Alternative Uses For Your Living Room

Like most colonials, our home has a family room and a living room. And like most homeowners, we spend a lot more time in our family room than our living room. In fact, my 7 year old still gets confused when I use the term “living” room. It’s now just known as the “red” room in our house.

With some minor changes and a lot of inspiration, you can turn your living room into something you’d actually live in! Here are some possible uses and design tips to help you get started:

Home office – Home Office means different things to different people. It could be a place to pay bills and file paperwork, or a place for kids to do homework, or you may run a business out of your home. Whatever your definition, focus your design around the function of the room.

  • Provide a clear surface on which to work. It’s easy for a desk or table to become overrun with “stuff” resulting in no place to actually work. Tight for space? How about a table that drops down from the wall when needed (like a Murphy bed)?
  • Add a comfortable desk chair that is adjustable and doesn’t squeak (trust me on this one!). If your room has carpet, consider a plastic floor protector to help you wheel around easier.
  • Add lots of hidden storage, but be sure to clearly label your storage units so you know where to find things.
  • Lighting is key! You will need overhead as well as good task lighting. If there is no overhead light, add some up-lighting.
  • Select functional accessories that add personality by do not cutter the space. But be careful not to make it too institutional – it’s still your home, after all!
  • Keep the palate light and bright to inspire energy.
  • Minimize and secure cords as much as possible. Go wireless wherever possible.

Library – Love to read? Have a great book collection? Turn your living room into a cozy place to curl up with a good book! It’s like having your own coffee house.

  • Add lots of shelving. Rather than just adding bookcases, consider customized bookshelves built around a window to create a window box seat. Not only will you get additional storage, you’ll add a wonderful focal point to the room.
  • Instead of a traditional sofa or loveseat, opt for two or three comfy club chairs (depending on space). Gather those chairs around a round glass-top coffee table with a wood shelf underneath to show off some of your favorite coffee table books.
  • Provide task lighting for each reading chair. Pharmacy lamps are great for this. Make sure you also have enough lighting to see the books on the shelves.
  • As a library, you can comfortably use darker paint to create warmth.
  • Accessories – add a warm toned rug, soft throw blankets, and pepper the walls with black and white photography to create a coffee house feel.

Toy room – A toy room can be a great compromise between parents and kids in the eternal battle of toy clutter!

  • Opt for shelving with attractive bins that can hide the clutter inside them, and allow for pick-up in less than 5 minutes. Open storage looks messy, even when the room is picked up. Avoid a collection of mis-matched toy organizers – they look tacky!
  • Make sure the room is comfortable for grown ups as well as kids -add a comfortable chair or loveseat.
  • Add a kid-sized table and chairs. Tip: put a machine washable rug underneath to survive craft time!
  • Keep the room bright with cheerful colors, but avoid “cutesy” – save that for their bedrooms.
  • If your kids enjoy movies, add a TV and DVD player.
  • Set clear rules for cleanup, and stick to them!

Media room – Do you enjoy watching movies? Create your own movie theater in the comfort of your own home!

  • Add French or pocket doors and light-blocking shades to create a dark, quiet environment on demand.
  • Add a large screen TV with surround sound.
  • Add a dimmer switch to better control the lighting. Add task lighting to allow for discreet multi-tasking while watching a movie.
  • Depending on how many people will be watching the movies, add enough comfortable seating. Tip: use two loveseats angled at the corners of the room opposite the TV, and toss a couple bean bag chairs behind them for extra seating when necessary.
  • For decor, just frame a few of your favorite movie posters and hang them on the walls.
  • Don’t forget the DVD organizer and a handy remote control holder!

Mud Room -Depending on the layout of your house, you could convert your living room into an oversized “holding cell” to accommodate coats, back packs, shoes, calendars, cleaning supplies, dog bed, pet food and much more. You get the idea!

  • Assign a “locker” to each family member (don’t forget the family pet). Lockers provide vertical storage that makes good use of the space while hiding its cluttered contents. It’s a great storage solution for jackets, purses, backpacks, and more. Lockers can be wood or metal, whichever you prefer.
  • Add wall hooks for guest coats, umbrellas, etc.
  • Add a shoe rack for wet or dirty shoes. Place vinyl placemats underneath to protect your floor.
  • Create a mail box for each member of the family to control mail flow.
  • Add a credenza or file cabinet to file all that mysterious paperwork that wanders into the house.
  • Create a message center by painting a wall (or part of a wall) with magnetic and/or chalkboard paint. Make it “pop” by adding a large empty gold leaf frame!
  • Add a colorful rug. Rather than get one large rug, opt for a couple smaller rugs that are machine washable.
  • How about a small drop-leaf table and a couple chairs for small projects, or for putting boots on?

Stag room – What can I say? If you must have one, here are some ideas:

  • Add a pool table, and a dart board (if room).
  • Include a bar and some bar stools.
  • Opt for a darker paint color that won’t show wear and tear.
  • Display your favorite neon bar sign, deer head, or other prized possession.
  • Add a juke box in the corner if you like.
  • Don’t forget the traditional “dogs playing poker” print!

Overwhelmed? Call an Interior Re-designer in your area. They specialize in making rooms work using what you already have. It’s a very cost-effective way to bring new life to your old room.

It’s time to start actually living in your “living” room!