Isn’t it ironic that the living room – the room of life! – is where people tend to spend the least amount of time? At some point in the late 19th or early 20th century the term “living room” was coined to describe the formal room where people sat to (politely) socialize.
Nowadays, though, living rooms have become the thoroughfare your friends and family pass through on their way to the kitchen island to relax. Whether you have children or enjoy throwing parties, the kitchen has generally become the most functional, popular place in the home to gather. As a result, living rooms can sometimes seems more like a furniture museum – one that no one ever visits.
Here, we’ll dig deeper into why the living room is on the brink of extinction – and how you can bring life back into it so it doesn’t suffer the some fate as your last VCR.
Why are living rooms falling out of fashion?
“Decades ago, our best-selling floor plan featured a formal living room,” says Jennifer Landers, president of New Dimensions, a custom home builder in Northern Virginia. But times have changed, and the ways people interact in the home are very different.
“Today’s families aren’t interested in formal spaces – more often they want an open floor plan and lots of flexibility,” Landers says. This usually means combining the kitchen, dining, and living rooms into multi-functional areas dubbed “great rooms,” where you can be with your family as you make dinner, check email, or help with homework.
“It all adds up to a more casual and less fussy feeling to homes,” she adds.
Another huge reason living rooms are fading to black? “Adults and kids spend much more time on mobile devices like phones and tablets than they used to,: says Nick Kinports, executive vice president of strategy at Notice Agency in Chicago. That means the tv, which traditionally anchored the living room, sees less foot traffic.
How to make your living room useful again
First, you need to figure out how you define “living”, says Marie Graham, a home stager in New York’s Westchester County.
Think about the ways your family likes to spend time together, and tailor the design of your living room around that. For instance, if your down time is about entertainment, hang a projector to play movies on a blank wall and install an impressive sound system. Your family will likely follow.
Here are some other ways to reclaim your living room:
Add a Fireplace: Nothing draws a crowd to a room like warmth and dancing flames, so consider turning your living room into a hearth room.
“Like our prehistoric counterparts, modern man and woman are drawn to fire,” says Graham. This might sound like a major remodel, but modern electric or gas fireplaces are relatively easy to install.
Ditch the Divan: An uncomfortable, low sofa without arms or legs – the strange piece of furniture known as the divan – doesn’t exactly cry out, “Curl up on me!”
Get rid of this and other fussy pieces of formal furniture, and replace them with comfortable upholstered pieces to encourage hanging out, says Graham. Other components of a space that will see use include side tables for food and drinks and good lighting.
Get Wired: The living room can take on new life as a place for people to get stuff done, whether that means checking email on your laptop, reading a book on your tablet, or using the room as a de facto home office.
Make sure add plenty of power outlets for tablets, laptops, and smartphones. There should also be space spread out and semiprivate nooks that allow for multiple people to use their devices without disturbing others.
While everyone might be doing their own thing, the simple fact of everyone gathered in the same room fosters a sense of family time.
Create a Library: “In designing conventional rooms, we can lose sight of the fact that a home is a place to enjoy me-time,” says Bea Pila, interior designer and author of “Sacred Spaces for Inspired Living.”
If you’re looking to escape high-tech devices, turn your living room into a space that encourages people to disconnect with a good book. You don’t have to install towering bookshelves everywhere, she says. “A couple of tables stacked with favorite books next to a cozy chair can be enough.”
Create a Cocktail Room: If you love entertaining, make your living room the main party locale by incorporating a bar and tables to place drinks, appetizers, or full meals. Bring in lounge seating like a high table with bar stools (instead of the traditional sofa and coffee table) to encourage people to linger over good food and conversation.
Make a Game Room: This could mean adding a cabinet full of board games or a pool table to maximize togetherness.
“A circular arrangement around a card table encourages the long-lost art of games and interaction,” says Pila.[realtor.com/homeimprovement – Margaret Heidnry]