Tips from designers on creating a warm family room
December 14, 2017
Family rooms large and small are made for relaxation and recreation in your own home, and can be great for hosting gatherings with guests.
More formal family rooms are often those that are connected to a great room in the home, versus downstairs rec rooms or media rooms that are great for more playful or informal time.
"Most buyers want two living areas," said Laurie Williams, associate broker for RE/MAX Properties of the Summit. "They want the great room, and they want the downstairs living area for the kids."
Modern home layouts often have big, open floor plans, where families can gather together in one spot, but they can also move around and not feel crowded. Williams said it's important to create warmth in a space, even if it's a big room.
"The vaulted ceilings certainly add awe and inspiration to a room, and great rooms can be divided by something like an immense stone fireplace," she said.
Karen Wray, design coordinator for Mountain Log Homes and Interiors, said their recent home designs tend to be more great room style, with spaces and focal points of fireplaces, comfy furniture, and access to some kind of wet bar, or easy access to the kitchen for drinks or entertaining.
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"We are seeing a trend for homes to stay under 4,000 square feet for both budget and sustainability," she said, "so these multi-purpose rooms are becoming more popular."
When there are two rooms to work with in a home, entertainment access is more prevalent in the second living area than the more formal family room.
"The great room areas really represent just gatherings," said Williams. "Time together, and the eyeball-to-eyeball meetings."
One of Williams' clients has guests put their cell phones in a box when they are spending time in his home's social spaces, so that digital distractions are minimized.
Create communal space
Most of the open floor plan family rooms in Summit County homes emphasize more of a mountain elegant feel, with round corner leather chairs and couches, hardwood floors and stone accents, straight color palettes instead of patterns, and focal-point artwork.
"I think stone and woods add to a room's warmth, and also bring outside elements in," Williams said. "Occasionally, you will see a beautiful, red leather chair that just makes the whole room pop, and the rugs and everything are built around that piece."
In both great room living spaces and downstairs dens, fireplaces add a mountain atmosphere and friendly warmth.
"A fireplace is so wonderful," said Williams, "and some people still love the crackling sound of a natural fireplace, although we see more gas now."
A TV and a sound system are also features of these rooms for watching sports and movies. Long gone are the big, chunky entertainment cabinets of the past, which are replaced and slim flatscreens and integrated media systems.
Built-in cabinets and cupboards are great for media and game storage, and wood racks are popular to keep wine bottles and glassware.
If there's room in the casual family room, add a game or pub table for puzzles and snacking, and even a pool table or shuffleboard.
Wray said even with wood or tile floors, it's good to put in a plush area rug to allow people the flexibility to sit on the floor in the space, and a rug is also useful for absorbing sounds.
"A lot of resort homes are used for family reunions and multi-generational gathering," she said. "Having a separate, more casual space for kids and teens to be more messy or loud can keep the sanity in a household."
In the mountains, large windows are often a priority for as many rooms in the home as possible, so a good view is never far away.
Wray recommended adding in light control options with features like dimmers, so games and reading can be conducted in sufficient light, and movies can be enjoyed in lower light. Drapery or window coverings can also be used to darken the room if necessary.
Choose comfy, durable furniture, especially for the rec-style family rooms. Use mid-grade leather, Wray suggested, for ease with wiping up spills. Polyester fabrics with the cleaning code W (for water), work well in darker tones, with patterns like tweeds and herringbone.
"[Use] reclining or swivel chairs so guests can move around," Wray said, "and get coffee and end tables that have distressed finishes to hold up to feet, drinks, etc."
Furniture that's stiff and angular is not inviting, so choose round and plush pieces for both formal family rooms and secondary rec rooms.
Once a room opens its arms, the congregation begins. So put your cell phone in a box, shut the lid, and enjoy connecting in the comfort of home.