Getting Jolly

9 Tips For Hosting A Holiday Party In A Small Apartment

It’s possible with the right planning.

by Anna Davies
Three female friends enjoying a party and drinks huddled together on a couch in a small apartment

When it comes to celebrating, nothing beats a house party. Not only is it amazing to be just feet away from your bed when the last guest leaves, but there’s something special about letting your friends — and your friends of friends — see how you live, what you like, and just how good of a seven-layer dip you make. And that’s the case whether you live in a studio apartment or sprawling house.

Hosting a party in a small space has unique challenges, but that doesn’t mean you should skip the opportunity to have one. Here are tips to ensure that a wonderful time is had by all.

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Declutter & Clean

Step one of your pre-party prep is to get rid of anything taking up space that you don’t use, says Rachel Larraine, a San Diego-based interior designer who uses holistic strategies to help elevate and clear energy in spaces. According to Larraine, the right party vibes start with a clean slate.

“Having visual clutter causes overwhelm and supports low vibrations,” she explains. Plus, once you’ve got your space party-ready with all your clutter removed, you can assess just how many people your pad can comfortably hold. This also may be a time to do some quick DIY fixes. For example, say you always leave your bike propped near the door. Does it make sense to set up a wall mount?

You also might want to invest in getting your home cleaned professionally if you have the means. You’ll want to pay special attention to the bathrooms — even if you’re not planning on having people spend time in your bedroom, you may need to open up your personal bathroom as an alternative if you only have one in the main living area. It all depends on the floorplan of your space, but if you clean up, put away anything you don’t want guests to see, and make sure any valuables are secured, you’re on the right track.

Another place to focus on for your decluttering: the fridge. Not only will you be storing your own stuff, but guests are likely to come with drinks and snacks that need to stay cool before serving. Having a clean and empty fridge can make it easy to keep countertops and other areas clear.

Set Your Intention

Before you even set the guest list, Larraine suggests sitting in the middle of your space and envisioning what you want your party to feel like. “Connect with what feelings you want the room to invoke and the type of experience you want your guests to have,” says Larraine. “Once you summon the feeling and experiences you want them to feel, give the intention a color and envision in your mind's eye that energy and color filling the room. Once you visualize the entire room filled with that color, the intention is set and the energy has lifted.

Stagger Your Guest List

“How you word your invitation is key,” says Melony Huber, a California-based exclusive interior design stylist. To stagger guests, consider using the phrase “stop by” rather than making it seem like guests are expected to spend the entire evening at your place. You can also nudge guests about when to come.

For example, say you’re planning an event on a Friday evening. You can tell your work friends to stop by after they’ve logged off, and let neighborhood pals know that they can end the evening at your home. To ensure there are no “dead” moments in the evening, it can also be helpful to have a core group of friends commit to being there the whole evening.

Enlist Your Neighbors

If you’re close — or even close-ish — with your neighbors, let them know you’re having a party. Inviting them can help reduce the risk of noise complaints. They can come if they want; if not, they know it might be a good night for them to plan to be out for the evening. Neighbors can also be helpful in potentially providing supplies, like folding chairs, tables, or drink buckets.

If your walls are thin, or you know your neighbors will be extra sensitive to noise (for example, if they have young kids), have a second venue in mind. Let guests know that you’ll want to continue the party at a bar around the corner, so people can plan accordingly.

Set A Few Socializing Spots

We’ve all been to parties where everyone is crammed in the kitchen, ignoring the entire living room around them. Avoid this by setting up plenty of stations where guests can eat, drink, and mingle. Set up drinks and snacks on a few different surfaces — even window ledges and hanging shelves can be cleared and designated as snack areas, says Huber.

Make sure there are plenty of places to sit — cushions, poufs, and even cozy rugs can designate sitting areas. “Adding mirrors strategically can make a small space feel larger by giving the illusion the room keeps going,” notes Larraine. This includes areas like the entryway, on an accent wall, or on the door leading into private rooms, like the bedroom.

Don’t Skip The Details

Light and scent are critical for the setting of a party, says Larraine. Essential oil diffusers are safer than candles; room sprays can also help elevate the mood and eliminate any “I forgot deodorant” vibes. Sweet orange, cinnamon, vanilla, and pine — scents that linger — can be great prior to the party; as the party heats up, you may want to swap your scent profiles to ones like lemon and cedarwood — bright, invigorating, sweet scents that lift the mood.

Lighting, too, can make a huge difference in creating ambiance. Add some lamps if you only have overhead lights; twinkling curtain lights and string lights can also add to the overall mood. Flowers also add flair to surfaces and you can elevate your bookshelf into a drinks shelf easily, says Chantelle Hartman Malarkey, an interior designer based in San Diego. Create several playlists; these can help guide the evening and you can change them up depending on the vibe, says Malarkey. Pro tip: The more people attending the party, the more it might make sense to invest in a portable party speaker instead of your everyday one.

Prep Snacks In Advance

Eating with utensils demands plenty of surfaces; if space is at a premium, stick to handheld nibbles. Make sure you have plenty of cups, plates, and napkins, as well. And let people know what you need: Ask guests if they wouldn’t mind picking up bulky party materials like ice.

Open Up The Outdoors

If you have outdoor space, consider it an extension of your party, says Huber. “A decorated, lit walkway encourages guests to utilize outdoor space,” says Huber. Set up some LED lights for visibility, add some blankets and throws, and light up a fire pit, if you have one. With a mild climate, making an inviting outdoor space can encourage people to mingle outdoors. Depending on the weather, keeping beverages outside can also minimize the need for ice.

Go Off-Hours

Grumpy neighbors or a far-flung pad don’t doom you to never hosting at your place. Consider hosting events besides an evening party. A bagel brunch, book-swap afternoon, or wine-tasting event are all ways to get people to your place without the overwhelm or “when will this end” feeling some guests might have about an evening event.


Rachel Larraine, holistic interior designer

Melony Huber, fashion and interior design expert, co-founder and design director of La Peony

Chantelle Hartman Malarkey, interior designer