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Transformation: Party Central

Tobi Fairley shares her tips to make your home a functional, fun place to entertain in style

By Tobi Fairley

October is the unofficial kickoff to indoor entertaining season. From football watch parties to Halloween straight through to Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve, gatherings abound. That means your home needs to function perfectly and look gorgeous for guests. This month, I’m giving you a few never-fail tips!

Let It Flow Walk through your home. Think about traffic flow. Is there enough space for people to move among the furnishings? Are furniture pieces arranged to lead guests where you want them? Don’t be afraid to rearrange a bit for parties to create a perfect layout. If you are building or remodeling, mark the traffic flow with a red pen on the floor plan so you can visualize it. Plan your home for great flow. Avoid bottlenecks caused by rooms with only one way in and out.

Play to Function Consider how a room’s function during a party might be different from its day-to-day use. If you’re a casual entertainer, you probably prefer a buffet over a seated dinner. Will you use the kitchen island or the dining table for food presentation? Where will you move dining chairs or bar stools? If a seated meal is more your style, leave plenty of room at each place setting so people won’t elbow their neighbors. Allow at least 2 feet of width per guest for dinnerware, and be sure you have at least 3 feet between the edge of the table and the wall or other furnishings so chairs can easily pull in and out. For cocktail parties, where most people are standing, make sure they have spots to set down their drinks.

Make a Great Impression Your entry is the first thing guests see, so pay attention to its layout and decor. Consider fresh flowers and a tray of signature drinks to welcome guests as they arrive. Add a basket of party favors for when they leave.

Light It Up Go with a layered design: overhead lighting, lighting for specific tasks, and ambient or mood lighting—all of which can be turned on or off as the occasion warrants.

Offer a Seat If you want your guests to stick around, be sure they’re comfortable. Offer a variety of furniture for multiple purposes. Also think about pieces like chairs, stools, and ottomans that can “float” from one room to another as you need them.

Dial Up the Fun Consider a theme like a wine or beer tasting, trivia night, or holiday cookie swap. That gives you a chance to mix things up, try fun decor, and dig out all the fabulous serving platters and dishware you’re dying to use.