3 Golden Rules For Living Spaces

If you could pick any room in your home to decorate or redo, which would it be? As interior designers, it’s important for us to keep track of ‘house and home’ trends since they relate directly to our clients. So we were intrigued to hear that living and family rooms rule according to the just-released 2015 Houzz & Home survey. Whether budget-conscious or luxury-minded, 48% of all 260,000 respondents said these are the spaces they want to decorate or redo first; master bedrooms came in second with 23% of the vote.

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According to the just-released 2015 Houzz & Home study of Americans’ home-enhancement habits, the most-often redecorated space in a residence is the living and/or family room. Project: State Parkway

In our practice, most of our Chicago clients take the same approach; their living rooms come first. This makes perfect sense, since their living spaces are the social centers of their homes, whether they use them daily alone or with their families, or entertain often in the space. So creating living and/or family rooms to suit their wants and needs involves more than just coming up with programs that embrace style and glamour—these rooms have to also be livable, utilitarian and beautiful. Our team has seen more than its fair share of living and/or family rooms over the years, and experience has taught us to rely on three key principles to meet these essentials: find balance, highlight its assets and banish clutter.

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The art of creating an ideal living space requires us to forge a balance between beauty, utility and comfort. Lincoln Park Home

Finding Balance: Formal or relaxed? TV, talking or card games too? And how much media will the room need? It’s critical to consider every function that will take place in a living space to create balanced activity areas that fulfill owners’ needs and work with the realities of the room. For a couple that wanted to use their large, spacious and very formal living room for relaxing, entertaining their large circle of family and friends and formal and informal dining, we created three zones—a main seating area facing a beautiful hearth; a secondary seating area edging the windows that could also be used for informal dining; and a formal dining area closest to the kitchen. The same strategy worked to great effect in the main living space of a loft with a very different aesthetic. But for every client, finding balance requires its own bespoke solutions.


Achieving balance and harmony among elements in a room is important to make the space feel welcoming. Pied-à-terre

Highlight Its Assets: Each living or family room has its strengths, whether it’s picture windows showcasing breathtaking views, a show-stopping fireplace or architecturally significant bones. As interior designers, we must ensure the other elements play to this focal point to make the best use of the space, and make sure these natural assets shine. For instance, it makes sense to play to that gorgeous fireplace by surrounding it with a major seating arrangement and adorning the mantel appropriately. But an army of knickknacks can have a negative impact on its decorative muscle, which is where editing and the concept of balance we addressed above comes into play.

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The focal point of a room, be it a fireplace or the views outside, inform the layout of the furnishings and flow of the space. Lake County Estate

Banishing Clutter: Critical observations about clutter abound: it represents confusion, disorganization, delayed decisions and more. Even worse, it makes an oft-used living or family room unappealing, inefficient and unclean. Our solutions are simple and effective: less is more; let it go; and only keep what you truly use. These concepts can be applied to any decorative style and aesthetic, from cool and minimal to warm and deftly layered. But when it comes to arraying and displaying ‘stuff,’ it’s critical to pick a focal point for each tableau to achieve balance and edit. And just as Coco Chanel famously said to “take at least one thing off before you leave the house,” we think it’s helpful to take one thing ‘off’ tables or shelves —and are here to help with that process. All our years of practice (more than 100 years between everyone in our office) has made us expert editors.

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In the hands of a skilled interior designer, a room full of riches can appear charming rather than cluttered. Project: DreamHome 2014

21 Jul 2015

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