Family room ideas – interior designers explain what to avoid and what to embrace
Use these family room ideas to strike the balance between a child-friendly space and one that works for grown-ups too
The best family room ideas make the space work for everyone, from the youngest members of your clan to the eldest. However, balancing a design that works for your kids and still remains an adult space at the end of the day is tricky business. But are these two really mutually exclusive?
Thankfully not. There are plenty of living room ideas that can be applied that will make your scheme multi-generational in the very best way, without compromising on style.
Some of these ideas are more practical – things you should consider to make sure your pride-and-joy interior buys endure long enough for you to fully enjoy them and to hide away toys and clutter when you want a little grown-up time at the end of a long day. However, others are about creating a living room that brings your family together, that encourages teenagers out of their bedrooms and gives you a space to experience those all-important family milestones. And isn't that what a living room should be for your home?
8 family room ideas for a multi-generational design
Is the family room still the hub of the home? 'People say the kitchen is the heart of the home, but I think the family room is just as important, if not more,' says interior designer Robert Novogratz, one half of design duo the Novogratz.
'To make sure your family actually spend time in the family room? Make it as comfortable a space as possible,' he says. 'Comfort really is the key.'
1. Carefully consider your storage options
Realistically, your kids' toys aren't going to stay confined to the playroom. Consider storage that can be used to hide away any strays left cluttering the living room floor after their bedtime at the outset of your scheme. As they grow, this can be repurposed for other reasons.
'I always try to include some built-in storage that is at least 50% closed to hide toys, books, blankets, etc,' says interior designer Emily Ruff, owner and principal designer of Cohesively Curated. Open shelving might seem like a good idea, but when it comes to
As a living room toy storage idea, built-ins can really earn their keep, but keep in mind that storage for kids will work best when they can easily access it.
'I love to work with clients on thoughtful storage integrations in their home,' says interior designer Marie Flanigan. 'A simple wicker basket can be a go-to storage item because they’re functional and aesthetically pleasing.' In the design of this space, the wicker baskets are at the perfect height for kids to reach, while hiding away any, likely garish, toys from view.
2. Bring joyful elements to your space
Of course, your personal interior style is going to set the tone for your living room, but just bear in mind that you're not the only person who lives in your home. For a living room that your family enjoys spending time in, consider how you can create a design that makes them feel welcome.
That might be something super soft and sumptuous to cozy up in, a flash of color that invigorates the room, or simply just interesting pieces, art and personal artifacts that make your living room feel like a family space.
'I think kids and cool design can co-exist,' says Robert Novogratz. 'For example, there are some really great ways you can present your kids' artwork in a family room.'
'We've got this gallery wall where next to each other, there are two pieces by famous artists, and two that were done by our children. Framed in the right way, no one knows which is which – they really can't guess.'
3. Create a seating arrangement that makes your family want to linger
As we've already said, if you want to make a space that young children, teenagers and parents like to congregate in, comfort is a key component of your family living room ideas. Nowhere is it more important than for your seating. However, a good seating area is about more than just having a comfortable sofa to sink into.
The layout and amount of seating also have a part to play. 'When accounting for appropriate seating, decide how you want your space to live,' explains Marie Flanigan. 'If you want to maximize seating, you need to understand what furniture the room allows for, whether that’s an oversized sectional or a couch and armchairs.'
The latter allows for a more dynamic seating arrangement, especially as a small living room layout idea, and one that can be flexible for use for special occasions like family gatherings during the holidays. Simple additions like stools can really up your seating, and are perfect for smaller children who tend to not be too worried about sitting still anyway.
4. Don't direct all your furniture at the TV
For a family room, you need to create the right relationship with the TV. Undoubtedly, it's something you'll want to use in the room when relaxing in the evening, or for the kids' cartoons, but you also want your living room to be a space where the family can talk and catch up, without the living room TV being at the center of the space.
'It's really important to have a furniture layout that can lead to a circle of conversation,' says interior designer Kendra Nash of Nash Design Group. 'TVs are important to some clients, but we like to design for the ability to play board games, have a wine night with friends, etc. To do that, we like to make sure that furniture is placed around the room so when the TV is off, conversation and fun can be had.’
5. Opt for an ottoman over a coffee table
'I highly recommend an upholstered ottoman with a tray versus an all-wood or glass coffee table,' suggests interior designer Amy Youngblood, 'as many parents are concerned about hard corners with their little ones.'
