Family Room, Living Room, Great Room

This is the place where everyone ends up!

Move over kitchen, the family room has become a favorite communal place in the house. Or is it the living room, or the great room?

Whatever you call it, it’s a multifunctional room that provides space to lounge on a plush sofa in front of the TV, find solace with a good book, watch children play with toys and entertain good conversation.

There is debate over the distinction between a family room and a living room. In homes with both rooms, the living room is usually the more formal room, often reserved for guests, special occasions, and the display of items such as antiques or artwork. In homes with only one, the terms are generally synonymous, though it is not uncommon for someone who grew up calling such a room by only one term to have no idea of the distinction between the two.

The “great room” may not be so great anymore. The great room was a big fad beginning in the 1980s, but has recently declined in popularity. The great room of today is not as prevalent, but is still an important part of American home design.

The term “great room” actually denotes a roomspace within a home, which combines the specific functions of several of the more traditional roomspaces into a singular unified space. Different great rooms can combine different functions; some may incorporate a reading area, while others may included a traditional dining room.

The great room trend was all about openness: Why should the kitchen be so removed from the other living spaces? Everyone should happily congregate in one free-flowing space without distinction among the living room, den, kitchen, dining room, etc. In many cases, the result was a great big mess.

With today’s fast-paced lifestyles, the room distinctions have to do with each family’s own habits and behaviors

The best family rooms are cozy enough for lazy Sunday afternoons, chic enough for grown-up entertaining and flexible in their furniture layout to accommodate large numbers of people, especially during holidays.

No matter what you call the room, comfort is the number one priority. There once was a trend for oversize sofas, but nowadays, families may not have the space for such large pieces, yet they still want comfort, support and durability.

Ideal fabrics for family rooms include leather, chenille and microfiber. The strong selling point for microfiber is that it is washable with soap and water.

Leather sofas and chairs continue to be trendy and are easy to maintain.

A newer look that works well for family living and is known for its high performance is an indoor-outdoor fabric. Acrylics, for instance, are durable and can take a beating from heavy usage, kids’ spills, even crayon marks – and best of all, can be wiped easily.

Area rugs will not only pull the room together, but also define a space and create coziness. It may be the rug that makes an otherwise disjointed room become a beautiful room.

Large rooms, small rooms: all have their own charm and yes, their own challenges.

Large spaces can be tricky. Areas such as great rooms or even large family rooms often can seem overwhelming in their proportions, not to mention cold and uninviting. The good news is that with some clever decorating tricks, you can warm up any large room.

The key to creating comfort in a large room is to treat the space like many small spaces. That way, you instantly turn an overwhelming room into a smaller, more manageable decorating project.

Remember when you are furnishing this room that it can become a magnet for clutter – scattered toys, stacks of magazines, DVDs and books. Instead of using open shelving, which still needs to be tidy to look good, choose cupboards with doors, or even armoires. Fill the shelves with labeled baskets or boxes so everyone will know where to put their belongings when it’s time to clean up.

Storage trunks and ottomans are not only an attractive accent piece, but they also add versatility. A trunk can double as a coffee table for entertaining, or as a discreet place to stash blankets, magazines, and toys.

Although it’s fun to update a family room with the latest design trends, one should always keep in mind the purpose of this space. It is absolutely vital to create a space that is cozy and – above all – practical, so that no one is nervous about a drink being spilled or sticky fingers. Add some entertainment – not just the TV and computer – but good old-fashioned family games, jigsaws and photo albums, so that it’s an inviting place to be.

Most of all, get the kids involved in planning the scheme, and if the rest of the house is very grown-up, let them add some trendy detailing, such as a shag-pile carpet, an abstract-print wallpaper on one wall, or a beaded curtain strung across the doorway. It will end up being everybody’s favorite room.

Try using the following tips for decorating large spaces:

  • Use dark, vivid colors such as blue, green and red on walls, windows and even the ceiling to diminish the feeling of spaciousness in a room.
  • Select bold fabric patterns to make upholstered furniture appear larger than it really is.
  • Choose medium- to large-scale furnishings. These work best merely because they look appropriate in large spaces. Small pieces can look lost and too many can create a cluttered look.
  • “Float” furniture by moving it away from the walls to fill a large space and create open walkways throughout the room.

There’s no need to be overwhelmed by a large room. Just remember that a large space is nothing more than a collection of smaller spaces. The more you break it up, the easier it comes together.

See you in your great, family living room