Decorating with Pizza and a Television
When we move into a home with a family room or basement it quickly becomes the room that is the most “lived in”. We watch television, play games and eat pizza on the sofa; often the room is furnished with hand-me-downs and pieces that didn’t quite match the rest of the house. As our families change so do the needs of this room. When we have young children it is often decorated with toys and endless piles of laundry. Later on, teenagers tend to gravitate towards it as it is away from their parents; because it is not perfectly clean to begin with they see it as fair game to make it their own, they know that the occasional spill will probably go unnoticed.
Over time, for a lot of us, this room morphs into an embarrassment, the one that is explained away with a wave of the hand as our “everything room”. As long as the rest of the house, the part that most people see, is clean and tidy it seems acceptable to have a room that is far from perfect.
But the room begins to take on a life of it’s own. It is gradually filled with old furniture, trophy’s, DVDs, posters, awards, action figures and a broken pinball machine from a garage sale that we know we’ll fix one day. Wrapping paper and birthday presents that we have bought but forgot about because we couldn’t find them in time for the party. Add to this a gigantic flat-screen television and the room becomes a place that we start to avoid.
At this point the children and the men take up permanent residence. They love it, they don’t have to worry about putting their feet up on things or leaving water stains on the table. Funny smells are the norm, and can we really prove it came from them and not some unidentified pile of junk that was hidden behind the bar two years ago?
On the flip side we have the formal living room. A room where no-one feels comfortable. Visitors wouldn’t dare put their feet up, they sit upright and ask hesitantly for a coaster. They worry that the room is so perfectly decorated, that they could not possibly disrupt the placement of the coffee table book (that has a small statue placed at a 90 degree angle on top of it).
I know that even with my own living room I sometimes have to work at toning down the formality. It is eclectic but with old fashioned tufted furniture it can look fussy very quickly. What I do is I soften it by adding things that are deliberately informal. Original pieces of artwork from my daughter (or friends), flowers, plants and lots of texture. I admit this is a strategic move, that I do give some thought to it, but it is a simple idea that can apply to any room, especially the family room. Because this is a communal room try to involve the family in your decorating decisions. Spend an afternoon going through what’s in there and discussing what is important to each person. Decide what is right for you, as a family, at the moment. If your lifestyle does not have time for martini parties and pinball then see if you can store the old antique bar somewhere else. If you absolutely love the pinball machine figure out a good place to put it so that it has some impact in the room. Get it fixed so that you can enjoy it. If you want all of your diplomas up on the wall then group them really tightly together for more impact. Do the same with family photos. Don’t scatter them around, make a feature of them.
Decide what you would like to see when you first enter the room. What feeling do you want to convey? Think about what you really want to use the room for and how many people are often in it. Once you have established your goal the task becomes more manageable. If it seems too overwhelming write down your ideas and the steps that you will take to get there.
See if you can bring in some things from other rooms that will make the room more interesting and less predictable. It’s the same principle that I mentioned with the formal living room, think of opposites. A handmade pillow or a chair that does not match your squishy brown sofa will add instant character. If the walls are wood paneled try to add some inexpensive artwork or posters to make them less cavernous. Prime and paint them if you dare; most wood panelling is just pressed fiberboard, it is rare that you are painting solid oak panels. Take down the ceiling fan and add a large unexpected, modern light fixture (Ikea has great lights for very little money). Add some live plants. Philodendron and pothos are leafy, green plants that will either climb or drape over anything – they survive with virtually no light and a lot of neglect. Although the room needs to function in a certain way it does not have to be decorated to match. Treat the family room the same way that you do any other room. Make it work for you, enjoy what you have , sit back and watch that gigantic television in style!
For more by Wendy and the Blue Giraffe, go to: http://www.thebluegiraffe.com/