Each room in my home is a Living Room — a room designed for my children and I to play, to entertain and to relax.  I would like to say there were careful considerations to execute this vision of domesticity (ha!) but it was really quite simple.  By first incorporating classic games that we all enjoy playing into the decor, and then disguising those that fall into the fun-yet-garish category, we were left to evaluate the furnishings of a generic room.  After a quick review to confirm the essential elements of comfort and style, we had successfully designed rooms we all enjoy.

Games as Decor

We play games in our house.  Conveniently, many tabletop games are a natural fit to my neutral palette which allows me to decorate practically, with purpose and for fun.  My favorite examples of games as functional decor are:

  • Classic dominoes in a silver bowl on a study table
  • An iron tic-tac-toe set on a coffee table
  • A shallow, textured wooden bowl of scrabble pieces bridging two desks
  • Jenga pieces in a large, hammered silver bowl on a coffee table
  • Rock Me Archimedes on a media cabinet
  • Cast zinc puzzles as object d’art placed on piles of books
  • Large chalkboard decals for hangman, tic tac toe and the like
  • Clear canisters of game pieces grouped on a side table (dominoes, dice, Jenga, ping pong balls, Scrabble pieces)

Each game, when used as an element of decor, invites play and engagement for both adults and children.  We all win.  (Pun intended.)

Stylish Storage

In addition to the token kitchen cabinet with play-doh, perler beads and homework essentials, this House of Living Rooms contains a variety of storage solutions to contain the kid madness.  Examples of storage to incorporate into the decor include:

  • A leather-bound box of games, cards and trivia near the fireplace
  • Woven, lidded trunks behind sofas to discreetly house toys
  • Tiered, vintage suitcases with puzzles and/or board games
  • Shelf baskets within media cabinets to house electronic paraphernalia
  • A train/lego table made with “real” furniture legs and coordinating, rolling totes for the small pieces
  • Bookcases with bins to organize nearly anything, anywhere
  • Book totes strategically placed around furniture

These options do not negate the need for a toy closet but they do add textural elements to the room while also serving a purpose.  When working in a neutral palette, texture is critical to adding visual interest.  The beauty of the bookcase bins and book totes above is the wide variety of materials available.

Furnishings + Decor

I love furnishings and in my opinion, all furnishings are required to satisfy both form and function.  Whether designing for a shared space or as I did once upon a time for myself solo, furniture needs to be comfortable, with clean lines, of a timeless style, and made of a material that will wear and clean well.  The latter is especially true with cherubs.  We have been known to host brunches that lead to 9-year-olds drinking orange juice and eating bacon on white sofas.  And that’s OK.  The sofas clean easily.

Deep, comfortable furniture covered in natural materials aside, the decor I find essential in creating a family-friendly space is exactly what I would use in any space:

  • Ottomans and poufs are simply the perfect solution!  They are kid-sized yet useful to all and can be moved with ease.  I struggle to believe that you can have too many and with so many options, why limit yourself?
  • Blankets to cozy up with are required in even the warmest of climates.  Piled into a basket on the floor keeps them readily available and sends the message to lounge.
  • Throw pillows are the epitome of multi-purpose.  We decorate with them, we seek comfort from them and we build forts with them.  What more needs to be said?
  • Books, books and more books.  A room without books isn’t a room at all.  Books (for all members of the family) can be lined up on shelves, displayed in a neat pile, or arranged in a tote.  Books satisfy the paper element and the make-life-better element.
  • Instruments lend character and whimsy (or even edge) to a space depending on the instrument.  Leaving them out is a statement and an invitation to play.
  • Tables in a variety of shapes and sizes are required to host the games mentioned early in the post.  I am particularly fond of a chalkboard paint covered coffee table for game playing and score-keeping.

We cherish our living spaces.  We are able to spend more time together as a result of having designed these rooms — all of them — to satisfy all of our interests.  No single room is off-limits (the Wii is in the sitting room of my bedroom) and no single room serves a single purpose.  In fact, multi-purpose may be my favorite adjective.

How do you decorate your space to accommodate your family?  How do you disguise that which you would rather not display?  I would love to hear your ideas.