I have hosted holiday gatherings for family and friends a fair few times, and each year it gets more enjoyable as I learn by trial and error how to have guests over in a small apartment.
A lot of the potential stress for me comes not with how I will fit everyone into my space, I manage to make that work fine, but how to cook, serve, and eat in an open plan space that's slightly lacking in square footage. My kitchen is visible to all, which while does make things lovely and socialable there's no escaping my guests. So while I try and do as much prep to get my kitchen ready for hosting as possible before everyone arrives, I do spend the first portion of any event, half in the kitchen cooking and serving and half ensuring everyone's drinks and fresh snacks are available.
There are some incredibly easy tips I have come to learn and they mostly involve buys that help make things run smoothly, save me time, and save me effort. Luckily, there is still time to stock up on my recommendations now in time for Thanksgiving and the rest of the holiday hosting season, and (again luckily) plenty of my helpful additions have savings on them in the Black Friday sales too.
5 best buys for hosting in a small space
There's nothing groundbreaking here, I have found the easiest way to host in a small space is to try and make as much of your serve and bakeware double duty so it can go from oven to table (or countertop) and you don't need to dish everything up again to make it aesthetically pleasing.
Plus, a bar cart is a must. And this is less to do with the size of my space, but I do like my glasses and flatware to match, or at least have a similar theme. My table is a real focus of any event I have as it sits front and center of my apartment, so the tablescaping needs to look as beautiful as possible as it's where guests will spend the majority of time.
1. Aesthetically pleasing baking dishes
A pretty dish always elevates whatever you serve. How it works in my apartment if I am hosting for lots of people is I lay out all the dishes on the kitchen countertops and everyone comes and helps themselves. At Thanksgiving especially, I like this buffet set up to look as lovely as my Thanksgiving table decor, and nice serveware is key to that.
Rather than re-plate everything into more aesthetically pleasing dishes I cook what I can in nice crockery, so I can just pull it from the oven, stick in something to serve with and job done. It's comforting and rustic but pick the right dish and it always looks more considered.
Mimi Thorisson Italian Hours Baking Dish
Lovely fall colors make this perfect for Thanksgiving, and the rustic motif is subtle yet decidedly festive. This would look wonderful with a plaid dish towel casually wrapped around the handle for serving. This is exactly the kind of dish that I look out for for my 'buffet'.
Our Place 5-Piece Ovenware Set
This Our Place set would be useful all year round both for hosting and everyday use. I love the slightly retro look of this ovenware, and it's versatile too, you can use it to roast, bake and griddle. From a small kitchen owner's perspective, the fact that they neatly stack together too is perfect for storing.
Le Creuset Round Enamel Cast Iron French Oven
For me, a Le Creuset pot is as much kitchen decor as it is a helpful piece of kit for hosting season. If I am doing a more casual affair, I am a big fan of one-pot dishes that I can place on the table and that's me done. However, for something like Thanksgiving, I usually have this filled with some kind of mulled drink that doubles as a fragrant simmer pot. I can keep topping up throughout the day and it makes the apartment smell wonderful.
2. Matching flatware and glassware
As I mentioned, hosting in a small space means I find myself paying even more attention to how the table looks. It's where me and my guests usually spend the entire event as I don't have the option of shuffling everyone into my living room - the dining space is part of the living room.
So while I do like the rustic look of a bit of mismatched crockery, the basics should all be matching. Flatware should all be the same and glassware should have a considered look, so I usually combine a few types that might be different but have a similar style. So for example, everyone gets the same simple (but chic) tumbler as a water glass, then I mix and match a few different sizes and shapes for wine glasses.
20 piece brushed gold flatware set
Two sets of these are going in my basket. They are on sale at CB2 and they are a bargain for the amount you get. I always look to stock up on basics like this over Black Friday. This will mean all my flatware looks lovely over the holidays and I can keep a set out for my everyday use too. If gold isn't your thing there are four other finishes to choose from.
