What goes into the makings of a family room? Historically, the first family rooms emerged from the hands of architects into floor plans about 50 or 60 years ago. This room was a bit different in character from all others. Less formal than a living room, the family room was to encourage family connection and conversation. The family room made its first appearance as an appendage of the kitchen, the heart of a home. At the same time, televisions sprouted from coast to coast. Televisions, like the radio was previously, became the anchor of the family room.
Shelter magazines of the 1960s and 1970s often referred to the room as a den for gathering, and architecturally the introduction of sliding glass doors allowed this newly minted room access to the outdoors. Over the years, not much has changed about the decor of this now ubiquitous room. Seating arrangements favored for family rooms are generally L-shaped and U-shaped groupings. Of course, sectionals have found a favorite room in family rooms for ample and comfortable seating.
Mostly innovations in family rooms have to do with advances in audio-visual technologies — namely televisions to flat screens, and record players to CD players or web-supplied media. Family rooms are the perfect place for extracurricular activities such as music, puzzles and computer stations, too. I would be remiss if I didn't mention the development of the custom wall unit and the armoire to conceal the TV set.
Lately, in newer homes, the dedicated family room is disappearing. A new architectural concept has been trickling in: the great room that merges the functions of living room and family room, providing large open areas in which dining, cooking and living take place. Often times, these spaces are double the height, requiring large-scale furniture and accessories to scale the space down.
The new great room/family room truly encourages family gatherings and interaction and helps to reduce generation gaps by architecturally mixing up all the spaces. Of course, each family is unique, and arrangements are made for each family's particular activities. The design and style should reflect those living there.
Family rooms are supposed to be casual and carefree. Some suggestions include washable slipcovers or seasonal slipcovers for upholstered furniture. Multitask lighting that can be dimmed and or moved is a must for comfort and reading. Comfortable rugs underfoot are a must for warmth and to reinforce a grouping or seating area. Rugs add character and color depending on the pattern selected. Pillows and throws are the finishing touches in creating the ultimate comfortable family room.
Another trend in today's family room is the addition of a nearby beverage center, and in some instances a snack bar on which to place bowls of fruits and other snacks. Ultimately, comfort is foremost in family rooms so that they will be used often by all members of a household.
Joseph Pubillones is the owner of Joseph Pubillones Interiors, an award-winning interior design firm based in Palm Beach, Fla. To find out more about Joseph Pubillones, or to read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
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