kitchen 2 years ago, i included a built in buffet/hutch to place food on for serving. it keeps guests out from under my feet, and displays my Fiesta very nicely.
if someone wants to spend the night, we have a den/office/guest room.
during nice weather, they can park their trailor in our yard, sleep on the porch or pup a tent. extra teenagers usually sleep in the living room.
we have a large 3 car garage (not original to the house) where we can set up for outside parties if it's raining.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2006 at 2:06PM
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DH and I were recently nominated/volunteered to host Christmas for his extended family this year. Including us, that's 16 people. I have NO clue how we're going to fit that many into this house, but we'll find a way. Fortunately all 5 of the "younger" women in the family tend to share cooking duties, so I won't have to handle ALL of that myself.

We've never had overnight guests, although my brother is active duty military and is always welcome to use our spare bedroom when he's home on leave.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2006 at 2:44PM
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Entertaining doesn't have to be for a crowd. Two to four folks for dinner is easier to prepare for and more likely to happen more often. Everyone gets a chance to really join in conversation. Family and friends with larger houses have the big bashes but DH and I always preferred the more intimate get-togethers (even before our recent downsizing). Can be Sunday brunch or midweek light supper ...casual and inexpensive ..getting together more often is the main focus.

We've often returned home from a gathering of 25 with a headache and comparing notes realized we didn't have a chance to chat with the harried hosts or do more than greet half the other guests. We avoid these huge gatherings now if at all possible. (can usually plead we are having our own guests that evening..LOL..and it's often true).

Other benefits to keeping it small are of course easier to shop, cook, clean up (one DW-load usually handles it). Easier to avoid mixing folks or kinfolk who can't resist trying to convert to his politics, etc. another guest who is just as bull-headed LOL.

But most important I believe it's just more pleasant for us AND our guests. josh

    Bookmark   July 1, 2006 at 5:56PM
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The birthday party for Dad with 25 people was in a 1675 sq ft house, our new, big, house. We have a library where there is meant to be a living room because I can't imagine needing both a family room and a living room. We do have a big foyer, maybe 6x6. The dining room is the part of the kitchen where there is a light above the space for a table. It fits a table for 6 and a 48" art deco oak buffet. We have never held such a big party before and were glad to see we could pull it off.

We moved here last November. It is the first time I have lived in a house that is younger than me! It is 19 years younger than I am. I suppose it is one of those 1970s ranches with the family room in the back that Southernheart describes. We are still trying to sell the very nice little 1447 sq ft ranch house we moved from.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2006 at 10:33PM
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Aha - so yes, I guess it IS all relative! Gee - 1000 square feet on the main floor would be great. As I mentioned, my 1056 square feet is total - meaning main floor AND upstairs (2 bedrooms). My house is well over 150 years old and, believe it or not, has even been built onto (far before I bought it), so I can just imagine how small it was before that.

I love my little house, but I do admit that I'd love to have more space for entertaining. Yes, when I do entertain it's usually not more than 4 or 5 people, max.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2006 at 3:50PM
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900 sq ft here! A teeny-tiny house but I love it. Entertaining is very tight so we don't do alot of that unfortunatley. But when we do, people have a good time because it's easy to mingle!! We set up card tables to hold the food, take out any unneccasary furniture and bring in more chairs!

    Bookmark   July 2, 2006 at 6:57PM
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I do think layout has a lot to do with it. I've got a little over 800 sq. ft., w/the typical raised ranch layout i.e, the living room, dining "area" and kitchen are basically one big box of a room. When I remodeled the kitchen last year I had the contractor cut the useless half wall between the kitchen and living room down and back and make it into a large penisula that can seat up to 3 people. I have a 45" round dining table that can expand up to 72" with both leaves in and can seat 6 there comfortably. If poeple want to eat on the sofa and use the coffee table, they can. I won't be having 25 people over for dinner, but can accomodate 8-10 fairly well.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2006 at 9:04PM
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Ha, ha, my house is 1064 sq ft, and when I saw the heading on this forum referring anything less than 2000 sq ft as "smaller" I nearly choked on my coke. My mom's house is 2200 sq ft and is a mansion compared to mine. My sister's is 1300 sq ft and is roomy compared to mine. I am really surprised that the designers of this forum consider 1999 sq ft a "small" home! Around here 1500 is average, so not calling something that's twice as big as mine "smaller" is something I'm going to have to get used to if I'm going to spend a lot of time in this forum! LOL!

