With busy schedules infringing upon all of our lives, it's important to make time for the family. Take a look around your home. Is there a place where all of you can congregate for some family face time?
That was the dilemma Jeryl, our Jane-in-training. She's a newly single mother of two active boys. She was concerned about the family drifting apart and wanted to create a place where all three of them could come together and share activities. Her family room needed a thorough makeover, so we worked with her to repaint, install new ceiling fans & lights, replace a worn carpet, and update the moldings and trim.
The Center of Attention
Beyond just eating your meals or watching TV together, there should be somewhere in your home where you can live as a family. It's a space where the family can come together as a unit for all-inclusive activities like board games, holiday celebrations and the like. The key? Your family room needs to be a place where every member of your family will actually want to spend time. There should be activities that are attractive to each individual. For example, if you want to spend more time with your son and he enjoys playing video games and you enjoy listening to classical music, then be sure to provide access to both activities within that space. The time you spend together may not be quality time necessarily, but it's a way to be together while enjoying things you like to do when alone.
Chances are you already have a family-room-in-training. It may be called a den, TV room, living room, rec room or whatever. A family room is a room that belongs to everyone—even Fido! The space your family needs to make the most of the time you spend together will be specific to your family, but what follows are some general tips to consider as you make the perfect family room.
Components of a Great Family Room
A great family room is one where everyone feels comfortable. Because the family room is a communal space, avoid dedicating it solely to the kids' artwork or mom's antiques. The focus should be on how your family likes to spend time together, whether it's playing games or watching movies. It's also a room for individual activities: homework, reading, paying bills (yuck). Again, remember never to rule out a family room with multiple functions, such as a space where the kids can play video games while mom reads and dad catches up on a favorite hobby.
Your Current Space
What about your family-room-in-training works for you? Perhaps you have a great fireplace, large windows or fantastic built-in bookshelves. Creating a homey family room doesn't necessarily mean gutting the entire thing and starting over. Work with what you have. A fresh coat of paint or a rearrangement of furniture and new slipcovers may all you need. However, don't be afraid to implement major changes. Investing time and effort into a great room for your entire family will be repaid to your family a thousand times over. Browse magazines and catalogs to see what styles appeal to your family and what would work in your home.
Define the Space
A great family room is one that everybody wants to gather in. Think about what your family likes to do. If it's watching movies, perhaps consider installing a home theatre system. Maybe you like to do puzzles or play games, in which case you may want to invest in a big table with comfortable chairs. If you are a family with varying interests, assign each member a portion of the room, or try to combine everyone's ideas into one area.
The family room should reflect your family, so celebrate it by a few hanging pictures of your favorite memories together. You can also use the space to actually create memories. One fun activity is to have your kids trace each member's profile onto a black piece of craft paper by shining a lamp or flashlight against a wall. Cut out the silhouettes and mount them against a white background and hang them on the wall.
Think about the majority of the activities that will occur in your family room. If your kids will be doing their homework in there, be sure to provide them the space and lighting to do so. If you want to encourage your kids to invite their friends over, then make it comfortable to do so. Always put yourself in the shoes of the other members of your family when defining your space to make sure their needs are covered, too.
Organize, Organize, Organize!
A major component of redoing any room is organizing all of your belongings. It's more than likely that your space has become overrun with books, toys or other junk that doesn't have a home. See what you can get rid of first and donate it, sell it, or throw it away. Then, hit a home organizing store to get ideas about storage. There are now a ton of options for mounting shelves, entertainment centers, even furniture that doubles as storage compartments. Making space for all of your stuff will keep clutter at bay, and make the room look bigger.
When you have decided on what you want to do, create a budget and stick to it. You may need to adjust your project based on your budget, but a little creativity can stretch a dollar a long way. Scour flea markets and thrift stores for inexpensive decor and furniture that can be made fabulous with a little rehabbing.
If you are replacing the carpet, rugs or drapes, definitely invest in stain proof, durable materials. This is the area of the house that will suffer the most wear and tear, so think ahead. If you are painting, choose a durable sheen and remember to prime first. Let the kids help you with this process. Depending on their ages, they may love to be a part of everything from helping choose the color of the room to where to place the furniture. The idea here is that the more they own the room, the more likely they are to use it more often.
You can expect to alter the room as the kids get older or as tastes change. But as you consider the new style and function of your family room, be sure to take into account all of the things you hope to do together. If you have young children, designate a play area. If your children are older, provide entertainment options that will keep them coming back such as a computer, an iPod station or cable channels that they enjoy watching.
Set Some Ground Rules
We know this might seem contrary to what we've been discussing so far, but you want to keep your new family room as nice as possible for as long as possible. Lay some basic ground rules for cleanup and maintenance. Don't make them too strict or your family will balk and never use the room. For example, if one of your rules is not to eat on the furniture because you have a favorite couch that would devastate you to see ruined, then don't place it in this space. Make logical and actionable rules that don't strangle the functionality of the room itself.
A family room is whatever space you designate in your home that best services the needs of your entire family. It should be a space where everyone enjoys gathering and spending time in. A compliment to you would be if your children invite their friends over and rather than running off to their rooms, they spend their time in the family room you helped create. Make the space comfortable, multi-functional, and take the needs of each individual member of your family into consideration.
You'll soon discover that the time spent providing a space your family enjoys will greatly enhance the quality of the time you spend together.
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