The living room has come to have varied functions. One type of living room is used for entertainment and front, while another type of living is the gathering place for the entire family for purposes of rest, conversation and the entertainment of friends. ~ Elizabeth Burris-Meyer, Decorating Livable Homes, 1937.
When I was growing up in the 60s and 70s, our neighbors called their living room the “front room.” It was only used on special occasions. My husband’s childhood home–a Civil War era farmhouse–had a “sacred room” that The Mister and his brothers were basically forbidden to enter without permission. In addition to this formal room for visitors, my neighbors and in-laws also had family rooms where the real living took place.
Mrs. Burris-Meyer tells us:
- If the living room is for entertainment only, another room is needed for relaxation and study (what we would call a family room today)
- The family room can also double as a guest room since (hopefully) most of the time it isn’t occupied with a guest
- The combo family-guest room should be furnished with a convertible couch or love seat
- Living rooms used for entertainment purposes only should have a feeling of lively formality. ” The more interesting the room, the more interesting the parties will be.”
- Any room for social purposes should be decorated with contrasting colors (though they don’t always need to be intense).
- Furniture for the formal living room should be selected and placed to encourage general participation rather than huddle formations
- Color schemes for family rooms should be welcoming and restful–primarily hues found in nature.
- Family rooms should have comfortable furniture and plenty of light–natural and artificial– for reading and other activities
- Although couches are common in family rooms, they aren’t essential. Overstuffed chairs placed in groupings can replace couches in “space challenged” rooms.
- In addition to comfortable chairs, a few straight chairs are needed (she doesn’t elaborate on why this is necessary…is it to discourage guests from staying around beyond their welcome?)
- Too many small tables and stools make a room feel cluttered and small. A coffee table and a couple of end tables are all that are needed.
- Books add a great deal of liveliness to a family room and the covers should be considered part of the color scheme. Don’t be afraid to create book jackets that will harmonize with the room’s color scheme.
We don’t have a formal living room and a family room. So, our living room has to double as the family room, too. When guests come, we use the fold-out couch in the front room and let them stay in our bedroom so that they can have a little more privacy in our small little house (that is just the right size for the two of us). I personally prefer the blue family of colors but the living room’s color scheme is in the brown family. It has a rather masculine feel to it but that is primarily caused by all of the cowboy, Native American and Revolutionary War sculptures created by The Mister. What I do like about our living room is that the television set is not the focal point of the room. Our couch faces the fireplace instead of the TV. We can see and watch TV from the couch but it isn’t what we immediately see when we sit on the couch. I love looking at old shows and ads and noticing that the TV is in the corner as almost an afterthought rather than the main event for the room.
What about you? Where is your main living space? Do you have a “sacred room” that is only used when company comes? What is your color scheme and what, if anything, needs to be rearranged.