Martha Double Old-fashioned Glass
Again, a bargain at CB2. This is the kind of simple glass I like to use to ground my Thanksgiving table. I keep the tumblers, plates, and flatware simple so I can use them all year round, and then I add in the festive flourishes with the wine glasses, larger pieces of serveware, and table decor.
Kenton Wine Glasses, Set of 4
This is what I mean by glasses that will add a slight festive flourish. I love the subtle gold detailing on these from Anthropologie, and the shape feels a bit vintage too. I'll pick up on the gold and bring other unique pieces of glassware and decor to the table so the display doesn't feel too formal but there's a clear color scheme.
3. Slightly smaller plates
Hear me out here. I have made the mistake before of laying the table for guests, getting the decor looking lovely, squeezing in the right amount of seating, and then when I come to put the plates in each place, there's not enough room. The plates are so crammed together they totally take over the table, plus there's not enough room for everyone to pick up cutlery and move easily while eating.
So if I am hosting for the maximum number my table can handle, I ever so slightly downsize the plates and go for roomy side or salad plates. Seconds are always an option, and I would rather go smaller with the plates than have them totally overtake the table.
Pinova Dinner Plates, Set of 4
12" dinner plates are becoming more and more popular, and I get it, it does look elegant and means you don't have overwhelming full plates of full at Thanksgiving. But when hosting for more than 6, my table can't handle even the standard dinner plate. So these chic and simple dessert plates, which are just over 8" are the compromise.
Aiden Side Plate
McGee and Co. are currently doing up to 30% off most of the site for Black Friday so the perfect time to stock up on crockery. The full-sized dinner plates in this collection are also on offer too if space at your table isn't a major issue.
Lake Salad Plates
So dessert plates are dinner plates in my home, what are dessert plates? These lovely rustic offerings are just 6" which for me is perfect for starters, desserts, or a cheese course. I also like to do a lot of 'bring a board' nights where everyone can just pick, and these are perfect for that kind of more casual event.
4. Good quality pans
Black Friday is a great time to invest in the best cookware while it's on offer. Anything that makes cooking in front of my guests easier and more seamless is a must for me. An Our Place Always Pan has been on my wish list all year and right now Nordstrom has loads of deals going on across the brand so I am committing and buying one now. It will not be put in a cupboard either, I am proudly using that pan as decor as well as a practical helping hand with my hosting efforts.
Mini Always Pan 2.0 Set
I have read so many great things about the Our Place cookware, and friends who own it have raved too. I am investing now as I know I will get a ton of use out of it over the holidays. Going for the Mini to start with, which I also think would make for such a lovely gift.
5. A compact, moveable bar cart
A bar cart is like an extra host in my apartment. I strategically place it as far away from the kitchen as possible and keep it well stocked, ice and garnishes included, so everyone can keep themselves happy. I keep an eye on it and stock up on ice when needed, but it does a great job of being my bartender without much of my help.
In terms of design, I look for something that's compact and on wheels so you can move it around the space easily. I also like to add some battery-powered fairy lights and a simple garland for a festive makeover.
Edith Bar Cart
Love the slightly boho, slightly retro style of this bar cart from Anthropologie. It's on (subtle) wheels too so can easily move around the space. I often use my bar cart as extra kitchen storage when I am not hosting and this would look equally good throughout the rest of the year as glass storage or to display crockery.
Bexley Bar Cart
This is such a chic bar cart, I love the simple, vintage design. There's plenty of space for bottles and a roomy ice bucket on the bottom shelf, then all the garnishes and pretty glassware up top.
Metal Bar Cart
If a bar cart is a bit of a novelty in your home and really only gets used over the holidays, this Wayfair offering is affordable and stylish. It's got so many storage options, I can imagine this wouldn't need much tending to over an evening either.
I hope these Black Friday buys make your life simpler over the holidays. Really it doesn't matter what size space you are working with, updating your serveware and crockery at this time of year is always a good idea, especially when there are so many bargains to be had. Plus some of these pieces would make for great gifts for the home lover or host lover in your life.