what would you do with this family room?

robindenver9September 4, 2012

We're closing on this house at the end of the month, and I am at a loss for where to start with decorating it. It's a totally different style from where we moved from (1939 bungalow) and I am particularly lost when it comes to this family room.

What do other people do with these huge 2 story rooms? The stark white walls are not appealing to me at all, but the oak trim is throwing me off when trying to pick paint colors. I'm currently leaning towards painting all the trim white over time so I can choose whatever paint colors I'd like.

Mostly I'm looking for ideas: if this was your family room, how would YOU decorate it? Thanks!!

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What does the room look like from the fireplace to where you were standing when you took the picture? What is beyond the windows? For sure I would not want to cover the upper windows, but that depends on the sun/heat factor and what the space that looks like a balcony is? What are the wood slats to the left of the chimney? Are they shelves? They scream dust collectors and would have to go for me. I am not a fan of firewood niches. Firewood comes with bugs and I would never store it in my house. Otherwise I love the fireplace bricks and wood detail. I think I would prefer it to be balanced right to left with a wood built in in the left corner by the windows instead of the niche.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2012 at 6:00AM
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Annie Deighnaugh

I too would like to see a pic of the rest of the room.

What functions do you want to have in here? Will it be a gathering space? A play space? A TV space? That will determine what you put in the room.

I agree about the upper shelves as being impossible to get too and to clean. We have stored wood in our house though without bug issues. We store it in the garage first to "de bug" then bring it in the house as needed. The worst thing that happened was when the cat brought in a mouse that crawled off under the wood pile to die. Not pleasant. Phew!

Scale is going to be critical in this space. I can see very dramatic drapes hanging all the way from the top off the upper windows. And you'll need a huge piece of art for over the fireplace.

Mediterranean Living Room design by Dallas Interior Designer Siddons Design Team, Decorating Den Interiors

Traditional Living Room design by Other Metros Interior Designer Deborah Welch

Paint would really warm up the space. The palette right now is so neutral that you can go in any direction. A pale gray would be nice if you want a cooler color scheme, or a warm beige would be nice that picks up on the undertones of the oak trim. I wouldn't paint the oak...it adds some warmth to a very large space.

But paint color selection is going to be important given how open the space is to other areas on the lower level and above in the balcony area. You can do some more contemporary things with color blocking by selecting a bold color palette and going with it.

Contemporary Dining Room design by Dc Metro Interior Designer Kelly Porter

    Bookmark   September 4, 2012 at 7:46AM
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First, what do you like about it, and what do you dislike about it?

    Bookmark   September 4, 2012 at 7:53AM
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If it were my room I wouldn't paint the trim, it's gorgeous! I would also keep the shelves. Great place to put an interesting collection. Dusting will be a hassle, but you won't have to dust that often.

The wood box is only used in the winter, so that's a great place to store wood. In the summer you can put something decorative inside.

I think your room can take almost any color because of the light from the windows.

I would love to be in that room when it snows!

    Bookmark   September 4, 2012 at 9:05AM
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Thanks for the feedback so far! Here's the rest of that panorama (hence the slight skewing of the photos) - the photo was taken standing in the doorway between the family room and the kitchen.

I plan to use the room as the tv/hang out/hopefully not too messy play room for my two little ones (3 and 11 mos). I'm not thrilled with this as our main space to hang out because it is SO open to all the other rooms - in our old house I was able to keep the kid toy explosions so you only saw them when you went in our rec room. Not sure how I'm going to not be compulsively picking up ALL THE TIME in this new space.

Any suggestions for where to go about getting a huge piece of art for the fireplace wall that doesn't cost an arm and a leg?

    Bookmark   September 4, 2012 at 9:29AM
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Here's if you pan the other way - windows and then breakfast nook.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2012 at 9:30AM
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I like Annie's postings of drapery - that sort of arrangement would work very well for your room. You can try it first with fabric that is inexpensive, since you will need so much of it. SImple unbleached muslin, or fine-textured burlap, or lightweight artists' canvas, or sailcloth, or theatrical scrim - hunt around and see what you can find. With very long panels, deep weighted hems will help to make them hang correctly, particularly if you start with something lightweight.

