When I was about 9 I was at a friend’s place and spotted a room with plastic fitted covers on all the furniture. Something like this:
Curious about this strange arrangement I was about to set foot inside to take a closer look when I heard my friend yelling “No! We’re not allowed in there!”. It turned out the room was only for entertaining guests. I’d never heard of such a thing. The apartment wasn’t huge, but one entire room was forbidden to kids!
Fortunately, the plastic-cover phenomenon has fallen a bit out of favor, but in its place is the question I get a lot: "How can I make our living room/family room feel grown up, but still work for the kids?'
There are a few ways to to this, and I incorporated a number of them in this project which we did in a Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn condo.
The 'before' included a huge wall unit, a rug that was lovely but not large enough to define the living area, and a sectional sofa, which was staying.
The dining room had a pretty table and chairs, but was a bit bland and the contractor lighting wasn't helping! The space wasn't large enough for a buffet but I put a marble shelf in to make it feel a bit more like its own room.
problem / solution
Here are the problem elements we tackled in this project, and the fixes:
THE PROBLEM: An open plan with a small-feeling living room. While spacious, there was an awkward, empty gap between the dining room and living room.
THE SOLUTION: a larger rug to define the living room as a larger portion of the room, which also created space for additional seating
THE PROBLEM: icky lighting. The overhead recessed lighting lacked character and warmth
THE SOLUTION: a lovely pendant in the dining area, a table lamp in the living room, dimmers on all the recessed lights
THE PROBLEM: Modern construction with a lack of character.
THE SOLUTION- Layering and incorporating a mix of materials including marble, mercury glass, metal and ceramic. Window treatments to soften, and key artwork for each area.
THE PROBLEM: Storage for toys and media that doesn't overwhelm the room
THE SOLUTION- a custom made wall unit with closed toy storage for quick clean up
tips to creating a sophisticated family-friendly space
The keys to keeping it family-friendly:
Closed Storage - for kids who can manage drawers, these make for quick clean up (i.e., open drawer, shove in toys, close drawer). Otherwise, a cabinet with doors and baskets inside works well.
Ottomans instead of a coffee table - Replace the coffee table with a firm, upholstered ottoman - get a 'performance fabric' like the one we used from Restoration Hardware. It's forgiving on head bumps, you can put your feet on it, and it discourages eating on the table (but you can always use a tray if you need it).
Durable Rugs- I like 100 percent wool for durability and cleanability, but there are some great polypropelyne and polyester rugs out there that are inexpensive and perform well. Stay away from viscose, jute or any kind of 'silk' fiber. If you have young kids, consider your purchase a '4 year rug' not a lifetime investment and spend accordingly.
Sophisticated pendant lights - kids can't reach them, so you can do something a bit more elegant with overhead lighting.
This marble shelf with handcrafted steel brackets added more presence to the dining room without taking up space.
Have a design problem? Let me know and I'll include some solutions in a future post!.
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