My apartment is the JOINT!
January 17, 2011 3:55 PM   Subscribe

I want to have an apartment that people congregate at. What makes an apartment a fun hang out spot?

You know how it's always a few people that have the apartment everyone hangs out in? How do they do it? How do I get a little of that for myself?

I'm about to move and am spending a lot of time looking at apartments. I'm in my mid twenties and have only started to get relatively good at living on my own. Moving forward, I'd like to have guests over more. I want to have the kind of apartment that works well for groups to hang out in, as well as visiting guests to stay over in.

Believe it or not, my social circle is somewhat competitive in this regard. We have a myriad of apartments to hang out in. How do I make mine a contender? I realize there are a couple of obvious factors (proximity is one, being the outgoing person who takes the initiative is another) but on a purely aesthetic and practical level, what makes an apartment comfortable and fun to chill in? Furniture, layout, vibe - I want to hear your tips!
posted by amycup to Home & Garden (51 answers total) 108 users marked this as a favorite
Wii and beers brah!
posted by dougrayrankin at 3:57 PM on January 17, 2011

Comfortable seating for watching televised events!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 3:58 PM on January 17, 2011

Something with an open concept or a large living room/den is pretty important I think. A place where a lot of people can hang out and lounge on couches, etc.
Hosting events is key - things like video games, board games, movies, etc need this kind of space. If you are more into dinner parties you obviously want to be looking for a place with a big kitchen and/or a dinning room. I love hosting dinner parties but I don't have a dinning room. If there was a place where 8 people could sit comfortably that would be great. As it is now there's never enough room for people to sit in my kitchen when they come over.
Also consider places with outdoor space. A deck or a backyard can be a great draw for people in warmer months. Think garden BBQ parties.
posted by Fred Wesley at 4:01 PM on January 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Beer in the fridge at all times. And good music. And NOT a dominant TV in the main room.
posted by philip-random at 4:04 PM on January 17, 2011 [3 favorites]

Food and lots of fun and interesting things to do.
posted by TooFewShoes at 4:07 PM on January 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

A sound system into which plugging in an iPod is trivial.
posted by griphus at 4:09 PM on January 17, 2011 [4 favorites]

Wide open spaces inside. Plenty of parking. It's warm. I can be sure that the neighbors don't mind or can't even hear the noise.

Most importantly, there is always frozen cookie dough, ready to bake at a moment's notice. Want people to stick around? Tell them the fresh-baked cookies will be ready in 15 minutes.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:10 PM on January 17, 2011 [11 favorites]

An impeccably clean and well-appointed bathroom.
posted by The World Famous at 4:12 PM on January 17, 2011 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I had the apartment in and amongst my circle of friends throughout my twenties, where everyone congregated. One of the main factors was that I was near the city, so pre-event and post-event gatherings inevitably were at my place. Other things that clinched it:

I always, and I mean always, have beer/wine/soft drinks/cheeses/dips/crackers/chocolates at home. I don't eat/drink that much of this stuff at all and it easily languishes in my pantry when I have no visitors, but I like hosting, so I always have them on hand.

I always had an open door policy (restricted to personal friends) - come over whenever you want, all I need is a heads up.

I had a comfortable guest room for sleepovers and such.

I'm incredibly easy going as a host - I will happily leave the party/gathering to keep going all night, and I'll go to bed. This is mostly because I have wonderful friends who clean up after themselves, and don't do stupid defacing things in my home.

Every time people came over, I made sure they knew where everything was, rather than trying to bustle about getting everything they needed for them. This kind of familiarity meant people felt like it was their home too, and were comfortable pouring themselves a drink, cooking themselves something simple, helping themselves to snacks, or popping on a dvd or music.

Following on to the above point, I would ask friends to let others in, give others who were not as familiar, the house tour. Which meant my close friends started feeling comfortable being co-hosts with me. Takes a lot of the stress off hosting, and other revellers appreciate having multiple points of contact.

Lots of slouching/sitting/lounging space is good, but I only had a 3 seater couch and a few chairs. People make do if the home is comfy enough. Lots of pillows/blankets is more important.

