The right sofa
Pay attention to size and depth when choosing a sofa, Burnham says. "A standard-size sofa is seven feet. If you have three seat cushions, people sit in a pristine way in their cushion," she says, and you'll be limited to a maximum of three guests on your sofa. She prefers "sofas that have bench seams, so that it's one big seat," making it more likely that four guests might use the space.
Longer sofas offer additional seating, but Flynn says they're best used in what he calls a "floating space plan," where two identical long sofas are placed across from one another in the center of a room, rather than having one sofa against a wall. They need to be "balanced with an extra-long coffee table," he says.
Sofas with deep cushions are another option, but Flynn points out that "extra-deep sofas are very tricky. They are insanely comfortable, but can be a space planning disaster. I only use them in super large or grand living rooms. ... You've got to ensure the tables and chairs which surround it have the same visual weight."
Schuneman agrees: "I think you definitely want to mix it up with different patterns and textures of throw pillows, so it doesn't become a big blob in the room."
If you have extra space after choosing your sofa, Burnham suggests focusing on adding chairs to your living room rather than a loveseat. Although loveseats seem to offer more seating than chairs, they are often occupied by just one person. "A loveseat's a tough one," she says, "because I don't think people want to be super physically close" at parties.
Folding and stacking
"Folding chairs are often eyesores," Flynn says, so he 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 and Schuneman have each found a few types of stylish folding chairs, but they tend to come with higher price tags. She favors black bamboo folding chairs from Ballard Designs (about $100) for rooms with a more traditional style, and has used clear Lucite folding chairs ("kind of like the Philippe Starck ghost chairs") in more modern living rooms.
Schuneman likes the fabric-covered "terai" folding chairs from Anthropologie (about $200), and suggests they can serve as a "great inspiration point for a DIY project." Try recovering the cushion of an old upholstered folding chair "in some beautiful fabric that works in your room," he says.
Planning carefully, shopping well and using a little DIY creativity are the keys to solving any holiday seating dilemma, says Schuneman.
"I always tell people to buy pieces that can move throughout your home," he says, "so that chair in the guest room can come into the living room, and that bench in the bathroom could double as an extra surface for gifts or what not. If you purchase pieces in your home that work throughout, it really maximizes your potential."