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Family cuddled up on a large white couch in a family room

Family Room: What It Is And How To Decorate One

Rachel Burris7-Minute Read
May 06, 2020

After a long day, it’s nice to have a room designated for unwinding, a room that’s designed to be cozy and informal. Historically, the living room has been the place where family and friends congregate. However, as our lifestyles have evolved, so has the way we use the rooms in our homes.

These days, many houses have both a living room and family room, but these rooms serve slightly different purposes. While the living room is used to entertain guests, the family room is reserved for bringing the household together. If you’re looking to make your house feel like even more of a home, learn what family rooms are and how you can create one with the right interior design and arrangement.

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The Family Room

A family room is a multipurpose room in a house where family members gather to talk, play games and watch TV. The space is meant to be a more casual setting than the other rooms in the house and is therefore designed to be cozy.

Family Room Vs. Living Room

modern family room with large white couch and TV

Modern Family Room

There tends to be quite a bit of confusion as to whether a family room is the same thing as a living room. Although there may be overlap in their functions, there are nuanced differences between these two rooms.

As the lower key of the two, the family room tends to be where kids escape to play videogames, and the household gathers for family movie nights. The living room, on the other hand, tends to be where cocktails are served to guests, and extended family is hosted on special occasions.

Because of their distinct purposes, the family room and living room also differ in their formality, location and decoration. To get a deeper sense of the disparities between these two rooms, let’s take a look at each of these categories more closely.

Formality

At the core of the difference between the family room and living room lies formality. The family room tends to be an informal space that feels lived-in, while the living room is a more formal, distinguished room.

The family room is often called a “den,” “rec room” or “media room,” as it’s meant to serve as a place where the family can escape for relaxation and fun. In contrast, the living room, which is sometimes referred to as a “parlor” or “sitting room,” is centered around entertaining guests in a more traditional manner.

 

Location

When identifying an area of the house as either a family room or living room, location plays an important role. The family room is usually located next to the kitchen and often features a door to the backyard, allowing the family easy access to snacks and outdoor activities.

The living room is generally located near the front of the house, which is why some people refer to it as the “front room.” The location of the living room is particularly important as it should be one of the first parts of the house that guests see. By keeping the living room by the front door, hosts can also prevent guests from traveling through other rooms that may be more cluttered and ill-prepared for outside inspection.

However, depending on the layout of the house, some homeowners may choose to set up the family room in the basement. This choice is often made to limit kids’ screen time and ensure that the family’s media consumption is separated from the kind of bonding that naturally occurs in other rooms of the house.

 

Decoration

Upscale family room

Upscale Family Room

Another distinction between the family room and living room revolves around how they’re decorated. For a family room, the decor is all about comfort and functionality. As a result, a family room may be filled with heartier, cozier furniture and eclectic decorations that make it appropriate for family members of all ages. The focal point of this room tends to be the TV – as it’s where the family will gather to consume media – so seating is arranged to face it.

luxurious living room with fireplace

Luxurious Living Room

Conversely, the living room emphasizes aesthetics, focusing on the style and look of the space instead of its function. Therefore, it tends to be a sophisticated environment designed with high-end furnishings and decor that are better suited for adults. Given its central location, the living room sets the mood for the home, so it’s often styled to look more like something you’d see in a home magazine – particularly when staging the house to sell. Since the room is primarily meant for conversation, sofas and chairs are angled to face either each other or a fireplace if there is one.

Family Room Furniture

When designing your own family room, furniture should be your paramount concern. The best furniture will elevate the overall coziness of the space. Although your personality and lifestyle should be the main influence on the types of furnishings and decor you use to design your space, there are certain pieces that are commonly found in family rooms.

