When we caught wind that interior designer, Samuel Masters was throwing a holiday party, we were stoked to score an invite! With a sharp eye for style and hosting skills to match, Samuel’s annual Christmas fête is a highlight of the year for many. We sat down with the designer to snag his tips on holiday entertaining- from what to serve to how to decorate. Turns out you don’t need a lot of space either! Sam dazzled with a party of 44 guests in his 400 square foot Manhattan apartment. And speaking of apartments, be sure to check out his handsome home tour after the interview!

What are your ‘Top 5 Tips for’ Holiday Entertaining in a Small Space?

1. Try to open up as much space as possible- clear table tops, hide excess furniture- anything to give you more space for people to put their drinks and make the room feel open. 2. Set up your bar in a separate area from your food so everyone doesn’t congregate in one spot. 3. Create a makeshift coat check by having a rolling garment rack in the hallway. 4. Use all your rooms- your dresser can become a buffet and your tub an ice bucket. 5. Embrace the crowd! Conversation is much easier when you’re closer together.

Are there certain serving pieces every host should have on hand for a party?

I don’t think you can ever have too many white platters and bowls. Keeping them all white lets you mix and match serving pieces easily. I love wine coolers and have a small collection of them- they’re a super fun item to pull out for special occasions. Also, I think it’s great to have a large set of inexpensive glassware and white cloth cocktail napkins.

Do you have a recommended food and beverage menu for gatherings?

Let’s be honest, the bar is the most important part of a good holiday party. For Christmas, I usually like to have a specialty cocktail and then a little of everything else- this year it was a champagne cocktail with St. Germaine liqueur and rosemary, bourbon, vodka, gin, red wine, and white wine… tequila shots came out later in the evening. I like to keep food simple. I usually limit it to about four main bites and then have some small snacks scattered around the apartment. Party food should always be bite size- no one wants to hold their drink and a plate so keep it easy for your guests. For my party I served mini sweet potato biscuits with serrano ham, Chick-Fil-A chicken nuggets, cucumbers with homemade boursin cheese and ricotta crostini with shaved butternut squash and red carrot that my good friend Marissa Lippert from Nourish Kitchen + Table made. Desserts should be fun and something that aren’t the basic stuff you see all the time- I had cinnamon churros, homemade marshmallows with coconut, and Nourish K+T brownies.

How do you create a warm, welcoming, vibe for a party?

I think lighting is the most important element to set a cozy vibe at a party. I dim all the lights and put mercury glass votives all around the apartment- everyone looks great in candlelight.

Any favorite music you like to play in the background?

I always like to have a playlist with a wide range of music- for this party it was Christmas songs mixed in with songs from Otis Redding, Jay Z, Lorde and Haim.

Do you have any holiday decorating tips and tricks up your sleeve to share?

I decorate my tree like the one at my parents house- multicolor lights are more fun than white lights and it’s adorned with a mix of ornaments I’ve collected over the years and also some fun NYC mementos. And tinsel! Tinsel reflects the Christmas lights and makes it extra chintzy. Floral pieces should be related- my wreath was made from the same greenery as the garland and the flower arrangements. You don’t have to have huge arrangements- they end up getting lost among the crowd. And candles in front of mirrors are always super sexy at holiday parties (and anytime).

Favorite moment from your holiday party this year?
Definitely the dance party at the end of the night… that was after the tequila shots.