    Bookmark   July 2, 2006 at 10:22PM
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roopooroo, the AVERAGE home in the United States now is 2400 square feet. It may be a regional variation but here in coastal NH 1500sf is definitely considered a small house, not average. However, I can't see ANYONE on this forum lording it over you because their house is 1800 sf (just to pull a number out of thin air) and yours is 1064.

Our place is 1900sf and the FIRST words out of the realtor's mouth were "okay, it's small, but..." She actually apologized several times for the house being "small". I call it "on the small side of average"... a big reason why I decided to hang out on this forum was because of my stupidly designed little rooms that are such a challenge to work with. I was actually relieved when they set the bar for this forum at 2000sf - which I think is also the building industry cutoff for "small houses" - instead of 1500 or something because I think my house has a lot more in common with yours than with so many of the houses over on Home Dec with their great rooms you could play a game of badminton in and closets the size of my bedroom.) It's more space than we need but we would have a bigger mortgage payment were we to downsize, you can't buy squat for what we paid for this place in '03.

On the question of entertaining... we do a lot of casual potlucking or semi-potlucking (like we provide the spendy stuff like meat/seafood and grill it up, and the other folks bring the sides) and serve buffet style. I've got a "big" kitchen but due to the layout it is very hard for more than one person to work in it without crashing into each other. DH and I can sometimes manage it but it's wicked annoying. Renovation plans are based on at least three, preferably four people being able to work in there at the same time, without expansion. Since we don't have a dining room (we turned it into a library to keep the books from eating the house) or a kitchen table (the eating area of the kitchen is also the main route to the back door and dog run so all that will really fit is a bistro table anyway) we do the plates-on-laps-sit-wherever-you-want thing. Good reason for a leather couch, everything wipes off. ;-) Our religious group is seven people which is very easy to host here if we potluck it or call out for pizza LOL; when we first moved in we had a "house swarming" with about 25 people, which was fun until they ALL crammed themselves into the LR which normally seats 8. For the last several months we haven't hosted any overnight guests at all because WE are living in the guest room while the master bedroom and bath are all ripped up. We do have a guest room though, which is also where DH sets up his massage table (he does massage to relax after hours of "code head"). I am working on decluttering that room by getting rid of the oversized furniture that came along from our previous house, and I think it'll be a much more pleasant place for people to stay over if it's less cramped.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2006 at 4:22PM
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I don't do a ton of entertaining but when I do I usually do a buffet style. My dining room will seat a max of 6 adults (and that is tight). I can get 4 around my kitchen table (6 if they are kids). What I usually do is lay out the food on the kitchen counter buffet style. Everyone can help themselves and take their plate to the dining room. If I have my extended family here I sit the kids at the kitchen table.

    Bookmark   July 4, 2006 at 11:55PM
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I'm so glad that I'm not the only one that do "buffet" style for gatherings.

I bought this 2040 sq. ft. (guess, I'm a bit over the limit), 1 story, home about 2 yrs. ago. My dining room also fit a 3x5 table for 4-6 people and the breakfast room sits 4. A mid-size round table in the breakfast room really helps to add more seatings comfortably if needed.

For the past 2 X-mas, I've hosted my family gathering of 20-25 people. Like Southernheart suggested, I put main dishes on the dining table, drinks and desserts on the breakfast table and little snacks on the coffee table.

