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How to create a functional, stylish family room


Use inviting colors, smart furniture choices and easy organization solutions to design a family room with style, comfort and function.

A well-designed family room can truly be the heart of the household. But too often the family room ends up feeling like either a formal parlor — stiff and uninviting — or a free-for-all kids’ playroom. Strike a balance by picking up some of these ideas for attractive, functional family rooms that look good and work hard for the families who live there.

Create family-room fusion.

Balance family-friendly with sophistication by including plenty of color and chic patterns in your family room. Bright hues appeal to kids and adults alike, and a mix of patterns will give the space a designer vibe. Consider including outdoor fabrics, which are durable, or slipcovers, which are washable.

Design it to be separate, yet together.

Open living spaces can promote family togetherness: Mom and Dad can work in the kitchen while kids hang out in the living area or do homework at the dining table. Keep these distinct areas unified by using the same colors throughout, while using furniture placement to divide the activity zones.

Look for family-friendly storage.

Keep children’s items within easy reach. Use chests that can double as coffee tables for storing toys. Designate lower shelves for kids’ books and baskets for toys.

Choose wash-and-wear fabrics.

With washable slipcovers, your chairs and sofas will always look as good as new, no matter what spill or accident comes their way. Simply wash and replace, and no one will know that your 4-year-old spilled grape juice all over the cream-colored couch.

Employ a stool (or two!).

Add stools for a chic way to keep extra seating on hand without visually weighing down a room. Plus, a set of matching stools can easily turn into an ottoman for someone on the couch, or be moved around the room to suit the sitter’s needs.

Embrace translucent silhouettes.

Use transparent furnishings and accessories to provide functionality without visual weight. Look for lamps with glass bases, which will virtually disappear, allowing the eye to focus on other aspects of the room instead. Plexiglass tables and consoles can offer the same hardworking see-through style.

Look to walkways and pathways.

Pay attention to walking areas and traffic flow when placing furniture in your family room. Give kids plenty of space to play, and make it simple to get from room to room.

Create seating for all.

Create a flexible family room by using a seating arrangement that is anchored by main pieces but still has plenty of corners and open spaces to pull up extra chairs. You can always nab a few chairs from a nearby dining space to place at the edge of the room for additional seating, while a pouf or ottoman can provide yet another seating source.

Build in TV storage.

Solve the problem of the black box by hiding your TV inside an armoire. Armoires can hide bulky tube TVs just as easily as flat panel TVs, along with the accompanying devices and DVDs. Plus, you can incorporate an armoire that suits your style and melds with the look of your space.

Give yourself space to breathe.

There’s something comforting about sitting in a room lined with books, but an overstuffed bookshelf can read as cluttered rather than cozy. The key to a shelving unit that attracts the eye: breathing room between objects. Try arranging books on half of each shelf only, and use the other half to display collected treasures or framed pictures. Use books stacked horizontally to give petite objects a boost.

(Better Homes and Gardens is a magazine and website devoted to ideas and improvement projects for your home and garden, plus recipes and entertaining ideas. Online at

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