The joy of home entertaining at the holidays often comes with a challenge: How do you provide enough seating for a roomful of holiday revelers with just a sofa and a few chairs?
Los Angeles-based interior designer Betsy Burnham and designers Brian Patrick Flynn and Kyle Schuneman offer advice on maximizing seating without sacrificing style.
Stealth seating: “I’m a big fan of vintage ottomans, stools and sturdy side tables like stumps for this exact purpose,” said Schuneman, author of “The First Apartment Book: Cool Design for Small Spaces.” These pieces can work as tables or storage surfaces, he said, then occasionally serve “as extra seating for game nights or casual gatherings around the coffee table.”
Benches can work the same way. Schuneman suggests buying two benches that coordinate nicely with the decor of your living room, and then storing them at the foot of beds.
Flynn, founder and editor of decordemon.com, uses ottomans in a similar way. “Inside the storage ottoman, I keep floor cushions.”
Chairs from elsewhere: Flynn often uses a mixture of different chairs and benches at a dining room table year-round. When extra chairs are needed, they don’t look like dining chairs. Another option he suggests is bringing in your outdoor seating.
Burnham does something similar with seating from game tables: A poker table with four chairs can be a great way to fill one corner of a room, she said.
The right sofa: Burnham prefers “sofas that have bench seams, so that it’s one big seat.”
Longer sofas offer additional seating, Flynn says, but they’re best used in what he calls a “floating space plan,” where two identical long sofas are placed across from one another.
If you have extra space after choosing your sofa, Burnham suggests focusing on adding chairs to your living room rather than a loveseat. “A loveseat’s a tough one,” she said, “because I don’t think people want to be super physically close” at parties.
Folding and stacking: Flynn said prefers chairs that can be stacked when not in use. “My favorite stacking chair is the Emeco Navy chair. It’s super light, maybe 7 pounds or so, and it’s classic in design. When not in use, stack them seven high in a closet and you’ll never know they’re there.”
Burnham favors black bamboo folding chairs from Ballard Designs (about $100), and has used clear Lucite folding chairs, “kind of like the Philippe Starck ghost chairs.”
Schuneman likes the fabric-covered “terai” folding chairs from Anthropologie (about $200).
“I always tell people to buy pieces that can move throughout your home,” he says.”