When it comes to coffee table decor, you might also have to make some small changes when you have a toddler who likes to pick up whatever they can get their hands on, but an ottoman gives you the best of both worlds.
It can be left clear during the day, but with the addition of a tray or coffee table books to the top, you can turn it from footstool to usable surface for drinks, snacks and more.
6. Think about durability of fabrics
Some design choices should just be avoided in a busy family living room. Fabrics and textiles that are hard to keep clean should be generally avoided, as well as materials that wear and tear quickly. Interior design trends like boucle and wool rugs won't fare too well with the traffic a family room has to bear.
When it comes to picking the best couches for a family room, it pays to be smart with your choices. ‘We like to use materials that have been treated with a stain repellent and have an outdoor quality for sustaining the elements of children and pets, yet the indoor feel of softness and texture,' says Kendra Nash.
Performance fabrics that are easy to clean are becoming more widely available, even for fabrics like velvet, yet your choice will still be slightly more limited. 'For busy families, I love to use performance fabrics for upholstery,' explains Marie Flanigan. 'If performance fabrics aren’t an option, make sure each piece is sealed to protect from stains. As a mother of three kids, knowing that sofas, chairs and banquets are spill, paint or dirt-resistant gives incredible peace of mind,' she explains.
7. And of your paint finishes
There's certainly an allure to beautifully matte walls, but when you've got a house full of kids, it's a paint finish that isn't going to stay looking fresh for long.
'Never use a flat paint finish on the walls because it will show all the fingerprints and it does not spot clean well,' suggests interior designer Tara Miller of The Heartland Interior Design. 'Instead use a satin paint finish so it has some durability for cleaning.'
Textured paint finishes, such as limewash paint, and wall paneling ideas will also hold up well in a busy home, disguising scuff marks and fingerprints with ease, while also giving you an on-trend look.
8. Think about open floor space
A living room layout idea that doesn't fill every square foot of floor can be a real benefit for homes with children, giving them some dedicated floor space to play in.
'I typically use sectionals with an ottoman and two chairs if the size of the space allows,' explains interior designer Emily Ruff of Cohesively Curated. 'This typically leaves some open space in the front of the room for playing.'
The real consideration is how to ensure this space doesn't feel awkward or empty when the spot isn't filled with playing children. Empty floor space could be in a transitional space, especially in open plan kitchen and living spaces, which will help the space feel purposefully clear for a walkway, but also provide room for playtime.
9. Create comfort and protect flooring with rugs
Rugs can be a family living room's best friend, or problem child. The right living room rug ideas will create a comfortable spot for kids to play on the floor, and protect your floor too, while the wrong one will wear quickly and stain easily. What's the best option for a durable family room, then?
'Layering rugs in high traffic areas is a great way to cut down on the build-up of dirt,' says interior designer Stephanie Waskins of Lark+Palm. 'Animal hides, ethically sourced, are a great choice for these areas as they can be cleaned just like human hair, and work great to break up more angular spaces.'
'In this client's house we knew that dogs, children and frequent entertaining were all part of this family's daily living. For this reason we chose stain-resistant fabrics for the sofa and darker-hued upholstery for the chairs.;
How do I set-up a family room?
Family rooms are often a more relaxed space in your home, compared to a more formal living room, which is used more for entertaining guests. With that in mind, more relaxed, comfortable seating should be your go-to.
'My first go-to is ‘as large as you can go’ modular sectional,' says interior designer Amy Youngblood. 'This will allow for maximum seating and an area to simply lay around on and even watch a movie together.'
Also consider how your media is presented in the space. The latest media wall ideas ensure that your TV and audio equipment can be streamlined, making the space look as good as possible without trailing wires.
Hugh is the Deputy Editor of Livingetc.com. From working on a number of home, design and property publications and websites, including Grand Designs, ICON and specialist kitchen and bathroom magazines, Hugh has developed a passion for modern architecture, impactful interiors and green homes. Whether moonlighting as an interior decorator for private clients or renovating the Victorian terrace in Essex where he lives (DIYing as much of the work as possible), you’ll find that Hugh has an overarching fondness for luxurious minimalism, abstract shapes and all things beige. He’s just finished a kitchen and garden renovation, and has eyes set on a bathroom makeover for 2023.
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