‘Barefoot Contessa’: Ina Garten Has Very Specific Rules for Seating Dinner Party Guests

Ina Garten has perfected entertaining, and she even has a system for seating guests that ensures there will be plenty of engaging conversation. The Barefoot Contessa star once shared her thoughts on how to best seat dinner party guests for the best results.

Ina Garten and Jeffrey Garten attend the 'TIME 100 Gala, TIME's 100 Most Influential People In The World'
Ina Garten and Jeffrey Garten | Lars Niki/Corbis via Getty Images

Ina Garten shared the perfect number of guests to invite to a dinner party

Garten has thrown many dinner parties in her lifetime so she knows the perfect number of guests to invite. By keeping the number small, it allows everyone to chat easily.

In a 2006 article Garten wrote for House Beautiful, she shared her advice for throwing a dinner party, beginning with the number of guests.

“I like small parties,” she explained. “With 6 people, you can really get a conversation going. The ideal table for 6 or 7 is a 48-inch round because everyone is equally engaged in the conversation.”

Garten went on to explain how being in close proximity “feels even more intimate,” but sitting at a bigger round table creates a challenge. “It’s impossible to talk across the table, so you’re stuck talking to the two people next to you for the whole evening,” she explained.

Ina Garten shared her genius seating plan

Garten discussed how place cards aren’t needed, but you should have a seating plan in mind. The Barefoot Contessa star said she gets a feel for who is more talkative. She seats them in an arrangement that will provide the best experience for everyone.

“While we’re having cocktails, I’ll decide who are the two most talkative guests that evening and seat them opposite each other, which keeps the conversation flowing,” Garten explained.

“If the two most talkative people are seated next to each other, the conversation ends up being on one side of the table and the other side is totally left out,” she added.

Garten guides people where she wants them in a casual way. “As we’re sitting down, I’ll say, ‘John, why don’t you sit next to me and Jean, why don’t you sit next to John?'” she explained.

“By the way, I ignore the traditional ‘boy/girl/boy/girl’ seating,” Garten added. “We have different conversations with men and women. If you seat your guests boy/boy/girl/girl, everyone gets to sit between one of each. Don’t you think that’s more fun?”

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Ina Garten loves to entertain in the kitchen

During a 2009 interview, House Beautiful asked Garten about her preferred entertaining space — the kitchen.

“I’d say once in a while I give a dinner party not in the kitchen, but it’s rare,” she explained. “It has to be too many people to fit in the kitchen.”

“Because I think that makes people feel like family,” she added.

Garten also reiterated the ideal number of guests is 6. “I just think the table’s small enough for 6 — everybody’s close enough so they’re sort of elbow-to-elbow and everybody’s involved in the conversation.”

By comparison, Garten explained, people seated at opposite ends of a long table might not be as involved in the conversation. So whether a dinner party is in the kitchen or dining room, hosts can apply Garten’s strategy for the ideal dinner party.