7 Design Ideas for Family Gatherings at Home

It’s almost the holidays! 

And after the year many of us have had, it should be safe to say that we deserve to have a wonderful, smashing gathering with our loved ones to celebrate the happy season. 

Family gatherings usually happen in the living room, or family room if your home has one. When planning for this type of event, it is important to remember that comfort is key. We want our home to be an inviting, welcoming space for the whole lot – for everyone to feel relaxed and have fun at the same time. 

We build our homes primarily addressing our needs and wants, of course. But we also consider a healthy space for family and friends to come and spend a casual night. Albeit it doesn’t happen on a regular basis, being prepared for these gatherings is always a good thing. 

Photo source: Houzz

First things first, declutter. A cluttered, messy home is an unwelcoming and uninviting sight. Whatever excitement your guests were feeling would have plummeted upon seeing an untidy home – a rather insulting feeling may surface that a gathering wasn’t wanted in the first place. 

So, do a bit of tidying up before you start putting any decor up. 

Next, your goal is to achieve a comfortable, cozy look for your family. Fluff up does throw pillows and add more if you have some extras. Position some throws and blankets to make the entire space even softer. Do you know that all-famous term ‘hygge’ – this embraces it. 

If you have an extra tufted rug, you may want to consider putting that too. But make sure it’s in an area away from all the eating or else cleaning it might be a nightmare. 

Photo source: Unsplash | Hans Isaacson

Now that you have the basics out of the way, next is to work on some creative design ideas. We’ll give you some tips to make even the fussiest family member have a marvelous time in the family gathering you will plan. 

1. Have a place for everyone 

During family gatherings, there will be people from different generations – from grandparents to babies. Therefore, it is important to ensure that there’s an area where members of different life stages will be able to enjoy their time. 

Older people would usually like to sit around the dining table and continue conversations after the meal. Or there are times that this is brought to the living area or backyard or lanai. Either way, there should be comfortable seating with coffee tables and side tables for them to put down their glass or enjoy some dessert. 

Photo source: Pexels | Nicole Michalou

For the kids, it’s important to have a small little safe spot where they can play and be kept entertained while the adults also have a good time. The babies can have a playpen while older kids can keep it going with board games, Netflix or other game consoles. 

If you have a large backyard, then this space can be segregated for everyone – comfy chairs for the oldies while the kids play around and can be kept in the parents’ line of sight. Bring out cold, refreshing drinks in the summer. Or, warm blankets and hot cocoa in the colder months. 

Photo source: Pexels | Askar Abayev

2. Add a buffet table

Beside your dining table, in the kitchen or near the outdoor area, you can add a buffet table or side table to give your family easy access to the food throughout the party. This is easier than having all the dishes in the center of a large rectangular table where food will be passed around all the time and not all dishes are easily accessible to everyone. 

If you don’t want to get an additional table for this, you can temporarily convert your console table into the buffet table. Remove the decor on top, lay a nice looking table runner for protection and start placing the dishes. Or, you can use your kitchen island for this, provided your kitchen is right beside your dining area and there’s no partitions in between.

This temporary buffet table can also serve as the area for appetizers, desserts and drinks. This way, everyone will be able to get some small tidbits before and after the main dishes are done.

Photo source: Unsplash | Jill Sauve

And while you’re at it, decorate your buffet table. Placing a smorgasbord is the easiest way to set up appetizers. Next, have a juice dispenser for drinks. Use carton boxes to elevate some dishes (usually the main dish or dessert). And for the final touch, add some dried foliage to spruce the entire spot up. 

Quick tip: you can even decorate it in line with the theme of the party – like Halloween or Thanksgiving or Christmas.

Photo source: Unsplash | Jed Owen

3. Put up a coat or bag rack at the entryway

It always helps to assist your guests in every possible way, even if (or especially if) they’re family. In the winter months, the heavy coats and jackets can always be a hassle because your guests would have no idea where to place them and it would be horrible to see different coats strewn and hanging about. 

Add a temporary simple little coat rack at the entrance. That way, arriving family members will immediately be able to shake off their coats, scarves, hats and hang them. Then all that extra apparel will be neatly placed in one area, and easy to find when it’s time to don them on again. 

