As a reader of this blog, I’m extremely excited to see how we are going to lay out this room. As the owner and the designer of the home, I’m less-so. It looks easy, but let me remind you of one thing: this is our family room and living room. I’m a normal “low-tech-for-kids” mom, but this is the only room where we can have a tv, as the playroom is tiny, and I really want the playroom to be full of play and not have a tv to be an option. So. You. Guys. This room wants to be formal, it does. The designer in me knows exactly what to do. The mom in me has a different plan – and she is probably going to win because moms just get to win.
First, lets talk about how I want it to feel (far more important than look). I really haven’t found the inspiration I need yet (probably because it’s hard to nail my style in this type of house) but these photos are looking really lovely and casual, and yet pulled together in an old space. Hilariously one of the rooms that has this antique meets midcentury vibe is one of my houses, or should I say Ian’s house which is an English Tudor.
I realize how narcissistic is sounds to be like “I’m so inspired by my own work” but this room does feel so casual and yet has enough classic pieces to make it feel integrious to the house.
I love how cozy this feels, but it’s more modern farmhouse than ours. The floor to ceiling shelving around the fireplace is something we also want to do.
This photo has lovely formality and a similar tudor style, but is a bit too serious for me; but I think it looks relaxed and lovely.
Another that is too modern farmhouse-y for me and not enough color for me, but it’s very, very lovely, relaxed and inviting with a great combination of midcentury and traditional. I think it’s Ellen Degeneres’ living room in her horse stable house, right? (also – I hope that one day my horses can enjoy a living room as beautiful as this).
This living room (I styled for STYLED, home by Project M Plus, photo by David Tsay) has such a wonderful vibe. The style goes a tad bit too modern for our new house but the vibe is easy and casual and I LOVE that sofa. My friend Scott has that sofa, too and it’s one of my favorites ever.
Ok, so that’s the general vibe. All fine and good, right? Until you try to lay out our beautiful, but complicated living room.
Let me break down why this is so difficult: There are three beautiful focal points, and we need a comfortable sofa and a big TV. If this were just a living room, it would be less challenging – you’d create a big seating area or two different zones. But it’s the whole “we want to live in here all day every day” request that makes it so befuddling.
Focal point #1: The beautiful bay window. Now this window is so pretty (and going to be prettier once it’s painted black), but it does face the street which isn’t that pretty, so I don’t feel like we need to face it even though technically it would be the most inviting when we come in.
Still, I would love to stare at those bay windows and throwing a pair of club chairs in there with a side table in between would be so pretty.
Then we have the fireplace which is obviously a focal point. We may make it more awesome, but either way in an ideal world we wouldn’t want to put the sofa facing away from it.
Then we have the ever-important wall of doors that lead to the back yard. Now with two kids our need and want to have the space feel open to the yard outweighs all aesthetic decisions. While the sofa would look great floating with its back against the windows, we want the flow of our house to be more open – so putting the sofa in front of it would block that flow.
Finally. we have this wall that is not a focal point and could absolutely house the TV. Not ideal for layout but it’s the obvious place to put the TV and where the previous owners had it. We could close up that little hole as I’m not its biggest fan anyway). But there are problems with this. Many.
In fact there are problems with every layout option. NONE ARE IDEAL. But I’m going to lay out the options for you.
Option #1 and a STRONG contender: Back to back sofas, with one that faces the tv (on the boring wall) and the other the fireplace:
It’s tempting for sure. We taped it out on the ground and it works, but we are cutting the room in half which could be fine but it certainly makes it feel smaller and less open. Both spaces are on the smaller size and there may not even be room on the “family room” side for other chairs as the space in front of the sectional is a pass through to the dining/kitchen.
We would put the TV on that wall (although probably mounted higher if we closed off that stair window.
I love the idea of creating zones, but I fear this isn’t really that livable or pretty. But it is the only option that reduces the visibility of the TV in the room. I do not want a TV ruining the formality and beauty of this room. Some houses can do that, but I think that this one is so old and classic that a TV rips you right out of your english cottage fantasy.
Besides, there are so many issues with the back to back sofa – do they have to be the same? Can they be different colors? slightly different styles?