For seating, I place all the chairs and ottomans against the walls in the dining, living, and breakfast rooms. For the kids, I place big pillows on the floor in the living room by the TV so they can watch whatever.

Last year, we had a mild winter, so I put out folding chairs in the back yard for anyone that would like to sit outside.

For food, I avoided anything that needed to be cut up. I did mostly finger food or bitesize food. I served baked chicken that are cut up in small pieces and sliced ham.

For entertainment, this past X-mas, I purchased a karaoke microphone. Everyone loves it and enjoyed it. Not everyone needs to be in the living room because the music is heard around the house.

From experience, I find that teenagers would retreat in one of the bedroom and have their own private gathering. Older folks like to sit on the sofas for comfort. Ladies likes to sit in the breakfast or dining room which are closer to the kitchen and little kids love the pillows on the floors to watch TV. Everyone had a place and almost every room was used wisely and comfortably.

I don't know if anyone of you do this, since my house is not that much bigger than most of you, I purchased a thin and tall x-mas tree. The height makes it look grand (7') and the width (2 1/2' - 3') of the tree fits well in the corner of the family room without taking too much floor space which is even more when placing gifts all around at the bottom.

Btw, buffet style is also convenient when you have last minute guests which happened the past 2 yrs. at my house. I didn't need to rush and set up another plate or seat :-)

    Bookmark   July 6, 2006 at 1:51AM
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My ranch house has 1275 square feet of living space and I entertain a lot. I host an Octoberfest each year for about 40 people and have other gatherings frequently during the year. Like others have mentioned, I think the key is the layout of the house.

Mine is 5 rooms--3 bedrooms, a living room and a very large (12x24) kitchen. Off the kitchen is a 14x28 patio and we put on a 6x18 front porch.

When we entertain, I set up the farmer's pantry in the kitchen with all the food and utilize every square inch of the kitchen, living room and outdoor areas with seating. Smokers tend to congregate on the porch, my core group of women friends in the kitchen and everyone else wanders about.

I spent too many years worried about my shabby-from-kids decor and tiny house to entertain. That was a mistake. I realize now friends come to see you and each other, not your house. The point of entertaining is to have fun with the people in your life, not impress them with their surroundings.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2006 at 2:33AM
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from dian's post above:

"I spent too many years worried about my shabby-from-kids decor and tiny house to entertain. That was a mistake. I realize now friends come to see you and each other, not your house. The point of entertaining is to have fun with the people in your life, not impress them with their surroundings."

Amen...*that* is what it is all about~

    Bookmark   July 7, 2006 at 9:46AM
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Our house is less than 1500 sq. ft., and we have no dining room. That's my one disappointment, but it's not going to stop me from entertaining! Our kitchen is eat-in, and we can fit 6 people comfortably (or even 8, as long as no one gets up and moves LOL). We long ago abandoned the idea of doing sit-down dinners for more than 8, and if we have a crowd, it's buffet. During the warmer months we utilize our deck, which is 16'x32'...we call it "the biggest room in and out of our house". As long as it doesn't rain and we have to move folks inside, we can fit a large group. But most of our get-togethers are between 4-10 people. We love to entertain...any excuse for a party works for us. We enjoy hosting weekend guests, and those who have stayed at our house call it "Chez Marvullo". Our master bedroom is a good size, but the two other bedrooms are very small (10x12 and 10x13). Since we put guests up in one of the smaller bedrooms, we make sure it's welcoming and comfortable. Our "spare" room is outfitted with a full size futon, a chest of drawers, closet with room for guests to hang their stuff, rocking chair and reading lamp, and a built-in desk/vanity area. The downstairs bath is directly across the hall from the spare room, and it's a full bath. I always make sure we supply our guests with fresh linens and towels, extra pillows and blankets, reading material, a pitcher for water and glasses, and fresh flowers. I also keep a supply of guest toiletries in the bathroom. We eke out every possible ounce of room from our smaller house, and I have to say that sometimes it's a challenge. I liken it to living on a boat...every bit of room is utilized to the max. Since we have maximized the area, it doesn't look or feel as small as it really is.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2006 at 12:59PM
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Well my home is about 1800 sq ft. Not too big and not too small. We host several gatherings throughout the year, but the big one is Christmas eve. We usually have 30-35 people. We do buffet style and sit were you like. The lvgrm and dr connect and at the end of the evening we play a gift game sort of like a chinese auction and everyone finds a seat. This you have to see! People on the couch,chairs, dr, and floor. We have a blast and at the end of the evening on one seems to care how small my home is. Everyone leaves planning next years' festivities and happy