Another option is to have a bag rack. Only the phones are important so sometimes, you can suggest for all the bags to be placed in one area when they enter. This also makes it easier for everyone to remember where they left their things and not forget or miss any of their stuff.

Photo source: Pinterest

4. Double decorative furniture as extra seating

Whenever there’s a family reunion or gathering, seats are always not enough. You can always put out those extra stools you have in storage but they don’t look so nice.

Instead, try investing in some garden stools. These will be good for indoor or outdoor use plus they look pretty with their own designs and colors. Choose a few pieces that match the theme of your home so they don’t look out of place. 

Best yet, you don’t need to keep these adorable items in storage. When not in use, they can be your side tables instead. You can use them to hold small decor, your drink, a lamp, books, etc. 

Photo source: Unsplash | Collov Home Design

Other options for double duty furniture are ottomans, low decorative stools and cushioned center tables. And if you’re really into these multi-function pieces, you can go for those coffee tables with stools tucked secretly underneath – these would be terrific for having additional seating only when needed. 

Photo source: Ballard Designs

5. Slide in a bar cart

If you’re looking for another attractive and functional piece, a bar cart is an excellent choice. This can be your own mini bar and serve your guests an unlimited flow of drinks. 

Moreover, it’s easy to bring this around. If your party is in the backyard, slide it to the backyard. Otherwise, bring it over to the family room or just let it sit beside the dining table. Basically, it’s a very flexible piece of decor that you can style for any season.

When the party’s over, you don’t really need to remove everything and keep the bar cart in storage. There are so many different designs for bar carts and many ways to style them – it’s a decorative piece on its own. Here are some to get your started:

  • Arrange the bottles and top it off with some flowers, dried foliage or other cute small decor like books or other ornaments
  • Use the color of bottles and liquids to make it an eye-catching piece 
  • Get the metallic or vintage type of bar cart and maybe, stray away from the ordinary double-level-rectangular-shaped ones to make it bolder a statement piece (e.g. circular trays and frames, large wheels, lucite bar carts)

P.S. it doesn’t have to be limited to drinks. You can use your bar cart for desserts and little tidbits or appetizers too, like an extension to your buffet table.

Photo source: Omysa and Just a Tina Bit

6. Festive or themed table setting

Along the same lines with that decorative tip on the buffet table, up the ante even more by having a themed or festive table setting – complete with a food menu! This should definitely ‘wow’ your family members and get them in the reunion mood. 

For table settings, basic dining etiquette dictates that there should be a charger plate below the dinnerware. You can also put a place mat under the charger for additional color. On top of the plates, place a pretty napkin, you can even go all the way and fold it into a stork or a bowtie! Plus, go ahead and add a cute little touch of something on top of the napkin – like a leaf, a flower, a photo or their name. 

Silver on the sides and top of the plate/s. Water and wine glasses on the upper right part for each setting. 

Photo source: Unsplash | Libby Penner

Now that every person’s area is set. It’s time to decorate the center area of the table. Here, anything you want can go on it. But make sure the theme is on point. 

Here are a few quick tips:

  • Flowers and greenery are the easiest options
  • Don’t overcrowd the center or else the table will look messy
  • Avoid placing anything too high or it’ll block the face of the person sitting opposite and conversations will be more challenging 
  • You can always make room for the main dishes or dessert (if there’s no buffet table or bar cart) and keep other decors to a minimum

Photo source: Pexels | Tim Douglas

7. Take out those special decorations you’re saving

For the final touch, if you have any decorations you’ve kept hidden and just waiting for a special occasion, now’s the time to bring them out. 

This could be nice new decor or art pieces – paintings, sculptures, figurines, and the like. If you’re having the party in the backyard or over dinner, bring out some fairy lights to add a bit of warmth and coziness to the ambiance. 

When you plan the gathering around a theme, then those themed decors should come out on display. Pumpkins and pointy hats for Halloween, Santa, snow and sweaters for Christmas, greenery and plants for a nature theme, and the list goes on. 

Photo source: Pexels | Dima Valkov

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