We all wish we had an expansive terrace on which to entertain our friends and family in the summer. You know the type: Gatsby-style with landscaping, dramatic pillars and enough space to host a lavish dinner party. Maybe even a fountain!
The reality is, if you’re an urbanite, you’re probably working with significantly less when it comes to your patio. But having a tiny balcony doesn’t mean your summer patio parties have to be any less fabulous. As an event planner in Vancouver, I’ve compiled some guidelines that will help you make the most of your small outdoor space, so you can be the hostess with the mostess this summer.
Follow these steps to throw the dinner party of your dreams!
Go casual with your furniture
It’s tempting to set up an outdoor space the way you would an indoor; with separate alcoves for dining and for stretching out afterwards. But if you’re working with a smaller balcony – or even an irregularly-shaped one – you likely won’t have the space. Instead, I suggest choosing lounging furniture over dining furniture, as it will probably get more use on a day-to-basis, and it’s easily adaptable for a dinner party. Start with an all-weather outdoor couch or sectional.
Choose something that’s comfy and has clean lines so it doesn’t take up much visual or physical space. Pair it with a long, narrow coffee table and you’ve got a great place to rest drinks or set up some party favourites (hello? guacamole, is that you?). A patio party doesn’t have to be a formal sit-down situation; getting cozy on the couch is totally okay for a casual summer soiree. If you have space, you can even have two couches facing each other. Think late-night-bar-and-lounge style seating: chic, intimate and laid-back.
Another option, instead of a single coffee table, is to group small side tables together. West Elm’s Martini Table is perfect for this. You can stick one at each end, group several together and afterwards, they’re easy to store.
Make use of all your space
Just because you’re using the patio as the main event space doesn’t have to mean the rest of your condo is off-limits. Put it to work! Use your kitchen island as a bar or your counter as a fixing station when the burgers come off the grill. Set up a spread of appetizers or desserts on the dining room table. Keep the balcony for the important things; eating, drinking and socializing.
Keep your menu simple
Without the benefit of a spacious dining room table, you might want to re-think any kind of main course that requires a ton of elbow room or a firm surface for elaborate dicing. For example, grilling a medium rare steak with a baked potato may not be the best option for a dinner party with limited table space. Think finger foods, like chips and dip, sliders, canapés or individual summer salads. However, if you really have your heart set on that steak, try slicing it up and tossing it on some greens or with some soba noodles in a cute jar with chopsticks.
If you’re looking for some dessert inspiration, I have a whole blog about the perfect desserts to have at your summer party.
The most important thing to remember when throwing a fabulous dinner party is…
Don’t forget the details
One big benefit of hosting a dinner party on a small balcony is that it’s cozy and intimate. Keep that theme going by making sure you think about all the details you would for a larger party.
String up some decorative lights, scented candles or patio lanterns for a summery glow as the sun dies down. Add some greenery or floral decorations that work well in a small space, like hanging baskets, tiny succulents or a few fresh flowers. There’s nothing like relaxing on a balcony and watching the action below, knowing you’re enclosed in your tiny oasis with some whimsical lanterns, a cocktail and some good company.
Don’t forget your playlist! A good soundtrack is a great finishing touch for any summer party.
Depending on where you live or what time of the year it is, there’s a chance things may get chilly when the sun goes down. Make sure you have some cozy throw blankets on hand, so you don’t have to head indoors sooner than you’d like.
If you live in Vancouver like me, you know how gorgeous our summers are and how much we want to make the most of them. And if you, like many of us, spend a lot of your outdoor summertime on a small balcony, don’t think of it as a lost opportunity. Tiny balconies are cozy, relaxed and if you’re lucky, offer a great view. With a few strategic choices, your tiny balcony can be the perfect place to throw a dinner party, impress friends and make some lasting memories.