Adaptable//Sustainable: Rethinking the Living/Dining Room

Part 4 in the series “Adaptable//Sustainable: DIY Home Adaptation//Remaking Your Space to Work for You.”

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The living room is often hard to rearrange, since the furniture is big and may have some built-in elements, like the fireplace or an entertainment center.  Often living and family rooms are larger than we need them to be, if they are mostly used for television viewing.

Here are some tips for rearranging the furniture:

  • Pull it off the wall: it seems that both living rooms and televisions have been getting bigger. But unless you do aerobic workout videos, there’s no reason for the wide chasm between your TV and couch. Create an intimate sitting area and TV viewing area by pulling the couches and chairs away from the wall and arranging them around the coffee table. Use a rug to define the space.
  • Try some angles: make the new arrangement fresh by turning furniture 45 degrees from the wall. In a living area without a television or fireplace as a focal point, angle the couches and chairs to open up to the window.
  • Move the couch or seating cluster closer to the television, and use the extra space to add a table behind the couch. The table can be used for games, puzzles, homework, laptops, crafts, etc. And, without the wide chasm between the TV and couch, the TV doesn’t need to be so large.
  • On that note, if you have both a family room and a formal dining room, consider switching them. The larger room can serve as the formal dining area, library and parlor/formal living/TV-free area. The smaller room then serves as the smaller family room/TV viewing area.
  • Utilize an underused space:  Place a bookshelf behind the couch. Not only will you make use of an underutilized space, when you are sitting on the couch you are facing away from the visual clutter.

DINE-BY-THE-FIRE
Dine by the fire: Formal dining in what was meant to be a living room.

A large bookcase like the Expedit from Ikea is perfect for placing behind the couch. Books and DVDs are accessible but out of sight when sitting in the living room. Don’t want to let those blocked bottom shelves go to waste? Use them to store rarely used items, like holiday decorations or alternate throw pillows and blankets for changing up colors. 

If your house or condo was built in the last 10 years, chances are you have an open floor plan, with the kitchen open to the living room. This is great for many reasons: people working in the kitchen are not separated from those hanging out in the living room, the kitchen has replaced the living room as the center of the house, and the kitchen gets plenty of light. Practically, however, this is not always ideal, as there is no way to shut off kitchen noise (like when the dishwasher is running at night when you are trying to watch a movie). A piece of furniture like the Expedit shelf, shown above, can be placed back to back with an Expedit TV Storage Unit, can serve as a room divider to divide the TV area from the eating area, and should provide enough storage for every book, magazine, and DVD in the house.
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Add a game room without adding square footage. Really, how often would you use an extra game room or billiards room? Make use of the larger dining room you now have (if you switch the living and dining areas as suggested above) or that large open space if you have one of those open kitchen/dining/living areas. Instead of chairs on one side, use a storage bench to store cards, games and puzzles.
The Fusion Pool Table by Aramith is a clean, modern dining room table that doubles as a pool table.
 A storage bench in the place of a few kitchen/dining chairs provides seating and storage for games. Modus Furniture on Amazon.
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We all know that large home theater rooms in spec home McMansions are so 2004. Who wants to pay for 300 square feet with no windows and only one purpose? Create a home theater in the place you are most comfortable, your living room. Invest in some blackout curtains or Roman shades for the windows (which also come in very handy for keeping the house cool in the summer). Keep extra pillows and blankets in storage ottoman like the one shown above, and set up the front row of the theater in front of the ottoman.
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Make sure your living room is working for the way you really live. If not, don’t be afraid to roll up your sleeves and rearrange that large furniture in way that will work for you.
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Next week: Adaptable//Sustainable: Adding a library to the formal dining room.