“All of Man’s trouble stems from his inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” Pascal.
Living room living: Are you living in yours? It’s weird to walk into a home that’s alive with the heartbeat of living in every room, except that special place reserved for strangers and guests. In actuality, your friends, family and assorted loved ones will be hanging out with you in the kitchen/family room/den, whooping it up altogether in good cheer. Did you really intend the Living Room to be reserved for people you don’t know and other people you don’t much like?
To be fair: The English coined the term “Bed/Sit” for a large room where all the living is done. We call this a Studio Apartment on this side of the pond, but the concept is the same. It’s become chic as well as practical to dine in your library and use your dining table as your office desk too.
In other words, living in your living room is a given, when you’re living large in a small space.
Then there are those who have been blessed by the Housing Gods. You have a few (or many) rooms to live in. This presents an interesting luxury problem.
Lost Horizon: John Saladino once said, “Space is the last luxury of the 20th century.” That statement is even more true in the 21st century.
Sometimes a room isn’t used because you sort of forget it’s there. It’s situated off by itself and doesn’t have a view into it from another room. Consider this isolation effect if you are planning a renovation. Find a logical, elegant way to create a traffic flow or at least a welcoming vista to prevent an orphaned room.
What’s in a name? The name “Family Room” automatically conjures an image of an over-sized comfy sofa, a huge TV screen and maybe a family size bowl of popcorn too. The Family Room (by default definition) is so user-friendly and casual, you never worry about eating sloppy pizza and cuddling up with the kids, cats/dog and whomever.
There is a point here, somewhere. Notice that there’s “something to do” in the family room vs “nothing happening” in the dead zone of your living room.
It’s time to make the Living Room live up to its name.
- Zoning laws: The solution to a more lived in Living Room, lies in incorporating several activity options into that otherwise lonely location. Even if your living room isn’t large, creating distinct areas for specific purposes goes a long way towards re-orienting your perspective on where to go for common “at home” activities.
- Not quite like changing seats on the Titanic: If you want to avoid merely changing the location of the family room, keep the TV in the designated family room. Have that area remain the best place to keep the kids entertained and not under foot.
- Make the living room the land of adults…or at least those pretending to be adults, along with other age groups who have been given instructions on how to behave. This is where you serve cocktails, socialize with guests, (and flirt if there’s attractive opportunity) and play card games (see reference below) or games like Charades.
Ok…now that we have established Living Room Concepts/Activities, how do we actually Live There?
Conversation areas worth talking about: If you are following along with the concept of loosely renaming your Living Room the All-In-One-Household-Go-To-Entertainment-Center, then the key to success is to think functionally about what you’ll need for ease and convenience when arranging your furniture.
Any room, regardless of proper name, has to be user friendly for the intended purpose. Make sure you can sit comfortably while conversing with others. If you have to shout to make yourself heard because the seating arrangement is spread too far apart or risk whiplash craning your neck to look at whomever you are speaking to, you have failed.
Start with the biggest piece, the sofa. Have two chairs flanking or opposing and a coffee table in the middle. Between 14″-18″ is a good measure from edge of table to front of seating. This is close enough for everyone to set drinks or food. A sofa and a love seat at right angles and a chair or two opposite can work as well. Keeping the sofa and chairs within eight feet of each other is a good measure. Allow 14” to 18” between the coffee table and the front of the sofa for easier access.
Chic and comfortable aren’t mutually exclusive concepts. Chic and comfortable can also be child friendly and pet-proof. Lush, stylish fabrics can be High Performance too. Modern upholstery fabric makes the best use of synthetic/man-made fibers that are astonishingly comfortable and beautiful. Indoor/outdoor fabrics now offer beautiful options too. Another sure thing for easy mess clean-up are specially treated leathers or vinyl, especially if you are using pale colors.
Speaking of games, a card table with chairs is very useful. It’s perfect not only for card and board games, but as an out of the way place to do homework, office work, or hobbies. If space is tight, a 19” high coffee table does double duty.
Shelving your best ideas. Stock your bookshelves with your favorite “reads”, plus a few of those books you’ve always intended to get to.
A fully loaded reading corner comes with:
- an overstuffed chair & footrest/ottoman
- , a table to rest a drink on,
- table light
- Extra credit for a soft throw.
As such, a living room corner can be a built-in opportunity for a quiet sanctuary.
For extra credit, add a large area rug and a sound system to provide background music. Go for it all, but steer clear of formal/fussiness or no one will be comfortable.
Shed some light on your subjects. Put in extra outlets to ensure a mix of ceiling lights, table lamps and floor lamps. Think of using the lights in pairs too.
Why pairs? Because a few pairs helps create a sense of balance and composition. Have no pairs at all and your room runs the risk of looking a lot like a clearance sale.
A well designed room looks “considered” while it quietly offers comfort, function and beauty.
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These articles are written as guides with general advice to help you, help yourself find the best design solutions for your home.
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