I’m working on a few different family rooms at the moment so I’ve been up to my eyeballs in family room floor plans. They all happen to be new construction homes and while the proportions are different, the layouts are almost identical – front to back formals with open concept big kitchens, breakfast nooks and family rooms at the back of the house. (I guess builders aren’t feeling that creative these days, huh?) Don’t worry, tomorrow’s post is all about the cluster&*^@ that is the furniture planning for my own family room post renovation. It’s honestly keeping me up at night, it’s so bad!
Coming up with a floor plan in a big, new family room is really not that difficult – you aren’t restricted by pesky oddly placed radiators or windows and doors like are common in older homes and, for the most part, you’re working with a big square oriented toward a fireplace with one side open toward a kitchen and the other open to the backyard via windows or French doors. The challenge that seems to come up over and over again is when family members (namely husbands and wives) have very different ideas about what the room should look like. At the beginning of each project, I ask clients to send me images of spaces they admire. Almost universally, the husbands send family rooms with sectionals while the wives never send photos with sectionals. There are exceptions of course but in general…that’s how it plays out. And more than any other room in the house, husbands want to be VERY involved in the layout, furniture selection and general look of this room. It can be challenging to get everyone on the same page to say the least! So today I thought we’d take a look at a few different family room orientations and how to make them work and what I’ve observed as I present these various plans to young families.
Let’s start with every guy’s favorite – the sectional. As a former sectional owner, I completely understand the appeal. Expansive, plenty of seats, that enveloping and coveted corner – what’s not to love right? The challenge with most sectionals is the standard L shape creates a visual heaviness on one side of the room which you have to battle to balance on the other side. It is the opposite of symmetry and as my architect likes to remind me, I have issues with symmetry…as in I need it to sleep well at night.
My favorite layout using a sectional is to mirror a looser version of the sectional’s L on the other with a pair of chairs and low stools. Basically create some symmetry where none exists. It’s important to keep the pieces on this side opposite the sectional more open though to facilitate traffic flow in and out of the seating square. No one wants to walk aaaaaall the way around a U-shaped wall of furniture to get to the couch so keep pathways open with ample space between side tables and chairs. I love me a pair of low stools in front of a fireplace. I always have a hard time getting this one by husbands (guys don’t seem to understand any seat that doesn’t directly face a TV) but a low stool gives you balance on that side of the room, keeps the view of the fireplace unobstructed and acts as floating and easily moveable seating in a pinch. Kid’s love them! They are the perfect little perch to sit on and face the TV, move around and play pretend with, etc. Whenever I visit a client who’s family room I’ve set up this way the little’s have always moved the stools around for some other purpose. I love it.
If adding a pair of chairs opposite the sectional just closes off the room too much (and doesn’t leave you with good traffic flow), ditch them altogether and do just the 1 accent chair in the corner. I like this fine. I don’t love it but it’s better than making the couch inaccessible.
The other really successful way to do a sectional is to just commit completely to the idea. No additional seating – just one HUGE u-shaped sectional. I love a U with chaises on either end. It makes lighting and end tables a little challenging but if you’re on Team Sectional, you might as well go all the way I guess right? My general argument against this arrangement is that when you have guests over, no mater how much they like you, most do not want to pile onto a couch like this. Adults like to spread out a bit. It works great in a media room type situation and even in family rooms where it’s mostly just your direct family using it. Just be prepared for the occasional awkwardness when you’re entertaining.
This next layout is what I call the mock sectional and I’ve noticed it getting increasingly popular. Instead of the 1 large piece, you do 2 full couches arranged in an L. It gives you the increased flexibility that comes with 2 pieces but it’s not without its challenges. Like the sectional, you need to balance the other side (a pair of chairs will do it) but you also need to consider the end table situation. Placing one at the corner where the couches meet gives each couch access to it but it also closes off the arrangement so it’s no longer open for traffic flow. Essentially it acts exactly as a sectional does without the corner seat. It looks a bit more formal and polished (I think) than a sectional.
I love this option – 2 couches but not a matching pair. Makes it a bit more interesting no?
This next layout makes my symmetry loving heart so happy. It’s just a gracious, very adult set up to a room and is an editorial favorite (read: it photographs great). It’s also probably the single most difficult layout to get by a husband. Two couches parallel to one another but PERPENDICULAR to the TV. Most guys are completely not on board with this. The idea of having to turn their heads to see the TV does not compute (though one husband did say “2 couches? great! She can lay on one and I can lay on the other!” so I guess he was looking at them more as big chaises, lol!) A pair of chairs opposite the fireplace keeps the arrangement open enough to access and yes, if you have room, a pair of stools in front of the fireplace.
Imagine the windows where the dark panels are to be a kitchen and the photo being taken from a fireplace. Pretty lovely right? In real life I’d probably ditch the floor lamps (which are perfect in the photo because they add height) to keep the corners open for traffic flow.
For smaller rooms, the single couch with a pair of chairs is perfect. The couch faces the TV, a pair of chairs go on one side (or the pair is split and go opposite each other). A sofa table behind the couch and yes, stools if you can fit them.
In photos these chairs would look better facing each other and not angled toward the TV. But in real life they’d probably end up angled toward the TV. Getting a pair of swivel chairs for this application is a great solution.
Finally a new favorite layout of mine is the couch/chair/daybed combo. A daybed can add seating (2 sided seating at that which is awesome in an open space!) but not create a visual block like chair backs can. Space permitting, I love floating them on the window/french door side of the room. In warmer months when you’re entertaining outdoors and the french doors/deck doors are open it can really become an extension of your outdoor space as guests come in and sit on the daybed facing the outdoors. Same goes for if your family room is open to a dining room…a daybed on that side can really help connect the two rooms and not make you feel like you’re walking into the back of a piece of furniture.