    Bookmark   July 11, 2006 at 8:21PM
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I have a 1200 sf condo, and the key really is the layout. There's an entry hall for arriving guests and coats. From there you can circle through the living room through the dining room (combined into an L) and through the 9x8 galley kitchen and the corner of an 8x8 eating nook at one end. I have regularly had sit down potlucks where I've seated up to 24 people.

In the nook I have a Scandinavian style teak table that has a leaf that stores folded down into the table which can seat 7 with one end up against the wall.

In the 12x8 open dining room is my regular dining table which seats 8 easily but I can squeeze 10 if I have to.

In the center of the 21x13 living room I have a round hi/lo table that can seat up to 7. Normally it is 21" high and acts as a coffee table. When I raise it to dining height, I put a 54" extender on it that my husband modified so it won't shift around. I have to remind guests not to push down on the edges or everything might end up on the floor!

The main dishes are on the credenza, drinks and crock pot of soup are on the ends of the kitchen counters near the nook, and salads and desserts are on a round card table set up in front of the doorwall.

Other seating is around the walls.

For years I had no decent furniture and had done no decorating, but almost everyone I invited would come and always seemed to enjoy the evening.


    Bookmark   July 11, 2006 at 8:55PM
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My house is 1168 sf, but has a great layout for entertaining. The entire front of the house has rooms that are open to each other, so the flow is nice, and even though in reality people would be 'apart' from each other, they could still see most everyone, so it would feel ok. I only moved in a few months ago, so no big events yet, but I see the potential.

My dining table can hold 8, or 10 if they were close friends. The kitchen is halfway open and has a small raised bar, good for another two, or three if they're small :) The dinette area would hold another 4 with the right table. Since I have a dining room though, I'm probably going to put a loveseat and coffee table there. Then I have a big family room, which was originally a garage. Right now it can seat 8 just on the couch/chair areas. If needed I can easily add a small table to fit 6 more.

So as much as I wish my 2 bedrooms were bigger, I really like the overall layout of my small home. I did a little floorplan, linked below.

Note: If you look at my floorplan, how depressing is it that my utility/laundry room is nearly the same size as my 'master' bedroom?!! hehe.

Here is a link that might be useful: pix

    Bookmark   July 11, 2006 at 10:29PM
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It is not depressing when you are doing laundry!

I have a spacious master bedroom in the new house 13 x 16, and it makes life a lot easier. Lots of room for dogs and their beds, for two dressers, and a chest. We got to buy bedroom furniture. I have the dressers back-to-back sitting about 3 feet in front of the closet, so one person's clothes drawers are right in front of the closet and the other person faces the closet when using the drawers of the other dresser. It makes that end of the bedroom into a dressing room, only open. The huge granite tops of the dressers give an expansive surface for folding clothes, pushed together as they are. Then the chest is on the other end of that wall, kitty-corner in the corner. It gives the rest of the bedroom an uncluttered feel, since most of the clothes are right in front of the closet.

Our last bedrooms were 11.6 x 11, 9.6 x 11 and 8.6 x 11 - so I know just how small your bedrooms are.

