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Creating a game plan for social events

Social events are larger gatherings than having a few friends over. Their success requires planning. We often focus on the menu and preparation, but often short-change plans for ease in seating and mingling.

photo by
Russell Abraham
The game plan shows how furniture can be rearranged to accommodate 40 guests.

Family celebrations should be highlights to which we look forward, and where we catch up on the lives of relatives. Other large gatherings, including charity events, book clubs and parties honoring special achievements, carry the same goal. All require special seating and rearrangements of usual furnishings. If these events were a sporting event we would call the strategy a "game plan."

Thanksgiving provides an example. It is important to establish a head count, and a space plan. I like to create a floor plan in scale that accounts for circulation and places for seating. Not every "seat" needs to be a chair. Benches (including piano), floor cushions, dining and folding chairs, and coffee tables are examples of possible temporary seating. Stairways can even be used in a pinch.

Creating various scenarios is the first step to having a relaxed party. Detailing a family gathering for 25, a reception for 100, or an intimate dinner for two in an unusual corner of the garden or deck makes it easy to say "yes," whether it's the final artist's reception for "Music @ Menlo" or Mom telling you she's passing the gavel (it's your turn to host!).

The illustration is an example of my suggestion to a client who recently gave a reception for 40 the weekend after they moved into their new home.

The pre-party layout shows one side of the room functioning as a conversational and viewing room for a flat screen, and the other as a library.

Risë Krag, ASID, associate AIA, IESGG, is founder of RKI Interior Design,
a full-service interior-design firm. Learn more at

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