And I'm with you - I think your first task should be to paint the trim white - everything except the handrails and newel post of your stair and mezzanine - before you choose a wall color or group of colors.

I would also take down those shelves. They emphasize the soaring ceiling, in a way that makes the space seem too much like a corporate lobby, which is the feeling you are trying to avoid.

For the same reason, to make it seem more like home and less like a rustic hotel, I would seriously consider whitewashing the brick of your fireplace and chimney breast, to emphasize that lovely Scandiavian-looking wooden panel. Imagine that whole wall in the same creamy white, with that dramatic panel and your mantel shelf as the stars of the show.

As you can tell, I am not part of the school of thought that holds all natural materials in their original state to be holy. If it isn't working, and doesn't make your room beautiful, comfortable, or homelike, paint it!

If, on the other hand, you really love the brick like it is, find a way to work with it as a feature - in your case, a solution could be to paint the surrounding wall in the same tone as the wood in the panel.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2012 at 9:35AM
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I would certainly not paint the woodwork. The doors and trim are beautiful! If you plan to paint it all over time, by the time you've finished white woodwork will be out again! It looks like your kithchen cabs and floor are oak, too. Surely there are enough wall paint colors in the world that you can find one that will compliment the wood color. And the fire place brick and wood is to die for!

What color is your furniture? Will you be buying new? How big is your budget? Will you and your hub be doing the work yourselves? I would hire professionals to paint the room a color that suits your furniture before moving in, perhaps removing the shelves if you really dislike them, or painting them the wall color.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2012 at 10:12AM
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It looks like it could be a nice cheery space well suited to what you plan for it. Snowing outside and children playing happily inside, cookies in the oven, sound lovely.

Decor--maybe more exuberant and playful than serious? I don't see that builders-grade oak trim is doing anything good for it. What I'd like is to see what Sarah Richardson would do with it. It just suggests her general style to me.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2012 at 10:27AM
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I think it, again depends on what you like about the room.

Do you like the brick? Do you like the herringbone wood element? Do you like oak trim? kwim?

    Bookmark   September 4, 2012 at 10:39AM
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What direction are the windows facing? I think it's cute that people picture snow falling, and that will happen a few times, but (assuming you are still in Colorado, which it looks like, since that is a very typical family room here), the sun is the biggest thing! You might have to figure out some way to cover them on occasion if they are on the west side.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2012 at 10:49AM
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@mtnrdredux, I think that's where I'm struggling. What if I don't really like *anything* about the room? This house is the right size in the right school district and I really like the other rooms, but this family room... I'm totally struggling with how to make any of it "me".

Here's a shot of the living room in our old house, which I loved everything about. Most of this furniture will be moving into the formal living room in the new house. We will probably be getting all new furniture for the family room - a little over time - since right now all we have in our rec room is a futon, some wal-mart bookcases for toy storage, a cheap TV stand and a home-made desk.

Is there a way to take the style I really like of this living room and make it fit in this huge-ceilinged family room?

    Bookmark   September 4, 2012 at 11:10AM
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@segbrown: windows face north-east. thank goodness!

    Bookmark   September 4, 2012 at 11:14AM
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The trim seems way to wimpy and small in such a large scale room. The window trim especially seems to add nothing, but to break up the white of the wall a tiny bit. I'd go ahead and paint the trim. Or really beef up the trim, so that it makes a statement in the room.

Maybe leave the doors and railing as they are? The doors do look nice.

I'd take down those shelves, and look for some sort of fabric wall hanging. A large quilt or tapestry, perhaps. That and curtains will help with the noise level in the room, as well. Not a country, cutesy quilt, but a whole-cloth quilt, or an Amish quilt with solid colored fabric and a large, bold design.