On the other hand, you have a great space for entertaining. The dining room looks huge and the family room is a nice size. The breakfast room looks like a good reading nook.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2006 at 12:08AM
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The tax collector considers our house 1280 sf but it's really a 1920 sf house. Don't get all excited though--it's an old three story farm house. There's a finished attick--that's where the additional 640 sf come from. Unfortunately, even though it's finished, it's not really useful except to store stuff. It used to be my sons bedroom but when a family friend moved out, we moved our son down to the second floor and haven't really found a use for the 3rd floor that would take us up there regularly. Ideally, our son should be back on the third floor and we could have a family room or office in one of the two bedrooms on the second floor. The other problem is that the stairwell is only accessible through the master bedroom.

So I guess you could say my living space is 1280 but my overall space with storage is 1920.

My rooms are big though. Each floor has two rooms. On the first floor, each room measures 20 x 16. On the second floor, one bedroom is smaller (16 x 10) because there's a bathroom there. The other bedroom is slightly smaller (16 x 15) than the downstairs rooms because there's a huge double closet. But keep in mind this closet is THE ONLY CLOSET IN THE HOUSE. :(

I've been tempted to make the entire third floor a big huge walk in closet. We could install an additional door in the second bedroom so both bedrooms could access the stairwell to the attic. It's a full sized stairwell. But the attick is PACKED with stuff and it seems such a challenge to pitch it all or find somewhere to put it all. However, if I made the attic a huge walk in closet for both bedrooms, I could use the bedroom closet for a linen closet. Right now I have four 4' shelves running across the wall on above my toilet for towels and such. I keep extra sheets and pillows stuffed on top of my bedroom closet. I have a shoe rack behind the door to the attic. And in the stairwell landing to the basement, I have installed shelving from floor to ceiling for a pantry. Aside from kitchen cabinets, I have absolutely nowhere else in my house to store anything. There's nowhere to put the vaccume cleaner. Winter sucks because there's no hall closet for coats. I have to put up with them all hanging on the wall.

For entertaining, we're not too bad off. We have both of the big rooms on the first floor. There's a covered porch off the living room and a big brick patio off the kitchen. The kitchen table can be opened to hold 8 people. The table on the patio can hold 6 and there's a little table on the covered porch that holds 4 people. In the winter, I could put tables together and have them diagonal--holding 12 people for a sit down dinner but I wouldn't dare because there wouldn't be very much room for anything else. We'd just be stepping around the table. So I opt for buffets or a smaller number of guests in the winter.

For overnight guests, hubby and I generally give up our bedroom and sleep in our son's bedroom and have son sleep on the sofa. We have cots in the attic we can set up in the master bedroom or the living room if our guests have kids. That's about all I have room for for overnights.

If I could have one more room, it would be a guest room. I can do without the dining room. I can do without an extra bathroom. I can do without an office. But it would be nice to have an extra guest room. It could be used for other things when there aren't guests. I just think it would be nice to be able to put guests somewhere they'd be more comfortable.

Then again, if I could have one more room, I'd prefer to take the roof off the detached garage and make the top of the garage a greenhouse! Or better yet, no green house and make it a detached separate room. It could be a game room, a family room, or an efficiency for my son when he's 18 but not ready to fully go out on his own because he's in college.

Sorry I've rambled. I've just never ran into people who cared how small my house is and the challenges I go through everyday trying to fit our lives into it! LOL

    Bookmark   July 12, 2006 at 1:47AM
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When I entertained it was only during the summer months so we could have the party in the backyard. Guests know it's going to be informal because it's outdoors. We have a patio table and 4 chairs but the rest of the guests must sit on folding chairs, a chaise lounge, even the retaining wall which means supporting a plate on their lap. But at least there's room to walk around. My patio is larger than my entire living room so if we want some breathing room we have to take the party outside.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2006 at 11:48AM
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Like flyingflower, DH and I try to entertain larger groups during the summer, when we can cook out.