I'm very comfortable with my friends seeing my house in all states - they've walked in on messy days, clean days, any day. So they're very comfy and feel like they CAN come over anytime.

I'm also very honest - friends who come over know they should pop their dishes in the dishwasher when done, and when I say I need them to leave, I mean it! I also have no qualms about announcing that I need some alone time, and am happily retiring to my office.

The main thing is, to be an incredibly comfortable host. When people feel great in your presence and in your home, they will keep gravitating towards it, whether it's 2 or 20 people.
posted by shazzam! at 4:13 PM on January 17, 2011 [61 favorites]

You kind of have to keep inviting people over for brunches, for parties, for lunch, for movie night, for birthday parties, for celebrations, for after parties, for drinks, for game night.

Some good marketing will help you. Claim to have invented the perfect waffles, the perfect pizza, the perfect banana split, the perfect tacos.

You also have to have personality and have to be a leader.

We have friends who are the heart of Fernwood, a funky neighbourhood in Victoria. They always have people stopping by, including friends and neighbours and school friends and work friends and so on. They're very welcoming and friendly and interesting (he's Persian and makes great Persian food, she's Chinese and makes great Chinese food, he's a mechanical genius who renovates homes), but they have force of personality. They like to laugh. They are the social nucleus, the glue that brings everyone together.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:15 PM on January 17, 2011 [4 favorites]

Relative cleanliness and a lack of clutter are important, though not to the point of spotless sterility. If close friends hang out at your place regularly, they're likely to start getting their own stuff (sodas, wine glasses, an extra roll of toilet paper), so keeping the "oh god don't look in there" to a minimum will make both you and your guests comfortable.

Seating should be plentiful, comfortable, and close enough for conversation. It sucks when three of your friends are chatting on the couch and your options are either to stand and chat or sit across the room and strain to hear. As many seats as possible should have a nearby surface to rest drinks on - end tables take up less space than coffee tables, but coffee tables are more versatile.
posted by Metroid Baby at 4:15 PM on January 17, 2011 [5 favorites]

Food! If its as competitive as you say, then you can trump all your mates by bringing out the crockpot of yummies you cooked all night. Grill ribs, bake cookies and learn how to cook a mean chillie. Tell them to bring the beers though. Best of luck
posted by rocco at 4:16 PM on January 17, 2011

Be close to transportation and bars that people want to go to. Let them know that you are going to have drinks at your place before going out. Works every time.

Also, my friend used to throw Sunday brunches that were casual, but pretty much got out of hand once we had been drinking for several hours. Everyone brought one thing and the booze flowed. Next thing you know, its 11pm and you have to go to work the next day.

Also, you need to have a good selection of music going all the time, if people start getting agitated about the music, they will try to change it (not good) or complain and want to leave. Pandora is good for situations like this.
posted by darkgroove at 4:24 PM on January 17, 2011

Wine, know how to mix a couple of good drinks, have good music (or invite people who know good music), and aim for a ground level apartment if you're looking in areas with older construction. Your guests will feel more comfortable if you and they are not worried about annoying the neighbors. Pillows. Throws.
posted by raztaj at 4:24 PM on January 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Not sure if you're in a location where everyone drives a car, but having ample guest parking is sure to help when you're looking for an apartment complex. If parking is a problem and/or people are constantly getting towed out of reserved spots, I think your friends might go elsewhere to avoid the trouble.
posted by watch out for turtles at 4:25 PM on January 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Probably the simplest way about this is to have the biggest and most comfortable apartment.
posted by rhizome at 4:32 PM on January 17, 2011

Seconding shazzam!, location is key. Be on the way to or from the nightlife areas you and your friends frequent and always have good booze on hand.
posted by m1ndsurfer at 4:39 PM on January 17, 2011

Also, don't make your place endemic to people getting so drunk they puke. Passing out is fine, but no one likes going somewhere they know they'll see someone hurl.
posted by griphus at 4:41 PM on January 17, 2011

(That being said, don't chastise/ban people if it happens. "Tolerated" is fine, "expected" is not, "encouraged" is gross.)
posted by griphus at 4:43 PM on January 17, 2011

If you live in a colder place, a stash of blankets that people feel free to take blankets from. We have a couple that sit on the backs of chairs and things that look nice with the decor, and then a storage ottoman full of various miscellaneous fleece blankets. Everyone likes to curl up under a blanket when they're cold. Makes for nicer movie-watching, better after-dinner conversation ... it's also convenient when people bring over babies or toddlers (soon you'll have those friends!) and want the baby to play on the floor or whatever.

