So, you want to decorate your family room. Careful planning is a must if you want you and your family to get the most out of this important gathering space
By Martha Gray
The concept of family rooms has been around for centuries. Many years ago, they were called second parlors, and they allowed families to informally entertain, while the front parlors were reserved for special guests. Today we call these spaces family rooms. And, by their very name, they are for the family!
When most of us think of family rooms, we think of relaxation and fun, as well as informal settings for carefree entertaining. This is a room in which we can truly “let our hair down.” It demands space for our hobbies, be they reading, watching TV or needlework. It also calls for some imaginative planning, so all members of the family feel that this is truly “their” room.
The big question when redecorating such a treasured space is usually, “Where do I begin?” Do I just pick a color and plunge in? Start with favorite pieces of furniture and plan around them? No, not yet. Such considerations come second when you begin any decorating. YOU come first. YOU and your family, as individuals and as a unit. The way you live, the way you relax, the way you entertain. Your likes and dislikes, your physical needs and aesthetic requirements. YOU probably spend more time in your home than any other member of your family. It’s your background, and it should reflect your personality.
It is my firm belief that your home should, indeed, say something about you—the area in which you live, your culture, your talents, your loves. In other words, your room should not look like a showroom in a furniture store. Pursue your own style instead of copying someone else’s design.
So analyze yourself, your family and what you want your home to be, and then you will be ready to begin your decorating process. Here are some issues you’ll want to consider:
Personality. You will want to consider current trends and fashions, but try not to use what’s “in” to the exclusion of decorating for your individual taste. If you decorate with a personal touch, you will find you will be happy with your choices two years, or even 10 years, from now. Remember the best trend to follow in decorating is the trend of what you love.
Functionality. Consider how your family relaxes and interacts. If you have the space, would a ping pong table, pool table, or air hockey game have a place in your family’s activities? Or would you prefer a game table for checkers, chess, or other such games?
Focal Point. Since most family rooms, or great rooms, center around a fireplace and/or a big-screen TV, be sure to arrange your furniture so that you will be able to enjoy both of these features, as well as the view if you have a beautifully landscaped yard.
Budget. After you have listed and considered all your personal preferences and trends that you like, be sure to set a budget. When making major purchases, such as upholstered pieces, floor coverings and window treatments, you should buy the best quality you can afford, as these pieces will be with you for a long time.
Fad vs. longevity. Resist becoming too faddish in shape, color and pattern, and you’ll be able to live with your choices for years. Add drama to your room with wall covering or paint, area rugs, pillows and accessories.
And, by all means, consider consulting with a professional decorator. They know how to help you make your decorating dreams come true.
The family room photographs you see here illustrate some important design points. Take a look at the “before” picture, and you will note the most obvious problem with this room was the fireplace. It was a real eyesore. Since the tile was poorly installed, there were cracked tiles and almost no hearth. The built-in entertainment unit had to stay, and the two-story windows provided a beautiful view, but this made three focal points in the room: fireplace, entertainment unit and windows. The room was cold and uninspiring. Additionally, the family purchased a baby grand piano to go in the room.
The fireplace had to be redesigned and became the main focal point of the room. A warm onyx became the basis for color choices throughout the room. A combination of patterns and textures was used throughout the room in fabrics, rug and art. To update the built-in, the wooden shelves were removed and replaced with glass shelves, and the main compartment was opened up to hold a flat-screen TV. In addition, the hardware was changed from black plastic to oil-rubbed bronze and some soft lighting was added to highlight the accessories. The upholstery all had to be deep enough for lounging, with down cushions for comfort and soft fabrics for dozing. The scale of the pieces also had to fit in with the overall “largeness” of the room, while still being cozy. The sofa and single chair fit the bill, and the two smaller occasional chairs are there for additional guests when conversation or a piano recital is the main activity.
Keeping artwork and accessories simple was key in a room that had so much going on. Textured panels above the mantle, baskets on the side wall, and a simple canvas art piece above the TV were all that was needed. A few well-placed accessories—some new, some they owned—and a custom botanical on top of the built-in gave this happy couple everything they had hoped for.
Martha Gray is owner/interior decorator of Decorating Den Interiors, primarily serving the West Houston and Katy areas