During the rest of the year, we usually can't accomodate more than 6-8 people at one time. We like to have "movie nights" for small groups. Usually we set out a buffet meal on the dining room table, and everybody watches the film in our living room, using the sofa, loveseat, and dining room chairs and floor pillows, if necessary.

We have no guest room at this point, so we don't have overnight guests. (DH turned our extra bedroom into his "music room.") I hope at some point to finish our large attic, which would give us more space for guests.

But what I really long for is a second bathroom (sigh).

    Bookmark   July 14, 2006 at 12:53PM
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1700 sq ft....we do about 20 people at holidays.

always buffet, and eat where you want. i always set up 10 or so folding chairs around the living room, but for some reason everyone chooses to eat standing up in the kitchen, propped against a counter. We mark our cups so we don't get them mixed up, and do 90% of the food prep before anyone arrives.

my bil made a plywood table top that fits over his own small table and is then able to sit all 20 of us at it (it's a large kitchen/dining area combo). Throw a big happy table cloth on and no one knows the difference, plus the kiddies can relax.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2006 at 4:17PM
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With groups bigger than 10 adults we try to schedule during good weather and use our outdoor pingpong table. It worked great on the 4th. Otherwise it's buffet time. We both have large extended families but they're spread out thru the state and out of state. But when someone's here to visit from out of state everyone congregates. Even though I have the smallest house I seem to be the one everyone asks to host. Plus even though it's a small house I actually have alot of seating. Built in window seats etc. And although my house is small it's got a nice flow with the outdoors, so people are in and out constantly - unless it's raining of course.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2006 at 4:51PM
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I guess we're lucky in that the layout of our home makes entertaining easy.
Our dining room will sit 8 easily, but most of our entertaining tends to be informal; mostly buffet-style. Food is served in the kitchen then taken to the DR, LR, FR or outside! Our covered patio has been a godsend for entertaining - easily seats 20 people, rain or shine so we tend to congregate there for the most part. Right beside the covered patio is have a open (uncovered) patio with a firepit....when we get that going, it just seems to draw people. Even had some die-hard souls out there during Christmas parties! And December in this area - in a word - COLD! LOL.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2006 at 12:33PM
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I have had 25 people over in my 1600 sq ft house. But one year I had 20 people over in my 600 sq ft apartment!

Every year I have a pumpkin carving for Halloween, so the main table is always taken up with people carving jack-o-lanterns.

The year I was in the apartment I actually used my bed to hold food, I just covered it with plastic and covered that with a tablecloth. The big pot of chili was sitting on a tray and all the fixings and bowls/spoons were on other trays around it. Yes, very unconventional and pretty darn weird, but I didn't have anywhere else for it to go and no one seemed to mind. :)

Fortunately now I have a slightly bigger kitchen and can keep the main food in there. Appetizers and veggie trays are placed on the coffee table and a bakers rack. Drinks go outside or in the kitchen sink (depending on weather). The kitchen table still gets used for carving pumpkins.

For a sit-down meal, the most people we can fit at a table is 4 (5 if one is a child and can be squished at the corner!)

    Bookmark   July 18, 2006 at 1:11PM
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LOL, jenathegreat! I think I would enjoy a party at your home. We have done our share of "weird" presentations and "squishing" kids in corners, too...but we always have fun! :)

    Bookmark   July 18, 2006 at 1:31PM
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My house is 1176 sf. My first dinner for 9 was us sitting on the LVRM floor! Now I have a table and an outside deck area.

I like to host for a lot of people and am attempting an outside party for 35+ this August. (Small house, big yard!) Crossing fingers for coolish weather. People will bring their own lawn chairs (it's BYOC). This may be insane, but if I stay relaxed about it, I think others will be, too. I plan to open all the rooms up...put in some rope lights and trays of food/drink...just in case. Maybe toss some cushions on the floor... Plan ahead food is good. For this party, it's cocktails...I just can't do a meal for 35+. So, it's trays of fruit/veggies, cheese/crackers, great chocolates, shrimp, maybe some scallops in bacon...just a few really good things rather than lots of random munchies.

