Building your family room
Pulling together an interior design plan for any space can be challenging, but creating a family room can be especially demanding. Combining such a wide variety of needs, wants and tastes into one space requires special planning and purchases.
One for all
Make your family-room redo an all-for-one-and-one-for-all project. Everyone in the home who is using the space should have a say.
“The distribution of the furniture, in a way that is conducive to conversation or to enjoy entertainment, is key to creating a room that will fulfill its purpose,” says Josette Buisson, artistic director for The Voice of Color with Pittsburgh Paints. “Creating zones and defining areas according to the activities they support will help determine the flow of the space and the choice of furniture.”
In most living areas, there are three key elements to consider: the focal point (for example, the fireplace and/or television), storage and the seating arrangement.
Cool for kids (and kids at heart)
As children grow older, many parents look for ways to keep kids wanting to hang out around the house. One way to do that is to create a place where kids and their friends can lounge around, watch movies, play games and have fun.
“Keep the design comfortable and non-fussy,” says Scott Thomas, a partner with Thomas-Somero Design. “Avoid using any items that are ‘precious.’” says Taniya Nayak, designer on HGTV’s Designed To Sell. “Make sure that the family room is a place that kids are not afraid to let get a little messy,” she says. “No one is going to want to hang out if they are not allowed to put their feet up or be able to eat a snack there.” If you want to keep kid messes contained, she suggests giving them an area of the room that is all their own.
While a family room is a place to relax, it often is also a place where kids come to do homework, where parents can work or pay bills and where both can surf the Internet for work and play.
A few key components to consider include a space-saving work area, functional and attractive seating, proper lighting and organization. “If you need to implement a functional workspace in your family room, try to incorporate it into an armoire or a closet set up that can be easily hidden and gives you a chance to enjoy your space and entertain,” says Lila Adams with Lila Adams Design & Build Inc.
In many homes, family rooms are also media rooms—a place where everyone settles in to watch their favorite show, the latest DVD release, listen to music or play a video game. “From the home electronics standpoint, the greatest difficulty in designing a family room is creating a space that has excellent audio/video performance, while not intruding on the aesthetics of the room,” says Conor Coleman, vice president of Audiocom.
“I’ve noticed a few high-tech trends in family rooms,” says Stephanie Andrews, owner of Balance Design.
“Homeowners are hiring home-entertainment companies to outfit their entire house with a digital sound system; a movie screen that is concealed and is usable at the touch of a button is another high-tech trend, and modern fireplaces with a minimalist feel (flame only, no gas logs) are energy-efficient and designed to be as clean-burning as possible.“
In addition, with so many people going in and out of the room, having separate remotes for the TV, DVD player, VCR, stereo system, etc. can lead to misplacing them. “Technology has now simplified the remote with a universal touch screen that is easy to use for both kids and adults,” Adams says. “Some even offer help screens to get you back to where you need to be when you get off on the wrong track.
When in doubt, call an expert. Home theater specialists can help you examine the options for your family room and even help you set up the system, if required.
Piece it together
A family room generally experiences high traffic flow—select flooring that can handle it. “A laminate alternative to real hardwood is a great option when there are kids,” says Taniya Nayak, designer on HGTV’s Designed To Sell. “It is less likely to scratch and will maintain its luster. Should you decide to go the carpet route, make sure it is stain-guarded.”
Use colors that don’t show fingerprints, spills and other types of dirt. “A darker neutral—for example, a shade of taupe—would be a good choice,” says Joan Miller, owner of The Blind Ladies. “Avoid denim or lighter colors as they tend to show soil and stains.”
Make a point of integrating a storage aspect into the family room. “Upholstered ottomans with lift lids and window seats offer tons of storage for games and cozy throws,” says Lila Adams with Lila Adams Design & Build Inc.
Light it up
Lighting is especially important in a multi-functional space. James Charles, founder of DesignerAtHOME.com, says you can “generate several different zones that are well-defined by lighting alone.” And don’t forget the details. “Bookshelves are full of collectibles…and deserve good lighting. Adjustable, recessed lighting with halogen bulbs direct the beam exactly where it’s needed most without causing unwanted glare,” says Debbie Wiener of Designing Solutions.
Have a seat
You can create substantial seating without having chairs everywhere. “Use sectionals and sofa-chaise combinations to increase seating in an attractive manner,” advises Scott Thomas, a partner with Thomas-Somero Design.
Fabrics & finishes
Look for materials that will last. For example, “Washable slipcovers simply cannot be beat,” Adams says. “But if you like a tailored look, try a stain-resistant microsuede or leather that cleans with the swipe of a damp cloth.” Sharon and Teddy Milton, owners of Stressless Leather Gallery and Bedding Center add, “Dark colors also will hide dirt.” Slipcovers are another wash-and-wear option.
A “Green” Sweep
A huge consideration with making spaces kid-friendly is considering their little bodies and using natural products that won’t hurt them. I recommend no-VOC paints, natural-wool rugs that do not produce off gassing, as well as using furniture that is made with as little toxins as possible. Not only will these products look great for a long time, but they are more Earth-friendly.
—Stephanie Andrews, owner, Balance Design
Make a note
Storage is key in a multi-functional room used by several people. Make life easier by marking what is what and what goes where with a label maker. This one from DYMO is only $20, and is available with a variety of tape colors and styles.
Sit, sleepover and store
BEDDINGE looks like a stylish couch, but easily transforms into full-size bed and is available with storage boxes. You can choose from four mattresses and a number of colorful, washable slipcovers. IKEA, www.ikea.com; pricing varies
The Progressive 10-in-1 Multi-Game table includes all of the components and pieces for: soccer, air-powered hockey, pool, table tennis, bowling, shuffle board, chess, checkers, backgammon and cards. Escalade Sports,
Drinks and treats are a must-have when entertaining friends. Haier’s Cool Color Cube Refrigerator/Freezer is available in five bright colors, so you can match your mini-fridge to your decor. Haier America, www.haieramerica.com; $120
Hide and seek
Designed by Sigrid Strömgren, these nesting tables (available in three sizes) feature a modern, laser-cut motif constructed of sheet steel and finished in epoxy-white lacquer. Ligne Roset, www.ligne-roset-usa.com; $425-$455
Cut the glare!
Anything cordless is the safest kid- and pet-friendly window covering. Plantation shutters are a great choice because they are easy to clean, very durable and timeless.
—Joan Miller, owner, The Blind Ladies
Family Design Q & A
- What am I comfortable spending?
- How many are in the family and how is this room going to be used?
- How many guests are typically around at one time?
- Who are some recommended contractors for items I can’t do myself, i.e. carpenter, electrician, home-entertainment installers and decorator?
- Should the space be divided into zones for varied use?
- Will the kids be playing and/or eating in this area?
- What can be reused in the room?
- What must be replaced?
- How long will the new items (i.e. sofa, carpet, chair) be expected to last?
- Is there a sun-control issue?
—Joan Miller, The Blind Ladies; Stephanie Andrews, Balance Design; Sharon and Teddy Milton, Stressless Leather Gallery and Bedding Center