If possible, I would try to build in some storage for all the toys. Maybe a long window seat under the windows, with drawers underneath to hold toys.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2012 at 11:15AM
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Okay - I was writing while you were posting the rest of the photos - so belay my thought about painting the wood. I couldn't see how much of the house is based on well-made, well-finished wood.

But I do hold to the idea that lightening the brick is a good idea.

In a series of rooms that is as complex as these, you might do well to get a little help from a designer who has some architectural training, and who is a good colorist.

The thing that strikes me most, now that I see the whole picture, is that it's a very lively interior - because of the way the curves and levels work, the house seems almost to move around you as you move through it.

If you try to superimpose a scheme that is suited to a more traditional layout like your previous house, I think you will never be happy with it. So I'd advise you to spend some time learning about the ways that more modern interiors like yours are handled, and slowly work your way into accepting the house for what it is, and making it yours without trying to make it into something it isn't.

Sounds a lot like being married, doesn't it...??
Happy surroundings, happy marriage, same idea....

    Bookmark   September 4, 2012 at 11:22AM
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@bronwynsmom, you've just hit on exactly why we bought this house! DH absolutely fell in LOVE with it, but I had to see at least 25 others before I gave in and said okay. Marriage is about compromise, right? The house has many positives, but it's just so different from what I'm used to that I'm STRUGGLING!

I'm assuming there are sites out there on the interwebs with good examples of how people furnish this style of house? Should I be search for "modern family room"? Any specific sites that people like for more modern interiors?

    Bookmark   September 4, 2012 at 11:31AM
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painted vs. stained woodwork is such a regional thing- perhaps it's 'the thing' in your new location... you might get used to it and learn to like it if that's what you see alot of in your new locale... i'd give it time!

i love the picture of the floor to ceiling curtains shown above- that would look great in your room! and, the fireplace place brick is really neutral and would look really nice with lots of different color schemes. the white is a really stark look---color will really help warm up the room! i'd take it slow and live in the house abit before buying too much furniture and trying to really decorate it. is that door by the fireplace a closet that can be used for toy storage!?

    Bookmark   September 4, 2012 at 11:39AM
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First and foremost: I would have the TV wired into the left-hand side of the fireplace.

Right now -- as far as I can tell from the photos -- the builder wants the TV on the wall that adjoins the kitchen -- which means that folks will keep walking through a major traffic-way. Also -- if that IS the location for the TV input -- then the windows/sun would be shining on the TV.

Therefore -- the first choice should be "where to place the TV" -- and I think that a TV might work well on the wall to the left-hand side of fireplace.

Next -- yes -- I would paint out SOME of the extra doors around the space -- just to make the whole visual focus switch back to the fireplace/window area. Right now -- the whole space is very visually choppy.

I would add a small brown leather sectional and a coffee table that offers storage to the center of the room -- facing the fireplace/TV. I would add bookshelves (with closed storage AND baskets) to the wall adjoining the kitchen. Bookshelves/storage would allow toys to be hidden -- AND would not impede traffic patterns.

THEN add backless saddleseat stools to the breakfast/snack bar. OR add low bookcases (with toy storage boxes/baskets) under that area ....

The place to look for inspiration -- POttery Barn website .... OR check out Ikea.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2012 at 11:56AM
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Do your walls really curve and move around you, robindenver, or is it a panoramic camera illusion?

Plus, I only see two tall walls...the one with the shelves on it, and probably the wall over the island between the k and fr. Painted the right color, I don't think it is necessary to hang something on that wall immediately. Once the room is furnished something will present itself.

Don't be stymied by trying to get a finished showplace in a short time.
I've seen many two story rooms with walls like yours that have nothing on them. Patience is a virtue, especially since you are still buying the basics.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2012 at 12:54PM
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If it were me, I would paint everything -- brick, trim, children's toys --- white. Ok just teasing about the children. Their toys I mean.

