We use the term “great room” pretty loosely these days. To put it simply, it is the room that encompasses the biggest living space in the house. It’s also often connected to another room, such as a kitchen or eating area, making it even larger.
The funny thing is–I think the term “great” has less to do with its actual size and more to do with the fact that this room is so greatly used and greatly needed for all your family’s functions. Whether or not your room is large in size, the need for this room in the house is always great.
My first rule when it comes to great rooms is that it must function for everyone that will be using the space and it must do so ninety percent of the time. Whether you want a space to read, watch movies, play games or simply converse, that room should be able to function for all those needs and then some.
We often ask, “who lives in this house?” because the room has to function for everyone in the home–even the four legged inhabitants! Are they allowed on the furniture? If not, is there a space dedicated to them within the room? Conversely, if they are allowed on the furniture, will it withstand the wear and tear our little furry friends inevitably will create?
Are there sports lovers in your home? Believe it or not, what you’re watching helps dictate how your room should function, too. Football season in my home means the lights are on, windows are open, we are in-and-out grilling–there is more action, more eating, more pacing–it’s usually a very lively moment in our house! Allowing for this traffic flow when placing furniture in the room is a key factor to making it great.
On the flip side, movie watching calls for darker, cozier spaces. If you don’t have a separate more intimate room for TV watching in your home, then you need to find a way to create that ambiance whether it’s with drapery, dimmable lighting or simply cozy furniture selection and placement.
We recently had to move where our TV was because we couldn’t get enough viewing areas. A general rule is that the TV should be placed in the largest viewable area in your room. Frequently this is above the fireplace, because rooms often are already centered around this focal point. But, if this is not the case in your home or you don’t have a fireplace in the room, you may have to place it on a side wall so you can accommodate enough seating around it.
The list of possible needs in a great room goes on and on. From toy storage needs, both for new parents and grandparents alike, to a space to study or work puzzles, the key to making this room truly great is identifying the needs for the space and planning solutions into your design.
Now that you’ve identified the needs of the room, you can start planning the layout of the room. Think about the room’s flow and (no surprise here!) how the room needs to function.
Start with seating selection and placement to ensure there is not only enough seating but also the right kind of seating. Think about the needs of those using the room and the room’s walkways or traffic patterns when determining where the seating should go within the room.
Perhaps you have family members who struggle to get out of deep seats or those with a medical need to keep their feet up. One of my favorite items of furniture to include in a great room is an ottoman. It serves so many purposes from a foot stool to extra, easily moveable seating–it’s the greatest seat in the great room!
Next, think about tables in your room and their purpose–from coffee tables to game tables to end tables–where will these pieces be most useful to those in the room? Consider where people will want a place to set a drink down, or play a game or simply have a space to set their phone down.
Finally it’s time to ground the room with a rug and address lighting. Look at the four corners of the room and make sure the light is distributed evenly in both daytime and evening. Maybe you need to add a table lamp or reading lamp depending on how you desire to use the various spaces within the room.
Last but not least, I always try to think about the five senses when I am designing a room:
SIGHT: Is the furniture placed well? Is the room too cluttered? Is there enough visual interest?
SMELL: Bring in some natural oils or a candle or something that can give a fresh smell to the room so it doesn’t get stale.
HEARING: Make sure you have a good sound system for those game days and movie nights.
TOUCH: Layer various textures in your room and add an element of coziness by incorporating pillows and throws–perfect for snuggling up to a good book or show.
TASTE: If this is a room for gathering, chances are you will be eating in here too. Don’t forget about performance fabrics to guard against inevitable spills, whether it be the cheese from the game day nachos or red wine from the holidays.
When you have all those boxes checked, rest assured the room is going to be pulled together. But remember, the fact that you’ve thought about every possible need for every person (and pet!) that will use the room–that is what will truly make the room a great room.