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Sunday Guardian www.guardian.co.tt March 29, 2015
By Ann Moore-Spencer
THE FAMILY ROOM is the heart of the home. It is where
you relax, play, hang out... What makes a successful family
Functionality. The family room has to be all things to all
people. It is a place to relax for all. But it is also possibly a
place to study, work, watch TV, listen to music, play board
games or electronic games, eat, exercise, entertain, read,
sew or crochet. So, typically, your family room needs to
be practical and versatile to accommodate a wide variety
of needs and activities, and do so with with a whole lot
Design around your lifestyle. Every family uses their
family room differently. Does everyone come together at
the same time? Do some need their own space? Does
Dad have a special chair? Does he have a specific time he
reads the paper or looks at sports? Does Mom have her
time for reading or her favourite show? Do you need a
homework zone and a work zone? Does the family have
teenagers, toddlers or adults only? While your room may
have multiple functions, different people use it differently
at different times. Select a decorating style with which
you are comfortable. Don't be too formal; you want to
Focal point. With all the possible functions and zones, you
run the risk of having rivalling focal points, consequently
creating a 'choppy' space. Centre the space around a focal
point: a window, the outdoors, a vignette on a console or
shelf, an accent wall, or a gorgeous piece of art. Resist the
urge to have the entire space focus on the TV.
Layout. Physical characteristics such as the shape, size,
and location of the room, and the number of entry points
will influence the furniture layout. Also in consideration is
its relationship or openness to adjacent rooms. Typically,
the family room may be open to an informal dining area
or the kitchen. Some open to the outdoors via a patio, ve-
randa or garden. Group your furniture by activity. It will
help to divide the space into zones. The seating, wall
colour, rugs, or bookcases can be used to create these
zones. Leave room for free exit and entry.
Placement. Place your sofa or the larger part of your sec-
tional along the longest wall. Ensure that your furniture
is not too large or the wrong shape for the space. If the
size of your room permits, move the main seating away
from the wall. Towards the edges, have secondary seating
for other conversation groupings, or for other activities
such as reading or knitting. You can place the homework
or work desk on the perimeter.
Seating should be no more than 8 feet apart. You do not
want people shouting to have a conversation. Your coffee
table should be within 16 inches of your sofa and there
should also be a table top within reach of all seats (to rest
your drinks). If a dining area is included in your family room,
use the smallest table needed and employ the use of
leaves when additional seating is required. Use rectangular
or oval tables for a rectangular space, and square or round
tables for a square space.
For unencumbered traffic flow, allow about 3 feet between
the table and the wall or any large piece of furniture. Face
computer and TV screens away from any source of direct
sun. Traversing shades or drapery can be used to control
the glare. Lighting should be available for each functional
grouping. But also have ambient and accent lighting. If nec-
essary, use floor and table-top lamps with ceiling and wall-
mounted fixtures. For flexibility, install dimmers to be able
to use the same fixtures for differing activities.
Family friendly. With all that's going on, a family room can
be easily cluttered. You can never have too much storage.
For the family room, I prefer closed storage of cabinets and
drawers, for instance. Bins and baskets are also helpful to
corral toys, magazines, newspapers. Storage ottomans are
genius. I like to leave open shelving for books and decora-
tive accessories. Please don't over-stuff the shelves. That
defeats the purpose. A messy room will appear smaller.
Use good quality, family-friendly fabrics and textiles. Prefer
easy-to-clean upholstery such as chenille, micro suede or
leather. Rugs should also be able to stand the 'jamming'.
Accessorise. The finishing touches make the difference.
Invest in durable, classic furniture and big-ticket items. Use
accessories to infuse your special design aesthetic. Resist
trendy pieces. But if you must, stick to the less expensive
elements such as paint, throws and pillows.
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