It's very distinctive, and some people probably love it as is. I think it is too much and needs to be toned down. You have a nice, bright sunny room with lots of volume and windows. I think the room should be about that and not about all the visual busyness of the fpl wall.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2012 at 1:42PM
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Admittedly, this isn't a great rendition, but at least you can get an idea of what could be with removed shelves, colored panels, and tile over the center of the fireplace. I chose a herringbone, because often you see old brick chimneys with a herringbone inset. I like the idea of washing the brick a lighter color. I painted out the dark window tops too.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2012 at 2:41PM
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Also, I wasn't necessarily suggesting using green. I found the green tile picture & used that color for drapes just for visualizing a color/any color around the windows.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2012 at 3:20PM
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I like the size and scale of the room! As for something above the fireplace, I would probably (first thoughts) paint the wood and if you are counting pennies right now, hang some sort of large iron work for now. Down the road you can always get something more to your taste.
As for the cubby - why not put a door on it and stow the kids toys in there? There are sooo many furniture pieces now that incorporate storage for toys, etc. I woudn't worry too much about the kids stuff. When your kids are grown then you can have a tidy/tidy space.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2012 at 3:34PM
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"What would you do with this family room?" Jump up and down with joy in the middle of the room!!

Annie, thanks for the inspirational picture with drapes...it is exactly what I am looking for. Yea!

    Bookmark   September 4, 2012 at 5:59PM
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I'll tell you what I'd do ... go to cohomefinder.com, and search for houses from $500K-$900K in Centennial (focus on neighborhoods like Piney Creek, Chaparral, Heritage Greens), Littleton (Ken Caryl), Superior. .. so many houses like this built in 1990s here. Seems like every third house has a similar family room.

To be honest, most of the real estate listings show "what not to do." But if you are visual like I am, you can see what you do and don't like about how they are decorated and furnished.

I'm not going to lie, I really don't like this very much so I'm not sure exactly what to do, so I'm not good at advice. But ... I think it's not so bad as it is. You could definitely do more harm than good. I don't think too much or too bright of paint is a good idea. (Maybe painting or staining the brick would help though.) Warm it up in other ways, with rugs and furniture. Lots of texture.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2012 at 11:20PM
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Annie Deighnaugh

Artwork can be found, but it takes some looking and it's all a matter of personal taste.

5' tall elephant $110.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2012 at 11:44PM
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This is what I would do:

    Bookmark   September 5, 2012 at 12:46AM
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Look at this one) it`s bright and spacious

Here is a link that might be useful: This is from the 'Dream Home' app

    Bookmark   September 5, 2012 at 4:24AM
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kellyeng, that's a terrific mock-up! You did wonders with that room.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2012 at 8:06AM
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Good job kellyeng!

    Bookmark   September 5, 2012 at 8:56AM
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kellyeng that is amazing! i really think the white trim makes a HUGE difference and i love the visual of the brick and wood white-washed! very cool, thank you!

    Bookmark   September 5, 2012 at 9:17AM
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Big like kellyeng!

    Bookmark   September 5, 2012 at 9:33AM
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All right then!

Kellyeng has done a perfect job. I'd jump right in and copy it down to the last detail. Color, scale, furniture, vibrant rug, glistening drapery, the works.

Really. I think it's perfection. And I never think that.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2012 at 10:01AM
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@kellyeng, is that green a specific paint color? showed this to DH and he really liked it!

    Bookmark   September 5, 2012 at 10:32AM
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Wow, that is amazing kellyeng! Im my opinion, just the right feel for someone like robin with young kids. If I were you Robin, I would ask kellyeng for her sources and start my online ordering! I recognize some of the artwork from Wisteria and Pottery Barn. The only thing I would change is the coffee table, maybe a storage ottoman at this stage with the little ones.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2012 at 10:46AM
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Kudos to Kellyeng, all of us want that room. It looks just like the poster's taste.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2012 at 11:49AM
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I recognize that patchwork wood art that is hanging on the stair wall - it's already in my inspiration file! We have some old pallets in the garage so I'm hoping I can use them to do an art project with my 3-year old (she paints each piece, I assemble) over time to create that same look.

