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What makes a Great Room great?

Updated: Jul 7, 2023

Open floor plans are the most popular trend in housing right now. But as we’ve learned through “sheltering in place” the lack of walls and defined rooms makes it challenging for families who have to work, study and play without walls.

Great rooms typically have a kitchen, informal and/or formal dining space, and a family room all in the same space. The kitchen is pretty simple, but the arrangement of the other spaces can be tricky. The best way to start is to think about and list the function you need from the whole space. It could be living, dining, food prep and work. Then consider your family’s style of living. Is it super casual and kid-friendly? Is it a cool entertaining vibe? Is it sophisticated adult living?

Once you understand function and style of living, break your space into zones. Map it out on paper with a couple of different options – don’t think about measurements and furniture yet. Think about the functionality that makes sense for each area of the room. Does your family eat casually at a kitchen bar? Then you may need less space for formal dining. Some people forgo formal dining to put in a home office/student space. Do you have a large wall in your plan for the placement of the television? Is there a natural focal point like a fireplace that will command furniture placement?

Now that you have a sketch that reflects the functionality of your great room – your zones, it’s time to think about flow. One of the best ways to do that is a cohesive color scheme. This will create great flow and connection throughout the space. Think about the surfaces and finishes in the kitchen to get a start on your color inspiration. If you have marble and brass fixtures in the kitchen, you could choose greys and blacks for large furniture pieces and repeat brass accents throughout the room. If your surfaces are warm toned, you may choose beige, taupe or brown for large furniture. Use magazines and design sites to get inspiration!

There are many ways to define zones. Consider a rug to define the living space. A chandelier can delineate the dining space. A painted feature wall could designate room for your home office. A large piece of art can anchor a space. Floating your sofa in the living space with the back to your kitchen or dining space helps define the living area. One of the biggest mistakes is putting furniture against the walls in a great room. It will feel flat and one-dimensional. Need a study space? Place a desk or console behind the sofa and add a chair.

Place your main furniture and live with it. Wait to hang art and mount the TV. See how it feels! Don’t be afraid to rearrange and experiment. Once it feels right, make the space yours with accessories. It’s time to enjoy the beauty and flow of your great room and live!

Originally published in the September 2020 issue of Napa Spotlight

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