Like most colonial houses, our house has a family room and a living room. And like most homeowners, we spend a lot more time in our family room than we do in our living room. In fact, my 7-year-old still gets confused when I use the term “living room.” It is now known simply as the “red” room in our house.

With a few minor changes and a lot of inspiration, you can turn your living room into something you would actually live in! Here are some possible uses and design tips to help you get started:

home Office – Home Office means different things to different people. It could be a place to pay bills and file documents, or a place for kids to do homework, or you can run a business from home. Whatever your definition, center your design around the function of the room.

  • Provide a clear surface on which to work. It’s easy for a desk or table to become cluttered with “stuff,” resulting in no place to work. Tight for space? How about a table that folds out from the wall when needed (like a Murphy bed)?
  • Add a comfortable desk chair that’s adjustable and doesn’t creak (trust me!). If your room has carpet, consider a plastic floor protector to help you move around more easily.
  • Add lots of hidden storage, but be sure to clearly label your storage units so you know where to find things.
  • Lighting is key! You will need good overhead and task lighting. If there’s no ceiling light, add some overhead lighting.
  • Select functional accessories that add personality by not cutting into space. But be careful not to make it too institutional – it’s still your home, after all!
  • Keep the palate light and bright to inspire energy.
  • Minimize and secure cables as much as possible. Use wireless technology whenever possible.

Library – Love to read? Do you have a large collection of books? Turn your living room into a cozy place to curl up with a good book! It’s like having your own coffee shop.

  • Add lots of shelves. Instead of just adding shelving, consider custom shelving built around a window to create a window box seat. Not only will you get extra storage, but you’ll add a wonderful focal point to the room.
  • Instead of a traditional sofa or loveseat, opt for two or three comfortable club chairs (depending on the space). Gather those chairs around a round glass-topped coffee table with a wooden shelf below to display some of your favorite coffee table books.
  • Provide task lighting for each reading chair. Pharmacy lamps are excellent for this. Also make sure you have enough lighting to see the books on the shelves.
  • As a library, you can comfortably use darker paint to create warmth.
  • Accessories: Add a warm-toned rug, soft throw blankets, and dot the walls with black-and-white photos to create a coffee shop feel.

toy room – A toy room can be a great compromise between parents and children in the eternal battle of toy clutter!

  • Opt for shelving with attractive bins that can hide clutter inside and allow for pick-up in less than 5 minutes. Open storage looks cluttered, even when the room is occupied. Avoid a collection of mismatched toy organizers – they look tacky!
  • Make sure the room is comfortable for both adults and children by adding a comfortable chair or loveseat.
  • Add a table and chairs for children. Tip: Put a machine-washable rug under it to survive craft time.
  • Keep the room bright with cheerful colors, but avoid “cheesy”; save it for their bedrooms.
  • If your kids like movies, add a TV and DVD player.
  • Set clear rules for cleaning and stick to them!

Press room – Do you like to watch movies? Create your own movie theater in the comfort of your home!

  • Add French or pocket doors and light-blocking shades to create a dark and quiet environment on demand.
  • Add a big screen TV with surround sound.
  • Add a dimmer switch for better lighting control. Add task lighting to enable discreet multitasking while watching a movie.
  • Depending on how many people watch the movies, add enough comfortable seating. Tip: Use two angled love seats in the corners of the room facing the TV, and throw a couple of bean bags behind them for extra seating when needed.
  • For decoration, simply frame some of your favorite movie posters and hang them on the walls.
  • Don’t forget the DVD organizer and a handy remote control holder!

mud room -Depending on your home layout, you can turn your living room into an oversized “waiting cell” to accommodate coats, backpacks, shoes, calendars, cleaning supplies, dog bed, pet food, and much more. You get the idea!

  • Assign a “locker” to each member of the family (don’t forget the family pet). Lockers provide vertical storage that makes good use of space while concealing your messy contents. It’s a great storage solution for jackets, bags, backpacks and more. The lockers can be made of wood or metal, whichever you prefer.
  • Add wall hooks for guest coats, umbrellas, etc.
  • Add a shoe rack for wet or dirty shoes. Place vinyl placemats underneath to protect your floor.
  • Create a mailbox for each family member to control the flow of mail.
  • Add a credenza or file cabinet to file away all that mysterious paperwork lurking around the house.
  • Create a message center by painting a wall (or part of a wall) with magnetic and/or chalkboard paint. Make it “pop” by adding a large empty gold leaf frame!
  • Add a colorful rug. Instead of buying a large rug, opt for a couple of smaller rugs that are machine washable.
  • How about a small drop down table and a couple of chairs for small projects or to put on your boots?

bachelor party room – What can I say? If you must have one, here are some ideas:

  • Add a pool table and dart board (if there’s room).
  • Include a bar and some bar stools.
  • Opt for a darker paint color that shows no wear.
  • Display your favorite neon bar sign, deer head, or other prized possession.
  • Add a jukebox in the corner if you like.
  • Don’t forget the traditional “dogs playing poker” print!

Overwhelmed? Call an interior redesigner in your area. They specialize in making rooms work using what you already have. It’s a very cost-effective way to breathe new life into your old room.

It’s time to start living in your living room!

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