Fear number two: My place is too small to entertain

Expert: Maria (pronounced Mariah) Crosby Pollard, 37, who moved here five years ago after working with New York designers Katie Ridder, David Easton and Charlotte Moss. She and her husband live in a 15-foot-wide Victorian rowhouse in Old Town Alexandria with their children Julian, 3, and Eva, 2. They love to throw dinner or cocktail parties.

Two of her own best survival strategies: Have your babysitter come early and then stay and help clean up; and use a white noise machine in kids’ rooms so you won’t wake them when you turn up the music.

Don’t skimp on the tree

Even though a Christmas tree eats into your limited entertaining space, Pollard says to get a full-size evergreen so you can show off your ornaments. But have it stick out less in the room by cutting off the branches on one side and placing it right against the wall, even if you have to move out a piece of furniture.

Declutter

Always do a big home purge before entertaining. Donate or post to Freecycle.org. Put your migrating belongings back where they migrated from. When desperate, Pollard has been known to stash stuff in her car to get it out of the way for a party.

Design a drink

Don’t feel like you must have a full bar. Stick to wine, beer, water and sodas and create a specialty cocktail for the night. Pollard says, “This helps for cutting down on the bar space and the budget.”

Maria Crosby Pollard (Blue Lily Photo)
Banish kid stuff

The day of the party, put away large toys, furniture and kids’ equipment you don’t need. “We always move out the two high chairs,” she says.

Go for mood lighting

Dim the overhead lights and stick to lower wattage bulbs in table lamps. Stock up on tapered candles and votives so they won’t burn down too quickly during the party. Small spaces are transformed in candlelight.

Anticipate bad weather

Strategize about what you will do with guests’ coats and possibly wet boots or dripping umbrellas. “We usually put coats in a bedroom. You can also borrow or buy a simple coat rack and put coats in a basement or other out-of-the-way space,” she says.

Recommended products:

Stemless wine glasses. Pick up stemless wine glasses such as a no-frills model sold at Crate & Barrel. They work for any beverage, fit safely in the dishwasher and store easily in their original box under a bed. They are easier to balance and set down in a crowded small room.

Narrow serving trays. Arranging cheeses on slim serving pieces, such as the Apilco Zen platters from Williams-Sonoma, saves precious coffee table and counter space.

Festive linen cocktail napkins from Julia B.

Vintage and new cocktail napkins. Have a signature party item. Pollard enjoys collecting festive linen cocktail napkins. “Feel free to mix new and old ones,” she says. Nab some from your mother or grandmother and add them to your stash. She likes the selection available at www.juliab.com , either plain, monogrammed or otherwise personalized.

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