The living room once had a fairly easy-to-define purpose. It was where the family spent time together and entertained guests. Now, with open floor plans, the living room has evolved to be anything from a formal sitting room to a casual place to watch TV, play with toys and play games. With that evolution comes a myriad of decorating choices. Furniture options abound, all customized to fit your family’s definition of the living room. In order to create the perfectly furnished and decorated room for your family, you must first identify all the ways in which your living room is used.
Families with Young Children
When children are little, you need to keep them nearby while you accomplish things around the house. With open floor plans, you can cook dinner as you monitor little ones playing in your family room. At this stage in your family life, your furniture needs are pretty basic. You need quality, sturdy furniture that is non-toxic and safe. American made furnishings — especially sofas — are your best bet. Sofas that are manufactured overseas for the big furniture companies often contain materials that emit fumes that are toxic to children. Brominated and chlorinated flame retardants, often found in upholstered furniture made with polyurethane foam, have been linked to cancer, neurological impairment and hormonal disruption.
Families with Older Children
As your family grows in size — and also as the children grow — you need to think about increased seating options. Teenagers need room to hang out with their friends, and it’s easier to keep an eye on them when your house is the “gathering spot”. Make it comfortable and inviting for your kids to entertain their friends by investing in a sectional and oversized chairs, ottomans and accent tables where kids can rest their snacks and sodas. This is not the time to buy cheaply manufactured furniture, which is often made from plywood and particle board/pressed wood which contains formaldehyde or isocyanate glues. Not only does cheaply made furniture break more easily, the materials used in manufacturing it are extremely toxic and can send out fumes which you (and your kids) inhale.
Once the children have left the nest, it’s time to think about decorating a space that is all your own. This is your time, now! Experiment with playful patterns, bold accents and furniture with interesting details. Invest in furnishings that offer style, comfort and color. Look for impeccable tailoring, fashion-forward fabrics and decorative trimmings. Mix up your materials by adding a quality leather piece to your collection. Look for unique lamps, accessories, rugs and artwork to tie your new living room look together.
Find Quality Furnishings
No matter which stage your family is in — you need furnishings that are well-made and that will hold up to wear and tear for years and years. Companies like West Elm, Pottery Barn and Crate & Barrel buy their furniture from outside vendors from around the world, hence the varying quality and materials used. Look for manufacturers that make their own furniture, such as C.R. Laine, Four Seasons, Highland House, McKinley Leather, Leathercraft, Norwalk Furniture, Smith Brothers, Thibaut and Wesley Hall. Solid wood with wood joinings (not nails or glue), drawers that function seamlessly, thoughtful and artistic details — these are all things to look for when selecting your living room suit.