If you're in NYC at a loft party or whatever, most people **stand**...mingle. It's not uncommon to be "packed in." You can do that, too.
Keep it lighthearted and fun and nobody will care. In fact, they might enjoy it.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2006 at 3:04PM
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Oh man! I panic if there's more than 2 people over, but I think I'd be like that even if I lived in a big house! Mine's a whopping 400sq ft., with the porch its 560! If I can entertain, anyone can!

Buffet style is definately the way to go. I know its nice and cozy to eat together at a table, but personally we do it so little that I get rather self-concious with more than DH and me! So we sit where we can. Our 1/2 covered porch has been a godsend and everyone heads for the firepit as soon as they can anyway. It really does attract folks like a magnet. Or, like moths to a flame, I should say...

Layout is so key. Our cabin is minute, but my kitchen is easier to work in than some I've seen in larger homes. there's enough room for 2 to work with the sink between for elbow room. We've also maintained open space in the center of the room so it minimizes upsets with people passing.

We don't have room for this, but I have fond memories of 'the kiddie table' when we all crammed in Grandma's house for Christmas. The kids have so much fun and its less distraction for adult conversations. Coffee tables work great for this and it saves on chairs.

I like the idea of haveing less variety, but more interesting or really good food choices. Keeping it simple seems to keep my sanity.

Toots (who is going for her first big hosting next summer with a flower exchange! Definately outside and weather pending...scares me just thinking about it!)

    Bookmark   July 28, 2006 at 3:57PM
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Great topic!

How do I provide hospitality to guests in my tiny home, with a one-cook kitchen, a non-existent dining room?

Easy...throw my three dogs in the back yard. Open the front door and set an extra table with chairs in the front garden and porch. Only works well on nice days.

During the cooler months, well that a bit more difficult, but not impossible. Without fail people tell me they had a wonderful time and love a cozy home. 900 sq ft forces people to sit together and talk *LOL*. I set out those mini stocking stuffer games and it so funny seeing adults play those silly games.


    Bookmark   July 29, 2006 at 9:24PM
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I agree. People can relax in small spaces..and it can impose a certain kind of intimacy which is nice. Don't try to make it what it's not...be casual...board games on the floor, pot luck, or whatever is your style. Have fun!

    Bookmark   July 31, 2006 at 9:23PM
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When we got married 20 years ago, we bought a 1940s cottage with 1140 (maybe 1160) of heated square footage, with a walk up floored attic and a 1/2 basement (rest is crawl space) that held the washer and dryer and furnace. Very tiny bathroom and 2 bedrooms. I called the bathroom the water closet. We used to have parties of up to 50 people and sometimes had overnight guests. Seemed like with carpet the sound travel wasn't too bad.

Ten years ago, we added a bed and bath and a small laundry off back of kitchen. Husband wanted to take up carpet in bedrooms (he'd removed carpet in living and dining areas when we first moved in) to expose oak floors. Well, now the sound travel is abominable. With that and all the clutter we've collected over the years, I don't want to have anyone over for dinner much less for overnight stay! I used to be a big proponent of small houses, but I've grown to believe that unless you have a great floor plan (we don't, it's too open, and hubby refuses to put a door on opening to hallway leading to bedrooms), small houses just aren't the ticket to marital/familial bliss. We now have about 1673 heated sq ft, and what I wouldn't give for a total of 1800 or 2000. That would seem large to me. Living in a small house w/bad floor plan has taken a toll on our marriage. I think in the long haul a decent sized house can actually be cheaper - cheaper to put cabinets in a bigger kitchen, etc. THings don't have to be so custom to work well. I'm over small. Of course, I used to be a tree hugger too until all the trees in our yard kept falling on the house. Move me to a tract house in the 'burbs and I'd probably be happy at this juncture in my life! Sorry to be a party pooper.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2013 at 10:11PM
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