The think I love the most about kellyeng's mock-up is you can really see the value of the larger white baseboard. Definitely going to use to convince DH to get rid of that tiny oak baseboard over time.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2012 at 12:15PM
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Kudos Kelly!

What I think really works is the wood mantle and end table, which ties it in with the dark wood trim you can see from this room and which I imagine is throuhgout the house. That was one of my conundrum; how to "whitewash" this room without causing a disconnect.

Don't you love GW?

    Bookmark   September 5, 2012 at 12:32PM
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Kellyeng - What vision you have! It really looks great.


    Bookmark   September 5, 2012 at 12:51PM
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Ah shucks everyone, thanks! I knew I was doing something good because it was just flowing and didn't take long at all. I was really going for something bright and cheery for little kids but also would look good with your kitchen - going off of the little bit of granite you can see on the bar.

Also, you can make these changes gradually. I think the big projects are the wood floor and taking the carpet off of the stairs.

Robin, the color on the wall is a Sarah Richardson paint called "Citrine" (SR63). Keep in mind it may not actually look anything like what you see on the computer screen.

Here is a link that might be useful: Sarah's Paint

    Bookmark   September 5, 2012 at 2:03PM
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I think if you wanted to you could carefully encase the upper part of the chimney with drywall and preserve the brick and chevron patterned planking.

That has a very strong personality and maybe it is "too much" for you at this point. I would not permanently alter it, however.

I think the contrast between the wood trim and the wallcolor is much too strong. I think the high contrast makes most of the trim look dinky and undersized for the room actually. But I wouldn't paint *it either, I would just pick a color that didn't make the room a vast off-white shell with brown strips here and there.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2012 at 2:45PM
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RobinDenver, in the shot you labeled as Breakfast Nook, is the room behind the stone counter with the chandy & glass door the BN?

If yes, what is the possibility of turning THAT room into the play room for the little ones? You would have a lovely are for toys, craft projects ala daughter painting the palets, easy access to the outdoor "play room", nap-time, etc. May be a bit unconventional or different from what it was designed ;-)

By addressing the little ones' concerns first, you would free your mind for creative options. It's too much of a challenge being creative while compulsively picking up toys & clutter.

Oh! What I'd do with the family room? Since I'm a SCAdian...recreate an early 12th-century Great Hall with tapestries, arms, musician's pit, fire spit, etc. LOL We would have music, dancing, merry making and feasting. Not quite what it was designed for, either. Definitely keep the white walls and all of the woodwork, too.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2012 at 3:21PM
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That looks great, but a white sofa for a kids' playroom?

    Bookmark   September 5, 2012 at 3:57PM
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I'd keep the shelves as they balance the brick/wood wall. Just hang some art above the mantle below the 1st shelf but leave the shelves bare as an architectural feature.

I'd paint the walls a mid-tone neutral color, maybe take a shade from the brick or wood - taupe (lighter than the wood) or grey. I wouldn't paint the trim if it's a decent quality and I don't think it limits your wall color choices much.

Eventually I'd replace the wall to wall with hardwood but with small children it makes a good playing surface. Buy a good carpet cleaning machine or find, and use, a good commercial carpet cleaning company!

I'd put blinds on the windows rather than fabric draperies for easier care and a simple look. The upper windows will need cordless motorized blinds and the lower ones could as well. I'd do all the kitchen windows with the same blinds.

Bring in color and pattern in upholstery and accessories and provide the kids with toy chests that don't look like toy chests but are part of a more adult looking decor. Covered baskets on shelves work well also. Expecting kids to clean up after themselves is an important parental responsibility in teaching useful life skills.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2012 at 6:01PM
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