Holiday Entertaining Without the Dining Table


It’s dinner party season where everything centres around the dining table. But how do you throw a holiday party with all the elegance of a sit-down dinner without the dining table? We turned a client’s living room into a beautiful entertaining space where guests could happily circulate, enjoy great food, drinks and company.

Wreaths on windows

Window coverings offer another surface to decorate!

Satisfy All the Sense

Entertaining like this is all in the details. The aroma of fresh-baked goods, the taste of savoury and sweet nibbles, the visual beauty of flickering candle light and décor, with low key background music fine-tuned for the occasion.

Three levels of serving

Add cosy cushions and plush throws to create a multi-sensory entertaining space.

Every Surface is an Opportunity

Start by creating a feast for the eyes, every surface is an opportunity to create a decorative vignette. You know that huge platter in the back of the cabinet? This is the time to bring out your best serving pieces.

We layered fresh greenery on the bottom and holiday decor to add sparkle under generous candle light. I like to mix votives, tapers and pillars, and fill lanterns with large battery-operated candles, clustered in groups on the floor (but not underfoot!) so every surface has light.

Varying the size and shape of decorations adds more visual interest. Large, sculpted reindeer guard over cheese plates, while shiny ornaments look festive on multi-tiered, serving ware.

Treats on the ottoman

Use multi-level serving ware to add interest.

Moveable Feast

Think about how people casually move through a space. I like to use a variety of surfaces as food and drink “stations”. For more visual interest use different surfaces at different heights, with plenty of room to walk around. Everywhere the eye lands on surfaces around the room a treat is waiting.

Serving bite size, hot hors d’oeuvres on trays keeps guests out of the work station (kitchen) and gets you circulating, too. You can mix and mingle and check the food stations to see if anything is running low.

Cheese station

A cheese station may need guarding!

Tricks and Treats

Delicious, pop-in-your mouth cookies and sweets require a central location, like an ottoman where guests can move around and see the whole selection. Add glass or crystal jars filled with gold balls or battery-operated strings of lights. It’s a simple trick to set it out on a mirrored tray (or a flat mirror) to reflect the light and add sparkle.
A sideboard is the ideal place to set out different food options. Having manageable portions available means less waste and invites return visits. Have a stack of small recyclable plates, flatware and napkins available at every station. A one-stop clean up station can be set up outside the kitchen for convenience.

A Side of Coffee and Tea

Side tables are great for adding décor and candles, but we like to use larger ones as the coffee and tea station. Dig out the fine china and use the coffee and tea pots with matching cream and sugar, cups and saucers, so guests can help themselves.

What’s Better Than a Bar Cart?

Bar cart station

Bar carts are great for a bar, hot drink or punch station.

Two bar carts! Let them do the heavy lifting! One for desserts, one for the drinks. Keep the bar menu simple so guests can help themselves. We used the adjacent entry hall, closer to the kitchen for replenishing drinks.

Living room ready for entertaining

Your living room can transform into the perfect entertaining space for food and beverages

Add the Holiday Hygge!

Finally, add a cozy layer; lovely stockings hung by the chimney (with care), scrumptious throws and squeezable pillows. This tactile touch contributes to the charm and your guests’ sense-filled experience.

Then, light the fireplace and add guests. Trust me, no one is going to miss sitting at the table. For more ideas check out Inside Designs’ Holiday Gift Guide!