 

  • Sectionals or large, deep-seated sofas: Since the best family rooms are cozy havens within the house, it’s vital that the room possesses only the most comfortable furniture. Sectionals tend to be an ideal choice, as they are large enough for the whole family to stretch out on at once.
  • Various lounge chairs, recliners and ottomans: While the kind of seating you select should suit your style, make sure that all of the furniture in the room enables you to lay back and relax.
  • Coffee table and side tables: When you’re lounging, you’re going to want a place to rest your snacks and beverages. Having a coffee table in the center of the room and side tables abutting the couch will enable you and your family to comfortably nosh while you watch your favorite flicks.
  • Television and accompanying entertainment unit: Given that most activities that take place in the family room revolve around the TV, you want to make sure that your screen and entertainment unit are positioned in a central location. Remember, the furniture in the room should be facing the TV to make it more comfortable to enjoy.
  • Multiple throw pillows and blankets: Whether you have a sectional that takes up the majority of the room or different recliners surrounding the TV, you want comfy throw pillows and warm blankets nearby. These small touches enhance not only the coziness of the room but also its aesthetic appeal.

 

Although furniture tends to be expensive, especially when it comes to purchasing sectionals, there are many websites that offer affordable home decor. You may want to check out your options before you begin decorating the rest of the room.

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Family Room Ideas For Design and Decorating

Some homeowners choose to design their family rooms with a minimalist’s eye, so they can save their decor budget for rooms used for entertaining. However, the best family rooms are just as vibrant and stylish as they are comfortable and inviting.

rustic style family room with lanters

Rustic Family Room

There are certain home decor styles that lend themselves to family rooms because of the warm and fuzzy feeling they give residents. The farmhouse aesthetic present in this family room is a prime example. The rustic home decor draws inspiration from rugged, raw elements of nature. The distressed wooden beams, floorboards, ladder and coffee table add warmth to the room, which is enhanced by the lanterns hanging from the ceiling. The cozy room is further elevated by the deep-seated couch, throw pillows and plush ottoman.

bohemian style family room with burnt sienna couch

Bohemian Family Room

The bohemian style family room depicted above brings coziness to a completely different aesthetic. Here it’s the dazzling array of colors and textures that make the room feel personalized and welcoming. The eclectic materials used for the side table, light fixtures and artwork furnish the room with a quirky character. Meanwhile, the plush, copper sofa, distressed, black leather poufs and bright-colored throw pillows add vibrancy and physical comfort to the room.

If you would like to design your room according to a particular style, you may want to take a look at some of the other popular home decor options. If not, here are some tips that are useful for all family room designs.

 

  • Make it spacious: Large, open spaces make for great family rooms, as they make it easy to move around.
  • Built-ins: Adding built-in units around the room is a great way to store DVDs, books and personal items, like family photos. Having cabinets and shelves in your family room will help keep the space organized and make it feel homier.
  • Colors: Take some time to think about the ideal color of your walls, artwork and decor. Consider choosing either bright and vibrant or neutral colors for your decor and finding an appropriate paint color to match.
  • Fuss-free fabrics: Since this room may be where your kids play the most, you should make an effort to buy furniture that’s upholstered in durable, easy-to-clean textiles. Rugs and carpets should also be made of low-maintenance materials.
  • Special amenities: Since this room is meant for relaxing and having fun, you may want to consider adding a ping pong, foosball or pool table. The addition of table games will enable your family to bond without screens.

 

Remember, the look and feel of your family room should reflect how you want your family to enjoy the space and interact with each other.

Conclusion

Unlike a formal living room, a family room is intended to be a relaxing, cozy environment that makes you want to curl up and watch a good movie with the people you love most. When designing your own, make sure to incorporate comfortable furniture and decorate the room in whatever style you find the most enticing. This room is all about your family, so you must consider their needs and habits when thinking about how to style it.

If you would like more ideas for home repair, renovation or design projects, check out our other homeowner tips.

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Rachel Burris

Rachel Burris is a writer covering topics of interest to present and future homeowners, as well as industry insiders. Prior to joining Rocket Companies, she worked as an English teacher for the New York City Department of Education and a licensed real estate agent for Brown Harris Stevens. She holds a bachelor's degree in creative writing from Bucknell University, a postbaccalaureate certificate in psychology from Columbia University and a master's degree in English education from Teachers College, Columbia University.