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Family Rooms

Historically, the first family rooms appeared in floor plans about 50 to 60 years ago. This room was a bit different in character from others. Less formal than a living room, the family room was to encourage family connection and conversation. The family room made its first appearance as an appendage of the kitchen, the heart of a home. At the same time, televisions sprouted from coast to coast. Televisions, like the radio was previously, became the anchor of the family room. Today, computer stations and interactive TV games are the main features, however. Because of technological advances, the idea of a family room is slowly fading.

Shelter magazines of the 1960s and ’70s often referred to the room as a den for gathering. Architecturally, the introduction of sliding glass doors allowed this newly minted room access to the outdoors. Over the years, not much has changed about the decor of this now ubiquitous room. Seating arrangements favored for family rooms are generally L-shaped and U-shaped groupings. Of course, sectionals have found a favorite spot in family rooms for ample and comfortable seating.

Mostly innovations in family rooms have to do with advances in audiovisual technologies, namely televisions to flat screens, and record players to CD players and web-supplied media. Family rooms are the perfect place for extracurricular activities such as instruments, puzzles and, yes, computer stations, too. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the concept of a custom wall unit and using an armoire to conceal a TV set, although these may be things of the past. TV aficionados today like to show off how sleek and thin and smart their TVs have gotten. You can almost control the world from the comfort of your couch.

Lately, in newer homes, the dedicated family room is starting to disappear. A new architectural concept has been trickling in: a great room that merges the functions of living room and family room, providing large open areas in which dining, cooking and living take place. Oftentimes, these spaces are double-height, which requires large furniture and accessories to scale the space down.

The new great room/family room truly encourages family gatherings and interaction and helps to reduce generation gaps by mixing up house spaces. Of course, each family is unique and room arrangements should be made for each family’s particular activities. The design and style should reflect those living there — a decorative moment for personal expression.

Family rooms are supposed to be casual and carefree. Some suggestions include washable or seasonal slipcovers for upholstered furniture. Multi-task lighting that can be dimmed and/or moved is a must for comfort and reading. Comfortable rugs underfoot provide warmth and reinforce a grouping or seating area. Rugs add character and color, depending on the pattern selected. Pillows and throws are finishing touches and create the ultimate comfortable family room.

It’s important to think about what comfort is in a family room so that the room may be used often by all members of the household.

Another trend in today’s family rooms is the addition of a nearby beverage center, and in some instances a snack bar, on which to place bowls full of things to munch on. With the convenience of on-demand TV programming, movie nights are still a popular means of informal family entertainment. Popcorn, please!

Joseph Pubillones is the owner of Joseph Pubillones Interiors, an award-winning interior design firm based in Palm Beach, Florida. His website is www.josephpubillones.com. To find out more about Joseph Pubillones and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

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