Interior Design for Living: Decide Needs Before You Start To Redecorate the Family Room


Q: Our family room desperately needs to be redesigned. We have three small children and the room gets a lot of use by the entire family and does not serve our needs. I want it to be attractive but it also has to be efficient. Can you give me some direction on how to approach this?

A: First of all, decide exactly what activities take place in the room and then decide the space to best accommodate all of these.

Do you watch television as a family? Do you listen to music or tapes? Do you entertain in this room? Do you serve food here? Do you play board games or cards? Do the children often have their friends in to play? Is a lot of reading or "close" work done here?

These are only a fraction of the things to ask yourself before you begin, but they are crucial to a well-designed room.

The responses to all these questions are important, for they help to determine the furniture layout as well as the storage.

Every room should be designed to serve the people who use it. Because every family's needs and wants are different, so should the room reflect their individual personalities.

If you watch a lot of television, be certain to place it at a comfortable distance from the seating area. If it's too close, or too far, it can strain your eyes.

Also, with young children, do not put it too high. Frequently, they like to lie on the floor to watch TV, no matter how comfort­able the furniture is.

Also, do not put the television in front of the window. The glare of the light in the daytime is very offensive.

If you listen to music in the family room, and take it serious­ly, you will want the speakers to be a certain distance apart and at a certain height. This distance varies from speaker to speak­er but it is crucial for the optimum quality of sound. Your strict adherence to this depends upon the sophistication of the stereo system you own and your personal requirements. If you enjoy music only as a background, or the children want to hear their "Sesame Street" record, the details don't have to be so precise.

Regardless, if you want any type of stereo system in the room, you have to plan for storage. Not only do you have various com­ponents, but there are also many records, tapes, discs, and other accessories. You should compute how much space should be allotted for each of these and the best way to store them.

Most people like to store records vertically and many like to keep their tapes in slotted compartments or in a shallow drawer with dividers. This way neither are stacked and are easily accessible.

Do not store stereo equipment or accessories near heat or in the direct sun.

If you entertain or serve food in the room, consider the extra seating you may require. A small table and chairs, if the room is large enough, could not only work well for serving food, but also for playing cards, games or even doing paperwork. Be certain the light above it is on a dimmer switch allowing for a change in brightness depending upon the function the table is serving.

You may also think of installing a service bar or a bar with a counter and stools if you do a lot of entertaining. The counter also comes in handy for serving hors d'oeuvres, a buffet, or a snack for the children.

In planning your room arrangement, be sure to leave a fair amount of open floor space. This is important for young children. They have a lot of games, blocks, trucks and other things that need uncluttered space to be enjoyed - especially when they have their friends over to play.

It is important to provide a ceiling mounted fixture which gives off a lot of light for general illumination and adequate
storage for their toys.

When selecting the furniture, consider that many people who read or enjoy knitting or other "close" work need light. Try to place the pieces of furniture they will use close to a window, if possible. Also provide a good, efficient incandescent light which shines from behind, just over the shoulder.

Keep in mind that many people who read or knit like a chair with two arms at a comfortable height.

Others prefer the flexibility of a sectional unit which can be rearranged at will and maximizes seating capacity.

Determine the amount of space you need to store or display your books or anything else you might want to keep in the room. Try to leave it fairly flexible, as your needs will change in years to come.

Every room should be functional as well as aesthetic. Be­cause a family room often serves more functions than most, it frequently takes more planning to work well.

Often analyzing it the way we have done here, makes it ea­sier. Many decisions are, in a way, already made because they are crucial to the efficient organization of the room.