Living room (noun):
a room in a residence used for the common social activities of the occupants
a room in a private house or establishment where people can sit and talk and relax
Parlor: (front room, sitting room)
a room used primarily for conversation or the reception of guests: as a: a room in a private dwelling for the entertainment of guests.
When is a living room really a living room? In many of today’s homes, the living room has replaced the “parlor” as a formal room used primarily to receive and entertain guests. The daily function of the living room has been taken over by other rooms in the house such as the family room or den. In larger homes, the great room, home theater or study, has further reduced the amount of time we spend in our living rooms.
The truth is, living room is a relatively new term invented by the building industry for the only space in the house which the occupants can relax and entertain. If your home has other rooms that are used for social activities and relaxation, then your living room is probably functioning more as a parlor. On the other hand if you live in a relatively small house or apartment, then your living room needs to provide an intimate personal space as well as a comfortable social environment for group activities.
Plan Your Living Room For Your Function!
Start by deciding how you want the space to function.
- Is it a space to impress and entertain your guests?
- Do you want to watch TV or listen to music?
- Will an occasional guest sleep over?
- Maybe it is all of the above.
A living room can be very limited in its use or very flexible depending on you and your families needs. (insert floorplan)
Once you have an idea how you want to use this space, you can decide how your living room will relate to the other rooms in your home. The two spaces that usually relate to the living room the most are the entry foyer and the dining room. Does your entry open directly into your living room? If so, you will want to create a visual division between the living room and the entry foyer. And if you have to go through your living room to get to another room, than you need to plan a clear path to do so. You can accomplish this with the creative use interior finishes, your furniture lay-out and decorative accessories, such as screens, rugs, tables and planters. If the space and budget allow, decorative architectural millwork and interior construction can define the space in a more dramatic and functional way.
What about those times when your dining room needs a little stretching? If you plan accordingly, you will be able extend your table or tables into your living room for those larger gatherings, holidays and celebrations.
When Is Open Too Open?
Sometimes, in their search for the “wide open spaces” people will end up with a living room that is confusing and uninviting. The human eye needs visual boundaries and focal points in order to define a space. Those proportions and focal points will determine whether or not, a person will be comfortable in that space. If your living room has a very open layout with high ceilings and large space expanses, you may want to use your furniture, decorative accessories and decorative millwork in order to visually delineate the space and help create sense of order and intimacy. Built-in furniture can be used to define a space as well. It can act to define the space without closing it in with walls. It can also provide extra storage and display to one or more rooms. (insert dads custom unit image)
But where do I put the chaise?
One of the most important functions of the living room is to give people a place to sit and talk to each other. The first things we must consider when laying out your living room, are the architectural elements of the space. The seating lay-out should provide an intimate self contained area while still allowing the proper access to the doors and windows. Our seating area should be a destination where people can relax and enjoy the space.
Another, good news, bad news design element is the venerable fireplace. As much as a fireplace provides a warm and dramatic focal point to a room. It also demands that the majority of the seating is designed around it. Now, to further complicate your life, what if you want to watch TV in your living room? Your seating will have to face the TV as well as the fireplace. Of course you can always place the TV above the fireplace, but that is not always practical depending on building and fire codes. The fireplace can still be enjoyed in a peripheral view whereas the television requires more direct viewing. Therefore it is likely that the TV will end up adjacent to the fireplace, with the sofa facing more of the TV than the fireplace. (insert floorplan)
Some of the other furnishing we need to consider in our plan may include shelving, desks, display cases, occasional table’s artwork and decorative light fixtures. The more the merrier! Just remember, it all has to work together to bring a sense of order and comfort to the room.
To see or not to see? (Is that really a question?)
How much light will you need in your living room? Do you read in your living room? Are you going to display art or family pictures in your living room? The kind of light we need to read by, or display art, is not the same as the light we prefer when watching TV or just relaxing with friends. Therefore you will need to alternate between lighting schemes. A relatively glare-less indirect light is preferred for relaxing or watching TV (recessed hi-hats, wall sconces, cove lighting). While a more directed light can be placed in the areas needed to illuminate certain tasks or display items (recessed hi-hats, track lighting and various types of lamps). And remember, some time somebody is going to have to clean this room. So let’s make sure we allow for an adequate general light level to see into all those nooks and crannies’. All of the above can be accomplished with the appropriate light fixtures and switch configuration that facilitates the desired lighting scheme. Certain types of light fixtures, (such as recessed “hi-hats or track lights) when properly placed, can provide display lighting as well as indirect light to watch TV by. You can also use a dimmer to add flexibility to your lighting scheme as well. Last but not least, make sure you have the right number of accessible electrical and communication outlets for your room design.
So what’s in a name?
It’s only a living room if you live in it. So think about all the things you want to do in your living room. That is the first and most important step to making your living room an integral and positive part of your home.