Also you could build blanket forts. I would definitely come back if there were blanket forts.

Everyone knows where our blankets are and where our drinking glasses are. Usually on second invitation we show guests the wine/beer glasses (in a breakfront) and the generic drinking glasses (in the kitchen) and invite them to help themselves. People don't mind asking, "oooh, is there more pie?" (and having me get it) but they feel awkward breaking in to ask if they can have a glass of water.

It also helps to remember things like who is always thirsty and who can't have caffeine and who is vegetarian and who is always freezing and needs a blanket as soon as they arrive. One reason people like to come to our house is that I say, "Okay, I made tea, and here's a decaf pot, Mike ..." and as soon as I see our Florida-transplant friend is AS PER USUAL freezing his ass off in short sleeves, I throw my heaviest blanket over his legs and he burrows gratefully. He'd feel dumb asking but when I just BLANKET him he feels not just warm but nice that I remembered he's always cold. (Plus my warmest blanket has sports logos on it for a team he likes, yay!)

I also have a small tupperware container of Lego under our coffee table. You would not believe how endlessly entertaining this is! Plus whenever someone has to drop by with their kid in tow, the kid and parent are both very appreciative that I have something age-appropriate to entertain the kid with. (Also useful: small stash of Disney movies.)

We actually have a pretty crappy selection of beverages and aren't great with snacks, but that hasn't stood in our entertaining way. (Also, we're in our 30s, everyone's either pregnant, breastfeeding, dieting, or prone to headaches, it takes us forever to use up alcohol anymore!) People frequently ask if they can bring something anyway, so I suggest whatever they like to drink, "or some kind of appetizer" or whatever. I do always have everything on hang to make a couple of quick meals (eggs and bacon and toast, pasta and sauce) and a couple of quick desserts (clafouti takes 5 minute to throw together, though it bakes for an hour), so I can produce food on short notice. :)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 4:44 PM on January 17, 2011 [7 favorites]

Not sure if this is relevant to your peer group, but I love having people over and notice that everyone always hangs out in the kitchen. So my vote would be to find an apartment with a large kitchen.

**When I remodeled my small bungalow, I tore down many walls and made a HUGE kitchen with this purpose in mind (which also makes people laugh since they know that I detest cooking).
posted by murrey at 4:44 PM on January 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

This may sound weird, but I am willing to personally guarantee it.

A good kitchen to stand in.

On preview, I'm not the only one. Why do people want to stand in the kitchen? I don't know, but they do.
posted by cmoj at 4:46 PM on January 17, 2011 [20 favorites]

Parking and/or proximity to easy public transport (if your friends use it) is #1. #2 is lots of tidy, comfortable seating with easy drink-propping space within arm's reach. Available crash space is a plus if people like to stay late, so having something like an easily pull-out-able futon is nice. Comfort drinks (tea, cocoa mix) in the cupboard at all times are also excellent; and some cheap (no-excuse-needed-to-open-this) wine as well.

I don't think a TV is important unless your friends specifically like to congregate to watch games or shows. Seating that promotes cozying up and chatting is more welcoming.
posted by fingersandtoes at 4:47 PM on January 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Seconding cmoj. It's such a popular party activity there's a song about it.
posted by griphus at 4:48 PM on January 17, 2011

As many seats as possible should have a nearby surface to rest drinks on - end tables take up less space than coffee tables, but coffee tables are more versatile.

This is important. Having pillows around for sitting on the floor is also good. A good stereo system with iPod input of some sort, video games (or a copy of Apples to Apples or Scrabble, depending on the crowd), and enough ice and mixers for those drinking are also essential.
posted by limeonaire at 4:49 PM on January 17, 2011

I don't think a comfy living room is nearly as important as a comfortable kitchen with a well-stocked fridge, good snacks, and folding chairs. People like to congregate in kitchens.

