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Design Dilemma
Design Dilemma

Help with Family Room Makeover

Jennifer RossDecember 22, 2012
We moved into our new home 3 months ago. We love the bones of the house, but the decor needs some brightening up. Our immediate focus is on our family room, where we spend most of our time.

There are two main problems: 1) the room is decent size but every wall is punctuated by doors or windows, making a furniture layout challenging. No matter how we arrange, it interrupts traffic to the porch. 2) the house is surrounded by trees which are lovely however the rooms are very dark. The family room windows on the west side are shaded by an attached screened porch and the north side are, well, north. We get no direct sunlight and even a bright day doesn't light up the room very well.

The only built in lighting are two can lights above the fireplace. The walls are painted a khaki green, which is pretty in the photos but just makes the room darker. The carpet is a dark tan (short shag?). The trim is medium toned oak and in good condition - my husband would rather not paint any of it at this point. There are wood beams on the 8 ft. ceiling.

Our plan is to redo the entire room - hopefully making it brighter. In addition to new furniture and window coverings, we plan to add a 60" TV and some sort of console - not sure where to put it though. I don't think over the fireplace is an option because of the height of the mantle. The layout needs to be conducive to watching TV and enjoying the fireplace.

General room dimensions:
Fireplace wall - 12 ft with 5 ft. on each side of fireplace
French door wall - 5 ft. on each side of French doors (only center door opens in)
Kitchen wall - 19 ft. (8 ft. 4" space to left of kitchen door)
Fourth wall - 12 ft. with 36" opening in corner

My style of choice would probably be cottage, comfortable, and would like to bring color in through artwork, window coverings, and painted furniture, sticking with simple/classic upholstery.

I enjoy reading the discussion board on Houzz and look foward to seeing responses.

We need help!

Jennifer Ross
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Interiors International, Inc.
Well, considering you don't really want to do anything to fix the real problems at this point ie: paint. You really answered your own question. Float the furniture arrangement seeing you haven't the walls to put it against. Get a copy of Coastal Homes Magazine all you need will be in there. It will become your design bible.
    Bookmark   December 22, 2012 at 9:02AM
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As you are keeping the paint color, rug and natural woodwork/beams, you can work with that. It is just too bad that you are willing to spend all this other money and not work around a color that you love and will brighten your room.

Here is a pix with some really good ideas, so that when you do paint these pieces and colors will work with almost any color walls. Notice the fabric has the wall, sofa and leather colors.
Family Room · More Info
1 Like    Bookmark   December 22, 2012 at 9:34AM
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Dar Eckert
I would like to see you orient your seating toward the windows and if you decide at some point to paint the trim around windows and doors white it would help to brighten the room but for now it appears very warm and cozy.
Award Winning Mid Century Modern · More Info

Attached an example of how a similar room was designed with light colors. The problem with the attached design is that the fireplace would be behind the sofa. Perhaps a couple of chairs in front of the fireplace with small table for games would work.
1 Like    Bookmark   December 22, 2012 at 9:38AM
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Cancork Floor Inc.
As a flooring gal, I would love to see a floor that reflects the colours of the open beams. As you said, the bones are good! Why not show them off! You could stick with a beautiful, light wood/cork finish that would allow light to bounce around (a shiny surface will reflect light better than carpet). The paint HAS to go! Sorry but it is encouraging a dark space to become darker.
    Bookmark   December 22, 2012 at 9:50AM
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Working with what you have, It seems like you've done a good job with the layout.

If you are open to some construction , I'd suggest that you put a flat screen TV over the fireplace, put the long couch where the short couch is, and put the short couch where the TV is. A couple of considerations with this plan. 1) Try the couches in this position to see how they work before you move too far ahead. 2) You'll want to remove the mantel or move it down. Depending on how handy you and / or your spouse is, you may need to hire some help on this. Additional things to consider with a TV over the fireplace are how much heat comes through the brick when (if) you have a fire, and local code may dictate how far the mantel needs to be from the fire box.

Recessed lighting would be great in this room. Again, depending on how handy you are, that may require hiring someone. You could probably find a skilled handy man that can do the wiring and the drywall repair. If this is a ranch house, you don't have to worry about the drywall repair since the wiring can be done from the attic.

I'd consider painting the beams white. They'll blend into the ceiling and it will open the room up.

Another idea (if you're willing to sacrifice a window) would be some sort of a vertically oriented entertainment center / armoire to house the TV to the left of the fireplace and then putting one of the couches where the TV currently is.

I could see some cool black & white art or family pictures on the back wall.
1 Like    Bookmark   December 22, 2012 at 9:55AM
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The other problem with the above pic, is that those aren't windows in the "problem room", they're doors, so inevitably, people will walk in front of the TV to the doors. Annoying! The set up you have is basically good because the seating is facing the fireplace and the TV. It seems like two sofas are closing it in. Instead of a sofa in front of the doors, try a couple of chairs with a table in between. it'll open it up visually, as well as looking outside. Put a sofa table behind the one with it's back facing you. When you come in, it'll be something pretty to look at or serve as storage. Against the other open wall, a bookcase or open wall unit, even a small game table with a couple chairs. Depends how you want to use the room. Look at Stanley's Coastal Living collection. Really nice
1 Like    Bookmark   December 22, 2012 at 10:01AM
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Design Freedom, inc.
thought these drawings might be helpful to everyone. having 2 separate seating areas might work for both the room layout and the cottage feel. a cozy area in front of the fireplace - add ottoman or low table or low bookshelves under the windows. and move the new tv and seating area to the other end of the room.
1 Like    Bookmark   December 22, 2012 at 10:19AM
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Sometimes a room can be brightened by "limbing up" trees outside the windows. This involves removing lower branches that overhang the windows. One can also thin the branches in the trees to let more light through. If you decide to do this, hire a good arborist, because you don't want to ruin the shape of the trees.

Are you unwilling to paint the walls or just the woodwork?
1 Like    Bookmark   December 22, 2012 at 10:29AM
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BY DESIGN Builders
We worked on a home a number of years ago where the owner insisted on keeping all the oak doors and trim. We painted the walls and ceilings a complementary color that really made the oak pop. Paint is the easiest solution and can solve the "feeling" of a space. The white ceilings could use some toning down and the walls, at least some of them could use some lightening up. Don't be afraid of paint, it can be your best friend especially when on a budget.
1 Like    Bookmark   December 22, 2012 at 11:45AM
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Jennifer Ross
I may have mislead everyone in thinking we didn't want to paint at all, but that's not the case. We do want to paint the walls, but I want to choose a color that will brighten the room. We're just not sure what that would be. White seems rather boring though. Sorry for any confusion.
    Bookmark   December 22, 2012 at 12:39PM
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