largish gatherings in smallish spaces

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some photos from our first house! *sobs* six months into living in our new house, i’m still not really over our first place. like a first love, i probably never will be. this was the house that taught me about hosting gatherings in a small space, the topic of this month’s small family homes blogger assignment, so i thought we’d revisit it today.

our first house really didn’t have room for extra people. another couple for dinner, maybe, but if that dinner date was post-frankie rose (did we have any of those?) we would have to speak at whisper volume — and tell our guests not to flush the toilet. emily post would probably have disapproved!

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our living room and dining room were open to each other so, provided eating wasn’t the main thrust of the gathering, we could fit about six to eight people in the house at any one time comfortably. which is only half of the members of my family, a third if you add pierre’s relatives, too. so we never once thought about hosting a big family holiday. easter, thanksgiving, christmas and all three of our birthdays all fall in cold months in toronto, so its not an option to eat outside. and just the thought of all those boots and puffy coats was enough to stop me at the door.

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we had no coat closet, sometimes asked people to leave their shoes on the porch and the kitchen was at the very back of the house, behind the bathroom and totally separated from the living and dining rooms. i’m not big into open concept — i like walls and the cozy spaces they create — but even i had to acknowledge this was a frustrating setup for the hostess. in short, our home was certainly not an “entertainer’s dream,” as a realtor would put it, but we had a home that we worked really hard on, that we were really proud of, and we did want to share it with others on occasion.

our solution was to forget about the big holidays — accept that we were never going to host christmas dinner for more than ourselves — and make a big deal out of canada day, where we could use our big backyard and not have to worry about puffy jackets attacking our guests in the foyer.

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over seven years, we hosted just three largish gatherings at our place. one august we held a movie night with a projector borrowed from pierre’s office and we also organized a “welcome to the world” party for four-month-old frankie rose with the help of an event tent borrowed from our local farmers’ market. (i don’t have any photos of the latter that show the whole crowd, but there were about 40 people in attendance.) we also had frankie’s first (january) birthday at our house earlier this year before we moved; about 15 people came and it was set up more like a cocktail party.

while all parties went off without a hitch and we thoroughly enjoyed having everyone over, i can acknowledge that three parties (with more than two people) in seven years does not exactly warrant the “party house” label. but, that’s got more to do with us than the space we were living in. i, frankly, would rather be hosted than host. and pierre’s just not motivated enough to plan a large party without my encouragement/enthusiasm.

but if you love to host, don’t let your small space hold you back/be an excuse. had i wanted to hold more large gatherings, here’s how i would’ve made it work:

  • celebrate holidays or birthdays that fall in warm months where you live. you might never host christmas, but you could throw a wonderful canada day/fourth of july bbq every year
  • rethink the meaning of “hosting christmas” and invite people over for a stand-up cocktail party or christmas movie night sometime in december. just because you can’t accommodate a sit-down dinner for 20 doesn’t mean you can’t host anything over the holidays
  • borrow as much as possible — plates, cutlery, chairs and the big things, too. we borrowed a projector for our movie night and a huge tent for our daughter’s party. not only would it have cost a lot to buy those things, but then we would’ve had to store them somewhere
  • use your community. if you live in a small space, you probably live in a walkable neighbourhood. we hosted our 2009 birthdays in the back room of an italian restaurant on the danforth and then invited whomever wanted to come back to our place for cake.

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our new house has a way better layout for entertaining. the kitchen, living and dining rooms are all in a row, with nothing separating them except a bank of lower cabinets in the kitchen. we even have a narrow coat closet! and no puffy jackets to worry about here. but i don’t feel the slightest urge to host a gathering for more than just a couple of people. so i know it’s not really the size of your space that matters when it comes to hosting groups; it’s just as easily done in a small space as it is not done in a slightly larger space. happy hosting this season to those who enjoy it!

i almost didn’t get a blog written this month and looks like many of my compadres got equally busy; i have just two other links for you to check out this month. please hop on over to tiny ass camper and real food simple life for more ideas.

 

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3 Comments Add yours

  1. jennnorrell says:

    Love that you wrote on the topic even though you don’t really love doing it – definitely shows that it can be done in a small space if you want to and are creative!

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