I lived in a two-room apartment for several years that became a weekly go-to spot, despite having a tiny living room with a tiny TV. I think the above was key, in addition to having good snacks and keeping it reasonably clean.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 5:00 PM on January 17, 2011

Also, I'd tend to agree with avoiding TV, but Rock Band on a 100" HD projector sure brings the boys (everyone, really) to the yard.
posted by cmoj at 5:01 PM on January 17, 2011

It seems to me that this could be down to the popularity of the person, rather than the apartment.
posted by Maias at 5:02 PM on January 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

Location - I was, until recently, the closest apartment that was convenient-ish to downtown without being downtown (where there is no parking) so we'd meetup to carpool from my place.

Also, at least one reasonable table. A not-nice or even covered table is great because not everyone tends to use coasters and holy crap sliding coasters under glasses seems so passive-aggressive to me. A friend of mine is down with the design mags darling 'use a tray on an ottoman instead of a table' trend, but it's totally impractical for more than one or two people and really inconvenient for our type of socializing (boardgames and drinking anything, be it tea or alcohol or water.)
posted by cobaltnine at 5:05 PM on January 17, 2011

You probably don't want to make TV-watching the cornerstone of your parties/get-togethers, but so few 20-somethings (which I'm assuming you are) pay for TV these days that having even basic cable could increase your flow of guests. Maybe not for the bigger parties, but a TV with good channels could be a great way to get people over casually on weekday nights. Even if I can watch shows on Hulu, I think it would be fun to go hang out with friends and watch a favorite show live, with drinks and snacks, etc.

And then you could also host the super bowl party, the Oscars party, etc.

Have fun!
posted by imalaowai at 5:05 PM on January 17, 2011

Taking the initiative to invite people over frequently is a big thing because it takes a while for friends to feel like they can essentially invite themselves over to your place.

Throw awesome theme parties, and generally come up with reasons why people would want to congregate at your place in particular: have a weekly tv show or movie viewing party, have potlucks or make some sort of food, serve interesting cocktails, or have a game night or a dance party. Invite new people over in addition to the same old crowd because it gets boring to feel like you are going to the same place to do the same thing with the same people all the time.
posted by forkisbetter at 5:14 PM on January 17, 2011 [3 favorites]

I think the main thing is to invite people over! The main social director in my group invites/plans, so we go to her place the most. She likes it, we like it. I know you said you want aesthetic suggestions, but I think you should be super conscious of that.

If you want people to spend the night, have a spare bedroom set up and ready to go. If you don't have a spare bedroom, at least have the blankets and pillows for the couch easily accessible. Have extra toothbrushes, contact lens cases/ solution, extra pajama pants, that sort of thing, in a place that people can find easily and help themselves to when they need to. I also like when hosts mention that I can help myself to (cereal, fruit, yogurt, whatever) in the morning if they aren't up yet. Its awkward to wander around, unclear if I am allowed to help myself or not.

Alcohol! Not just beer; beer is gross, but a nice selection of the major types of booze and the mixers you probably will want to have on hand anyway- pop, oj, cranberry cocktail.

A porch is nice, for when you want to be outside-but-not-really, and then you can throw bbqs, if such a thing is affordable (and I would first go for accessible to public transportation/parking, space, and no roommate, but then- porch or fire escape you can hang out on).

I would also add that while I am not a pet person, lots of people are- I would never suggest you buy a pet to be popular, but if you have one that gets along with people and/or is cute, people like that (but please have some allergy meds on hand for your guests!).

If you find you keep losing out as host to your friends, perhaps you should replace them. Or at least expand your circle a bit.
posted by jenlovesponies at 5:26 PM on January 17, 2011

Among my friends there are always certain houses that--by some weird unspoken rule--become hangout places. I feel like people like going to places that feel home-y, places where they can feel comfortable and completely themselves.

I'd say someplace warm & warm-looking (probably carpeted), with well-lit spaces (no fluorescent lights, ugh!) and a couch with lots of cushions/throws (perfect for flopping down). It helps if you give out that "people are always welcome! bored? come hang out!" vibe. You can be the place where people go if they feel like there's nothing to do but want to get out. Soon you'll be the place everyone wants to be, since everyone else is already there.

