Yes, we all want our homes to look their best for holiday entertaining, but we also want them to function optimally. To determine if your setup works -- with the best arrangement for seating and side tables -- think back to last year. Did the teenagers pull chairs away from the main area to create a private conversation zone? Were guests constantly adjusting their seats in an effort to hear others or dragging chairs closer to the TV in order to watch the big game? Here are some suggestions for getting your floor plan in shape for seasonal get-togethers.
Dos and don'ts
DO halt cross traffic. Forcing guests to walk through a conversation area or in front of a television set in use is uncomfortable and awkward for everyone. Pull main seating into the room's centre and leave space for travelling around the perimeter. Or place the main pieces of furniture in a semicircle around the TV, making it unnecessary to walk through the entertainment zone.
DO allow two to three feet for major traffic lanes, particularly if you're carrying food and drinks through the party.
DO encourage the activities that are planned for the day by grouping furniture accordingly. To facilitate lively conversation, arrange furniture in loose circle formations, allowing guests to speak comfortably and hear one another above the din. A standard dining chair is about 20 inches wide, making it ideal to squeeze between larger sofas and chairs in the living room.
DON'T aim for one single conversation area. Position a second (or third, if space permits) across the room, so guests can really connect. If more seating is needed, utilize the floor space an entranceway provides.
DON'T forget essential safety measures. Secure rugs with nonslip backings, and tuck electrical cords neatly out of the way. Keep the open flames of candles out of reach (and away from billowy sleeves) by placing them in tall hurricane vases.
DON'T bemoan the lack of an entry if your front door opens right into the living room. Create a welcoming impression by placing a folding screen between the entrance door and living area. Or make a boundary with the strategic placement of a loveseat or bench.
Kimberley's guide to self-serve parties
Set up a pour-it-yourself bar in advance. Include a premixed alcoholic drink, wine, beer, ice, soft drinks, club soda and juice -- pomegranate juice is the season's "it" mixer.
Take advantage of the space beneath a coffee table or console to tuck a bench or footstool that cocktail party guests can pull out for extra seating while eating.
For gatherings of more than 15, serve food buffet style. If possible, set up two identical serving tables, perhaps back to back in the centre of the room for easy traffic flow.
Place a floor or table lamp beside the buffet so guests can easily see what's available.
Write out the contents of each buffet dish. This simple step alleviates any allergy concerns guests may have and frees you from answering food questions when busy.