group of friends serving themselves at an indoor summer party.

Hosting barbecues is one way to enjoy the summer season with family and friends, but where does that leave apartment dwellers? Typically faced with limited indoor space and a lack of outdoor space to entertain, is it possible to host a barbecue-style party? With some planning and creative ideas, you’ll find that it is possible. In fact, it could turn out so well that you may want to kick off an annual tradition. Here are some steps to help plan your summertime bash.

Step 1: Plan Ahead and Prep as Much as Possible

As with any good party, preparation is key. There are a number of decisions and tasks that can be made in advance that can help make party day run smoothly. This all starts with deciding how many people your apartment can comfortably hold. Rather than evaluating your home in its current configuration, either mentally or physically take a few steps to help maximize space, then decide how many guests you can invite.

In order to maximize space, start by removing unnecessary furniture and large decor items from the room entirely and temporarily relocate them to another room. Next, move bigger, functional pieces of furniture towards the walls to clear some additional space. Finally, take inventory of what you have in your possession that could work for seating. Everything from pillows to stools to small (sturdy) side tables could work. After evaluating your space and seating accommodations, make arrangements for borrowing or renting any additional seating and eating surfaces you may need.

Step 2: Get Creative With Your Space

Once the invitations have been sent, it’s time to start actively planning and preparing. You’ve figured out how many people can comfortably fit in your apartment, now it’s time to get creative with exactly how you’ll arrange and display everything.

Start by clearing all surfaces of unnecessary clutter and decor. You’re going to need plenty of space for displaying food and drinks as well as space for guests to rest their cups and plates, so think outside of the box and clear off everything from bookshelves to windowsills to kitchen counters.

Next, plan your seating arrangements. Depending upon the crowd you’re hosting, you could keep it casual with picnic-style seating and spread blankets and pillows around a coffee table or two, or you could create full table and chair seating arrangements throughout your apartment, or try a mix of both.

Then, decide where your serving stations will go. If you’d like to keep guests circulating throughout your apartment, consider spacing out these stations by placing the food in one area, drinks in another and desserts in yet another space. Once you’ve decided on the serving stations, start gathering your flatware. To help maximize surface space, consider using cake plates and tiered dessert trays with smaller bases that allow multiple levels of serving space.

Once your serving stations are set, take a look around and decide which spaces or items in your apartment could serve a unique purpose for your barbecue-style party. If you have a spare bathroom, consider storing extra bags of ice in the bathtub. If you don’t anticipate needing access to your kitchen sink, let it double as an ice bucket. Throw some fabric or a fun tablecloth over your coffee table or side table to encourage people to use those surfaces.

Step 3: Keep It Simple to Help Minimize Clutter and Waste

Now that your apartment is arranged to entertain, take some measures to help reduce clutter and waste during the meal. For flatware, bring in the summer vibes by using either reusable melamine plates and bowls, or go for an eco-friendly disposable option like bamboo. For drinks, allow guests to personalize disposable cups with markers or stickers to help everyone stick with one cup throughout the event — minimizing waste. Find a prominent spot to place your trash can and recycling bin, and borrow larger ones if yours are not big enough, to help keep surfaces clear of abandoned plates and cups. Also, consider designating a spot or room where guests can store any bags or outerwear that do not need to take up space at the party.

When deciding upon food and drinks to serve, consider the space they will take up, the amount of prep time and the waste they may produce. You may want to choose items that don’t require utensils and many condiments or components, such as burgers and hot dogs, and stick with items that don’t require much effort, such as kebabs, chips, mini sandwiches, pasta salads and dips. Additionally, avoid serving too many items that need to be cooked or reheated during the party. Stick with mostly cold or room temperature offerings that can be prepared in advance, leaving space to cook your kebabs in a grill pan or under the broiler for that barbecue feel without ending up with an overly-crowded kitchen. For drinks, consider either offering a pre-mixed signature “mocktail” or two and serving them out of drink dispensers, or keep it simple and offer lemonade, iced tea, water and soft drinks.

Step 4: Bring the Outdoor Vibes Inside

By using melamine or disposable tableware and taking the seating to the floor, you’ll be well on your way to bringing a true outdoor feel into your living room. Keep the theme going by putting together a great, summery playlist. Consider hanging some festive decor on the wall or ceiling with removable hooks or tape to help keep surfaces clear and protect your rental walls. Using a cooler for drinks saves some space in your refrigerator and offering cool summer treats helps keep things causal. While there may not be enough space for your typical backyard party games, improvise with card games or smartphone app games that don’t take up much space and are easy to pick up and move.

Step 5: Have Fun

Summer barbecues are all about kicking back and relaxing, but an anxious host may cause party-goers to be on edge. Help minimize the work that needs to be done during the party by prepping ahead, take the time to map out your space, and spend your “barbecue” socializing with guests. At the end of the day, people can remember the fun they had with their host and fellow guests, so don’t get too hung up on the details!

With some planning and preparation, you can be enjoying your annual indoor summer party for years to come.