Also, I like places with cats. But that's just me.
posted by sprezzy at 5:35 PM on January 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

In order of priority, starting with the highest:
- Central location (close to wherever you go out)
- Booze available
- Music, good selection
- TV & video games
- Comfortable seating
- Not too dirty
- Can smoke (if your circle of friends smoke) or balcony for smokers
- Hot roommates
posted by Simon Barclay at 5:40 PM on January 17, 2011

Agreeing that a large kitchen is good.

As is simply inviting people over.

If you have friends who smoke, an outdoor area (with candles & ashtrays, or even a chiminea if possible) is very nice.

If you have friends with small kids (maybe not, at your age), a room where a pack-n-play could be set up will be welcome. Such as your bedroom, maybe (i.e., you might need to clean it up rather than just shutting the door). A noise machine is also good in this case.

Also, a tidy room where coats can be thrown on the bed--if you don't have an entry way with lots of coat hooks.

The rest (drinks, food) has been amply covered above. And don't forget that flowers and lots of candles will warm up any space.
posted by torticat at 5:56 PM on January 17, 2011

Why do people want to stand in the kitchen?

Easy access to the beverages.

A fold-out sofa is good. I got a lot of mileage out of a balcony with a spectacular view back when. I had some balconies that were not so popular, but anything with a big scenic view (thinking here of one that looked blah in the daytime but which was near a freeway and the downtown core and so looked excitingly metropolitan at night), or downtown where one could people-watch -- big draw.
posted by kmennie at 6:23 PM on January 17, 2011

Foosball table.
posted by bardic at 8:18 PM on January 17, 2011

I'm one of a few people with the title of "owner of the hang-out place" in my group of friends, and I don't really consider myself to be especially popular. Things that help:

-No roommate (never have to work around someone else's schedule)
-Nice, clean place (some mess is okay, of course, but most people don't want to scoop stuff off the couch to clear a place to sit)
-Music/TV availability (a fun add on to this is to have a VGA cable hooked up to your TV. Showing off the latest Youtube video you found is so much cooler on a big screen)
-Inviting people (just ask! Most people will come over at least once and if they have a good time they'll come back).

When I moved in, I just started inviting people over for things, and before long I realized there were people over more often than not. Did a lot to help with the loneliness of living alone, too. Granted, we often prefer going over to someone's house just for the ability to make more noise and spread out a bit more, but I still host people pretty often. It doesn't take much work, just clean up a bit, accommodate your guests and don't forget to invite them!
posted by DMan at 8:47 PM on January 17, 2011

My apartment is like this. I think because I have a kitchen table that seats 8, I love to feed people (and so does my roommate), and I have a well-stocked bar.

When it comes to having the bar, stock it well once and it'll last you forever. Yeah, you're going to constantly go through whiskey and gin and vodka. But you're not going to go through all the liqueurs for mixers. So get all them and you'll always look really stocked. One way to do this is to throw a potluck cocktail party where everyone brings a weird liqueur they'd otherwise never have an excuse to buy.

I also have giant couches (a person who is 6 feet tall can comfortably sleep on the little one) but I don't think that matters except when we need to watch football. Everyone's in the kitchen otherwise.
posted by oreofuchi at 9:04 PM on January 17, 2011

I think the ideal set-up would be an open kitchen adjoining a comfy living room.
posted by creasy boy at 9:06 PM on January 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

We're 20 years older, but the reason everyone comes over here is that the Mr. is a good cook who loves to feed people. It probably also helps that we have an open kitchen/dining/living space and lots of easily moved seating. And pets that everyone likes.
posted by matildaben at 9:27 PM on January 17, 2011

I find I'm most comfortable in mostly-clean-but-still-slightly-messy, slightly-cluttered places where a dog could sit on the couch. If I have to use a coaster or feel weird about putting my feet on the furniture, I won't mind visiting but I probably won't want to hang out there as much. I like feeling casual.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 12:24 AM on January 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

If you want more specific pointers, check out Apartment Therapy (the book, not the blog). It is all about how to make a comfortable home that people will want to spend time in. This book changed the way I look at homes and MY home, and therefore changed my life.
posted by squasher at 12:29 AM on January 18, 2011

Ah yes. It's like an arms race, isn't it? In general, I think you just have to be most willing to be flexible. Unless there are weird circumstances, people will be coming over because they want company, so you have to willing to do what they would like to do at the drop of a hat. We ask our friends not to call when they're coming over, or even knock on the door. Just walk in and hang out. And when that happens, we do whatever they feel like doing. And if that's nothing, that's totally fine too.

