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Like dining rooms, the idea of a formal living room is going extinct. As our lives become more casual yet busier, we no longer need a space for sitting and doing not much else. People don’t spend a lot of time where there isn’t a TV or mom cooking dinner in the nearby kitchen. In today’s open floor plans, many homeowners are eliminating a separate living room and incorporating that space into a single, large great room.

Q: How do you create a living room that everyone will love to gather in?

A: First, consider how you’re going to use the space. How many people will fit in it? A family room is a place where everyone gathers to watch TV, so having comfortable furniture is important. A sectional is great; no one sits in a loveseat. And more chairs can create more comfort for more people. Comfort also means more casual fabrics – no pattern on pattern — and furniture that feels lighter and has straight lines. Less clutter is better.

Space planning is where it all starts. We are one of the only interior design firms with an in-house architect who can do the drawings before you even buy anything so you’ll understand the traffic patterns through the space. That’s especially important here because we can show how furniture will be situated in the room so we are sure all pieces are going to fit.

Q: How much furniture should go in the room?

A: I started out in furniture 40 years ago, so I understand that realm well. I get it right the first time because I have the client’s space plan before ever going shopping. We have to figure out how you’ll use the room and create the drawings to determine how many pieces of furniture you’ll need and at what scale. Only then can we pick fabrics and rugs and all the decorations. Accessories are important, but keep them minimal and well-thought-out so there’s not a lot of clutter.

Q: How do you make a memorable impression in this space?

A: To me, a memorable impression is making sure my client is happy. A number of them have said, “She knew exactly what I wanted if I’d known how to do it myself.” Whether your style is traditional or contemporary, it’s about how your family wants to use the space.

The best way to get there is to do one whole room at a time. That will ensure the best results. We install a whole room at one time. Furniture, accessories, area rugs, and window treatments. When we’re done, it’ll be all ready for a magazine photo shoot.

Q: How do you choose color scheme in an open floor plan?

A: I consider it all one big room, so you have to pick wisely. You can choose a few colors, but they have to relate to each other. For instance, take colors that are used somewhere in the other space so the look is cohesive. It can be challenging to get it right because everything has to be planned together, even if you’re only redoing one room at a time.

Q. What is a Hearth Room and how do I furnish it?

A: I had not heard of a Hearth Room until I moved to Kansas City. They are attached to the kitchen area and often small and difficult to furnish. Space planning this area is important to get the right size of furniture to put in this space. It is important to get the right scale and not over furnish the room. It can also be used as a dining area and the dining area used as a seating area by the windows.

Q. Is it worth it to purchase quality furniture for my family room?

A: As an interior designer for over 40 years my answer would be yes. I have many wood accent pieces that have been collected for over for over thirty years. If you purchase good quality wood pieces they can be combined with your new furnishings and had interest to the new space. I have painted, darkened or lightened many accent pieces to look current to the new surroundings.

Design Tip: “It is important to have a space plan for this very special room in your home. It will save you purchasing furniture and rugs that are the wrong scale and size for the room. Hiring an interior designer for this purpose saves you time and money and will ensure a perfect fit for all your furnishings.”



If your living room, family room or great room is ready for a facelift, give us a call today at 913-210-0511 or e-mail us at to set up a time for your complimentary in-studio consultation with Arlene.

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