Room for Family Fun
Written by: Lankarge/Nahorney for HomeInsight
Fifty years ago, a family room consisted of little more than an old couch, a beat-up recliner, a small television set, and a coffee table that did double-duty as a surface for board games or a place to pile coats. It was usually a room to which children were banished when Sunday company dropped by or where Dad retreated to watch sports in peace and quiet.
Think About How will this room be used differently from your living room?
If your family room is primarily the spot for your new home theater, you will want it darker than your living room to cut down on screen glare.
Will you be serving food or throwing parties in this room?
Unless your family room is located directly off your kitchen (and your kitchen has lots of countertop space), consider adding some sort of "entertainment" island to serve drinks and snacks from. It can be built in or mobile for more design flexibility.
What is the focal point of the room?
In a room used for a variety of purposes, it is essential to have one focal point to tie it all together. It could be a wide-screen television, a large window, a fireplace, or a wall full of built-in storage space for books, collectibles, sports trophies, or games.
Today's family rooms have little in common with those "spare" rooms of old. They are now family hubs, full of activity for all members of the household. With careful planning, a good size family room (16 ft. x 25 ft.) can function as a media center, a place to do homework or hobbies, or a place to throw a party. To help your family get the most enjoyment from this room, it's a good idea to have members contribute to a wish list of features they'd most like to see in a family room addition or remodel.
For financial considerations for your remodeling job, read 10 Ways to Keep Your Remodeling Project on Budget and Adding On Instead of Moving Out.
Two wall outlets are not enough in today's family room. According to NPD Techworld, less than 15 percent of homes in the U.S. now rely on broadcast television for news and entertainment. Two-thirds of family viewing is from cable and another 18% get their programming from satellite, both high-quality sound and video. And don't forget the DVD players, video gaming systems, and computers! Plan to have at least a cable hookup in your family room and at least one phone jack. Even if you don't plan on having high-speed Internet access in your family room right now, you may change your mind later on. This is particularly useful if you want to get your kids' computers out of bedrooms and into the family room where you can monitor their Internet usage.
If you have - or are planning to install - a wide-screen television, you have many options available. You can ask an architect to design a built-in, wall-to-wall entertainment center for you. If you supply him or her with the precise measurements of the television you plan to use, a cavity can be carved into the wall to fit the television, as well as any other audio/video components. If you think a wide-screen television will interfere too much with other activities in the room, consider putting it on a motorized lift that lowers the set into a piece of furniture or use a retractable video screen and video projector that drop down from the ceiling.
Flexible lighting is a necessity in a room as multifunctional as a family room. Most call for a combination of overhead and table lighting to create the right mood. Especially popular for home theaters are wall sconces that provide soft, glowing light and black ceiling tiles embedded with fiber optics to resemble a night sky full of twinkling stars.
Track, spot, and table lighting are most used for task lighting throughout the room. Instead of using individual dimmer switches for each light, use a wireless remote for fingertip control. And you don't have to stop there. These remotes will switch on your television, stereo, fan, and even the thermostat! The terrific thing is that these systems don't require any special wiring.
Seating in a family room is dictated by the areas you are planning and their function. Will you have a conversation/game playing area? A solitary reading nook? Riser seating that imitates a real movie theater? Sectional seating works well for conversation areas as the pieces can arranged in different groupings. A chaise or loveseat is perfect for an intimate reading nook. And if you're looking for theater-style seating, there are now hundreds of seating options available. There are individual loungers, recliners, and rockers. There are sectionals. You can also purchase rows of seats that look like they just came out of your local movie house. You're only limitation is your pocketbook. Three fabric contour rockers with cup holders will set you back approximately $1,300.00. If you choose velour, add another $300.00. Leather? You're looking at $2,000.00 or more, depending on the quality of the hide.
No matter what kind of seating you eventually install, remember that you can't go too plush in a family room. The family room is all about comfort, so purchase the cushiest seating you can find that appeals to your sense of style and conforms to the function of the setting.
No room ever seems to have truly enough storage and this is particularly true of the family room where books, games, DVDs, CDs, computer software, and sports equipment must all somehow be stowed when not in use. Built-in bookcases and cabinets come in handy, but you can also customize a closet or two with mix-and-match storage units and cubbyholes. The beauty of these is that they can be reconfigured to meet your family's changing needs. You can also use large baskets, ottomans, and trunks to stash your stuff. These can be moved throughout the space to change its look. Sturdy trunks and ottomans can pull double duty. Ottomans can be used for additional seating and trunks can function as extra coffee tables.
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