March 17, 2020

Be the host with the most! The ultimate dining tips for small spaces.

Paid dining partnership with Habitat.

Sitting down at a dinner table can be quite a scary prospect, especially if you’re working with a home that’s more dinner on the sofa vibes than a grand dining affair. Having been the proud tenant of a number of tiny London abodes, I’m well tuned in making small spaces feel bigger than they are, and when it comes to hosting, I’m here for going all out. 

Ever since their collaboration with Jackson & Levine back in 2017, Habitat has been my go-to for dining pieces and tableware that wows, so when they got in touch to see if I’d like to style up some pieces, I’d already invited the guests over before they could confirm. If talk of entertaining family or guests fills you with fear or you struggle to find room to accommodate for extra chairs at dinner, this one’s for you. 

beige dining room with leather dining chairs and set table
multi-functional dining table that can be used as desk or console
Multi-functional furniture will help you to keep your space-saving ways.

Choose space saving furniture (that’s multi-functional too)!

Chances are, if you’re living in a small space or rented accommodation, you don’t have a separate dining space to retreat to when you want to sit down together or have guests over. That’s what makes looking for multi-functional dining furniture so important when you’re shopping for your home.

Enter the mid-century Heath Walnut Folding Table which converts from console to dining table in a second. It’s perfect for homes where space is at a premium and even looks neat as a desk – I styled mine up in a total of four ways when setting it up in my dining space and naturally, it would work well in an open-plan living space that is short on square footage.  

orange folding metal chair at dining table
Folding chairs are the perfect plus-one solution – especially in a vibrant shade.

Get out the extra dining chairs.

One of the trickiest aspects of having extra guests over is the extra dining room chairs you’ll need to host them. The solution? Foldable or stackable chairs that can be stored in a cupboard, or even hung on the wall as a design feature. These metal folding chairs are ideal for adding a pop of colour to your setup and are super affordable so won’t break the bank.

Plan your menu.

Don’t get caught out with a last minute dash to the supermarket. Whether you’re hosting a boozy brunch or a three course dinner, you want your menu to be tried and tested. A specific factor to consider when planning your perfect menu is the table space you’ll have to work with. Remember, a smaller table won’t be able to handle a lot of extra dinnerware unless you’ve set it up as a laidback grazing area. Keep it simple and prepare your dishes as much as possible – you don’t want to be stuck in the kitchen when you should be spending time with your family and friends. 

colourful tablescape with terrazzo serving platters
how to lay a dinner table with orange napkins
Set your table to impress with the perfect layers and finishing touches.

Create depth with your tableware.

There’s an art to creating the perfect tablescape and I’m not going to pretend it’s as easy as popping a few plates down. Again, keeping in mind the space you have available to you, work out a tablescape that will leave you with enough room for drinks but won’t leave the table looking bare. 

I’m personally a fan of mixing and matching tableware, choosing different side plates and bowls to keep the look layered. While you obviously won’t be dining with all of these, it’s more impactful to set the table and remove the layers just before eating. Platters, serving dishes and small dip bowls are another great way to add new colours and finishes into the mix. Can we just talk about these terrazzo serving boards? They’re a great way of adding extra height to the table, which is often an afterthought.

unique champagne glasses and coloured wine glasses at table setting
Glassware is important, as is your chosen drinks menu…

Glam up your glassware.

While I love to alternate my dinnerware, I buy my glassware to impress. If there’s not four of the same, they’re not coming in. I guess that’s part of growing up. Look for drinking glasses that differ from the norm – these Bianca wine glasses and champagne coupes are something a little different, with subtle green stems and a blue base that will add interest to a classic table setting. 

Not sure where each glass is meant to go? Pop water and wine glasses in the upper right corner. If you’re pairing wine with dishes, the red wine glass goes just behind the white wine glass.

orange and speckled blue dinnerware details
colourful table setting for entertaining at home
Consider candles, trays, flowers and table decorations for a special night in.

Consider the design details.

I’m a sucker for the little details, so you can bet any night at mine is going to involve a different tablecloth,  place cards, luxe cutlery and linen napkins. Did I mention that I like to go all out? 

Break up your table with candles, eclectic glass vases and anything else that will add texture to your tablescape. Living in Margate, I opted for a subtle shell theme with a spring twist on this occasion, even placing dried flowers in the rust linen napkins for something extra. Seriously, if in doubt, just add flowers. A few posies will do the trick, also allowing you to bring in more of your chosen colour scheme. 

Nail your dining playlist.

Music makes the world go round, right? Well it certainly makes dinner parties flow a lot more easily. Make sure you’ve got enough tracks lined up to see the night through and do consider your audience. Lewis Capaldi might not go down well with your alternative mates. Will you be looking to party with these friends after the dinner is done? Or do you want to create a relaxing vibe where the conversation is the focus? There are all things to think about.

earthy dinner table setting with pinks, oranges and olive greens
To tablecloth or not to tablecloth? That is the question.

Relax and enjoy!

Dinner parties are all about socialising and having a laugh with your loved ones so don’t take it too seriously. There’s nothing worse than a stressed out host.  If you’ve followed these tips, let’s face it, it’s already a success even without the food…

Source list:

All of these items are available from Habitat. Shop my picks below.

HEATH 2-4 Seat Walnut Folding Table | MACADAM Orange Metal Folding Chair | NANCY Speckled 12-piece Dinner Set  | JAVI Terrazzo Serving Platters | TURINI Black Cutlery  | LINEN CLAY BROWN napkins | LINEN OLIVE GREEN TABLECLOTH |  BIANCA Champagne Coupes  | CLARA Pink and Grey Side Plates | BIANCA White Wine Glasses | NONA Pink Tapas Bowls | PARMA Medium Square Yellow Dish  | BELLA Violet Dipping Bowl

For more interior inspiration, colour clashing and general life admin, check out the rest of my blog. Follow me on Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter for more EJP in your life.


  1. Kate says:

    That dining table is fabulous! I love multi-functional tables like these – we have the round Habitat Suki which folds down to a small console size too (although we never actually put it away). Love how you’ve styled the table and all the pieces you’ve picked. Can’t wait to be invited round for dinner soon xx

  2. Ivona says:


  3. If I were to host a dinner party, I would make sure to invest in good quality dinnerware. I also agree with you that there must be beautiful center cloth. Thank you for sharing the importance of planning a three-course meal.

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Emma Jane Palin is a freelance art consultant, interior stylist and multi-award-winning blogger residing in Margate, UK. She has worked with various home and lifestyle brands not limited to West Elm, Apple, John Lewis, Habitat, MADE, Caran D'Ache + No.3 Gin. Emma is also a regular contributor to Hunker where she writes about design trends and interior advice.

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