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

With a few minor changes and lots of inspiration, you can turn your living room into something you would 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 can run a business from home. Whatever your definition, focus your design around the function of the room.

  • Provide a clear surface to work on. It’s easy for a desk or table to get cluttered with “stuff,” leaving no place to work. Tight of space? How about a table that falls off the wall when needed (like a folding 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 it move more easily.
  • Add a lot of hidden storage, but be sure to clearly label your storage drives so you know where to find things.
  • Lighting is key! You will need overhead lighting and good task lighting. If there is no overhead light, add some lighting upwards.
  • Select functional accessories that add personality by not cutting off 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 cables as much as possible. Use wireless technology whenever possible.

library – Love to read? Do you have a large collection of books? Turn your living room into a cozy place to snuggle up with a good book! It is like having your own coffee shop.

  • Add lots of shelving. Rather than just adding bookcases, consider custom shelving built around a window to create a window box seat. Not only will you get additional storage, but it will add a wonderful focal point to the room.
  • Instead of a traditional loveseat or sofa, opt for two or three comfortable club chairs (depending on the space). Gather those chairs around a round glass top coffee table with a wooden shelf underneath to display some of your favorite coffee table books.
  • Provide working lighting for each reading chair. Pharmacy lamps are ideal for this. Also make sure you have enough lighting to see the books on the shelves.
  • As a bookcase, you can comfortably use darker paint to create warmth.
  • Accessories: Add a warm-toned rug, soft blankets, and splash the walls with black-and-white photos to create a cafeteria feel.

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

  • Opt for shelving with attractive containers that can hide the clutter inside them and allow them to be collected in less than 5 minutes. Open storage looks cluttered, even when the room is tidied up. Avoid a collection of mismatched toy organizers – they look tacky!
  • Make sure the room is comfortable for both adults and children – add a comfortable chair or loveseat.
  • Add a child-sized table and chairs. Tip: Put a machine washable rug underneath to survive crafting time.
  • Keep the room bright with cheerful colors, but avoid the “cheesy”, save it for your bedrooms.
  • If your kids enjoy movies, add a TV and DVD player.
  • Set clear rules for cleaning and stick to them!

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

  • Add French or sliding doors and light-blocking curtains to create a dark and quiet environment on request.
  • Add a big screen TV with surround sound.
  • Add a dimmer switch for better lighting control. Add task lighting to allow discreet multitasking while watching a movie.
  • Depending on how many people will be watching the movies, add enough comfortable seats. Tip: Use two angled loveseats in the corners of the room in front of the TV and place a couple of bean bag chairs behind them for more seating when needed.
  • For decoration, just frame some 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 home, you can convert your living room into an oversized “holding cell” to accommodate coats, backpacks, 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 space while hiding your messy contents. It’s a great storage solution for jackets, purses, backpacks, and more. Lockers can be made of 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 mailbox for each family member to control mail flow.
  • Add a credenza or filing cabinet to file all that mysterious paperwork that roams 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. Instead of buying a large rug, opt for a couple of smaller rugs that are machine washable.
  • How about a small drop-down table and a couple of chairs for small projects or to put on boots?

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

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

Overwhelmed? Call an interior designer in your area. They specialize in making rooms work using what you already have. It is a very cost effective way to breathe new life into your old room.

Time to really start living in your “living room”!

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