How to Upgrade Your Main Entertaining Spaces for a Season of Parties

Create a space that's perfect for festive gatherings.

Freinds drinking wine at a dinner party
Photo: Westend61 / Getty Images

Whether you're the default host for winter holidays, neighborhood barbecues, or summer pool parties, a few intentional upgrades to your space can save you plenty of long-term effort. Multi-purpose furniture, durable fabrics, and thoughtful layouts allow you to prep, serve, and clear while guests mingle and socialize in your space, while choosing furniture, colors, patterns, and artwork that you love creates an inviting, welcoming feel for your guests. "Your pride in your home alone will encourage you to invite people over," says interior designer Kati Curtis. "If all of the above are taken of, you'll have the confidence to entertain without worry."

The Living Room

Curtis recommends prioritizing your formal living and dining spaces when entertaining; you can add small touches to your secondary spaces, like blackout curtains in the movie room, a video game system for tweens in the basement, and a rope swing outside, but upgrading your main areas gives you the best return on your investment. Start with durable, multi-functional furniture, like ottomans that you can use for extra seating or side tables where you can set up appetizers. "Everything must be able to do double-duty when friends and family are around," says Curtis. "Make sure your upholstered seating and hard goods can stand up to spills and wear and tear. Use stone, lacquer, and parchment finishes for your furnishings instead of wood, so there are no worries about people setting a drink down anywhere." Choose easy-to-clean performance fabrics for your furniture and floors that stand up to red wine spills, dropped desserts, and stepped-on crackers, and create a focal point with accessories. "Make sure you have discussion-worthy art!" says Curtis. "Important or unusual artwork is the perfect conversation starter."

The Dining Room

Whether you're planning a buffet for 20 or a sit-down meal for eight, choose dining room furniture that fits a crowd. "Invest in a dining table with extra leaves or one that expands," says Curtis. "And go ahead and buy the 12 dining chairs, even if there are only two of you on most nights. Nothing looks worse than a bunch of rented chairs at a beautiful table. Store them on the sides of a buffet while not in use." Stock up on inexpensive wine glasses, basic white plates, and extra flatware—including pieces you can replace individually, if possible—in versatile neutral shades and patterns that you can accent with tablecloths, napkins, and centerpieces throughout the year. "Make sure you have enough storage," says Curtis. "Buy a vintage buffet to store those extra glasses and plates."

The Kitchen

The kitchen often ends up as a primary entertaining spot—even if that wasn't your intention. "Keep your island clear of clutter and extra appliances, so it can do double duty as a buffet space or stand-up bar," says Curtis. "Move seating to the basement so you can fit more people around your island for conversation. This also discourages people from hanging out for too long and encourages moving to one of the other rooms in your house where they can sit comfortably." If you'd prefer to keep your too-helpful aunts out of the kitchen entirely, Curtis recommends setting up a drink cart and small table in a different room. "Create a devoted bar space and seating area in a corner of your living space for card playing, games, or just hanging out," she says. "This allows an additional entertainment space that's outside of the kitchen where everyone tends to gather." If you're planning a large-scale renovation, consider adding a service kitchen. "We've been designing separate kitchens that are away from the main one that are just used for parties or to house countertop appliances you don't want to see all the time," says Curtis. "That way, everyday use is accommodated, and for parties or holidays it provides additional support when you need it."

Outdoor Entertaining Spaces

Set up outdoor spaces with individual seats—instead of oversized sofas—and "opt for comfy chairs rather than chaise loungers," says Curtis. "Remember that only two people will typically sit on a three-seater sofa, so don't bother; do loveseats and lounge chairs." (Add multiple side tables so everyone has a place to set down their drink.) If you live in a less-temperate climate, prepare for entertaining outside during colder months with a basket of cozy blankets, a fire pit, outdoor heaters, and plenty of lighting. And whether your family is full of little kids or adults who still act like kids, set out a few basic activities—a basketball and hoop, a football or soccer ball, bocce or bean bag toss, oversized board games—to keep everyone busy.

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