Upon a lengthy google image search I only found these options:
None of these match my style and all of them are of HUGE rooms, but you get the idea. I guess for us it would be having one side designated for the “family room side” and the other that is for the “living/fireplace lounge.” I fear that neither side is big enough to properly entertain. The good things about it are that this layout doesn’t block the windows, it addresses the focal points, and it hides the TV as much as possible.
Option #2: The fireplace feature with the TV on the right wall. A big note here is that we would PROBABLY put it in a piece of furniture with hydraulics that would make it rise up and rotate towards the sofa.
This is a decent option, but not my favorite. While it looks good here, I don’t love walking into backs of sofas if I can avoid it. But once you get a beautiful sofa table and some lamps in there, it could work. It’s not the most TV friendly either as the sofa would be pretty far away from it, although it doesn’t technically look that far away in this rendering we pulled together.
Option #3: Larger living area, creating a more library feel near the fireplace.
To do this we’d have to shove the sofa pretty far back, like 2/3rds of the room in order to clear at least 2/3rds of the window (to avoid breaking the room in 1/2). This allows for more seating on the TV side of the room (not shown in rendering). But this also means that you are walking in facing the sofa which I think is kinda weird. Not a deal breaker, but kinda weird. Additionally the sofa might be too far away from the TV but it’s something we’d probably get used to.
Option 4: The sectional facing the windows with the TV hidden in a piece of furniture (on hydraulics that comes up and rotates). When you are in this room and if you didn’t have a TV this is how you want the room to be laid out.
It’s the most inviting way to experience this room. Imagine a big old beautiful rug, a sofa table behind the sofa with pretty lamps and books, and us just staring at our kids playing while we drink coffee and lament the fact that The Bachelor doesn’t come back on for four months.
Now there is one more option that seems worth throwing out there although it’s not right but we thought we’d show you, so you could check that off your mental list.
This one looks good in the room but it doesn’t work for our life. I don’t want the sofa blocking those doors and there isn’t really a comfortable place to watch TV. If we didn’t have kids or if we didn’t want to use the room as our TV room as well then it would be a lovely option, but we do, so it’s not.
Those are the options – unless you can think of another one.
Before you badger me about not watching TV in this room, we are seriously considering where else we can put it, we are. The problem is that we bought this house for this room and the back yard. I really want to USE it. Right now in our current house we rarely go into the living room because there is just not that much to do there. I didn’t design it enough to be “the family room” even though it’s technically very kid-friendly. If I were to redesign it now, I would put a MUCH more comfortable sofa in there and find a place for a TV so that Friday and Saturday nights we can have movie night in there. Additionally, I probably would have put drapes in there. It gets so bright (which is so lovely) that sometimes you want to just shut out the light. The roller shades certainly cut it down by 75% but I think curtains would have done a lot to help it feel more inviting, soft, and create a coziness that it’s missing. Also a very dirty secret is that my beautiful huge fig tree has a parasite and has been dropping sap all over the floor, sofa, furniture, etc. If you walk over there it’s as if you are walking on a fly trap – your feet stick to the floor and you have to peel them off like you would a disgusting piece of gum on the sidewalk. Charlie thinks it’s hilarious. I just want to cry. We’ve had it tended to a few times and it gets much better, but then a lot worse. So that is definitely a reason why we don’t play in there as much as we should.
Another quick note is that we don’t know what furniture we are using. I do want some sort of english roll arm because it works so well with the house and they are so incredibly comfortable, but I haven’t chosen or designed it yet – and no, it will probably not be white. Interior Define (a company we love and have used – Brady’s living room sofa is from them) has every angle of their furniture on their site so it was really easy for Brady to pull the furniture renderings and lay them out over my photos so that we could show to you all the different options we are considering.
Here are the options again – with both views of each option side by side. I’d love to hear your thoughts and get you to weigh in. I am leaning towards #4 or #2, but neither feels like the perfect choice, either. Honestly we may have to get a sofa in there to really do it right.
Your mission: pretend you are me, that you have two tiny kids and that you want to keep the doors open all day and be able to watch TV when kids are down or movie nights (or the many desperate occasions throughout the week, obviously).
WHAT WOULD YOU DO???? HELP, let me know know below what you would pick.