I second the adjoining kitchen and living room--that's a great combo and it's unbeatable for parties.

You can save a lot of money on furniture by buying a lot of beanbags instead, and they make lots of different kinds nowadays!

Keep all relevant delivery menus at hand.

Don't worry about being fancy. Almost all of our furniture has cigarette burns or tears at this point. Who cares? It's just stuff. Your favorite teddy bear as a kid was the one that was the most beat up by the time you outgrew it.

At the same time, a stupid amount of this is determined by what things you have: drinks, food, games, movies, etc. If you have less things than your competing buddies, people will have to plan a little more instead of just dropping by. And who likes planning?
posted by heatvision at 7:45 AM on January 18, 2011

not repeating what other folks said, good heat/ac. i'm not staying long if i'm freezing or if it's sweltering. if i wanted either of those, i'd stay at home.
posted by anya32 at 9:38 AM on January 18, 2011

Response by poster: wow this is awesome! I had a feeling this topic would be fun. I agree with the kitchen. What is that? You can have a zillion open rooms with big couches and 20 people will be stepping on each other to lean against a counter. A mysterious life truth!
posted by amycup at 10:12 AM on January 18, 2011

A super friendly cat.
posted by wcfields at 1:31 PM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

People like to hang out at our place. We've been told this by several people amongst different groups of friends and when we invite people over, almost everyone comes despite a long list of drawbacks:
- One of the smallest apartments amongst our friends (only 675 sq ft)
- Only one bathroom
- Limited guest parking, you have to call up to get let in, and then come up an elevator
- Limited seating space
- No A/C

So I've thought about this a bit, because we have friends whose places have more room, nicer/newer stuff, and offer no shortage of good food or booze, within a mile from our place, but our place is still "the spot." From beer-bonging football/MMA events, to lounge-music cocktail parties, to baby showers, to costume parties, to kung-fu movie night; we've hosted a lot of successful events.

So I think it comes down to a few somewhat non-obvious things that make our place cozy:
- Lighting. Seriously, I think this is an overlooked and very important aspect. I hate fluorescent lights, so I'm not very green in that respect, but the incandescent lamps I do use are low wattage (40w), and the halogen track lights are low watt and slightly rose-colored, and we'll usually have some candles burning and flickering in the background. (Some day I'll invest in good LEDs). I really believe this sets the mood, and like a fancy restaurant, makes the food appear and taste better. And no one likes drinking under bright light unless it's the sun outside and there's BBQ smoke involved.
- An open area (an enclosed balcony in our case) close to an open kitchen - as others mention, the kitchen is the key, not the living room. When people are having a good time, they're walking around and getting into different conversations, not camping out on the couch. Make sure there are plenty of cups and stuff for mixing drinks where people can find them; leave a tray out so people can make multiple concoctions to offer others.
- A good stereo where you can hear the music despite it playing at low volume. I.e, instead of a two-speaker cheap ipod player cranked up spewing midrange, a bunch of speakers positioned around the room, properly equalized so you can enjoy the music, could hear the lyrics if you wanted to, but not so loud that it overpowers conversation.
posted by krippledkonscious at 2:45 PM on January 18, 2011 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: wcfields - done. Got TWO in fact!
posted by amycup at 7:27 PM on January 18, 2011

Best answer: Check out Christopher Alexander, he's an architect who devoted his career to answering exactly this question: What makes people like and want to be in certain places more than others?

Have a look at A Pattern Language

Some patterns that might apply in your case:


There are many more, have a look. Also, the book goes into it more deeply.
posted by Tom-B at 1:56 PM on January 21, 2011 [5 favorites]

Turntables, a fun DVD collection, and weed.
posted by empath at 6:17 PM on January 23, 2011

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