The way we use our homes has undergone a transformation in the past few years, with the traditional role of many rooms turned upside down. Increasingly in this topsy-turvy world, it is the family room that has become a haven.
Distinct from a living room, where more formal gatherings might take place, the family room is a dedicated space where the whole household can spend meaningful time together. Movie marathons, gaming, virtual sports, reading and crafting are all on the agenda here. Some activities you’ll do together, others solo – the point is that this social, flexible space is for one and all.
Designing the perfect family room requires a carefully thought out, multilayered approach, says Charlotte Hodges-Peck, a senior consultant for Savills Interior Services, which co-ordinates and manages bespoke interior and exterior design, refurbishment and property dressing. “It’s one of the most important and in-demand rooms in the house, and every family’s needs are unique, so the planning process can’t be rushed,” she says. “As well as considering bespoke joinery, furniture, zoned areas and different types of lighting, finding imaginative ways to discreetly conceal all the tech that will inevitably be involved is vital.”
Knowing the purpose of every piece of furniture, kit and cable is key to a family room’s success – once you have decided on its location. Basements have often been the go-to spot in which to carve out, say, a cinema room, but if you can reclaim a large room in the heart of the home, on one of the main floors, it will feel more integrated and benefit from more natural light.
“I often turn floorplans on their heads,” says Emma Sims-Hilditch, who heads up the interior design firm Sims Hilditch, with a portfolio that features country estates and townhouses. “I will repurpose a large drawing room as a family room if possible, but if it needs to be in the basement, I’ll play to its strengths by enhancing its cocooning effect through warmly shaded walls, deep L-shaped sofas, good soundproofing and a gas fireplace.”
Wherever the room is located, TV and tech will play a big part – which is where clever bespoke joinery comes into its own. A mix of open and closed shelving and sliding panels allows for storage, display and the seamless incorporation of a television. (Plump for a wooden surround or a Samsung Frame, which doubles as artwork.) Malcolm Stewart, founder of Knightsbridge Audio Visual, recommends a TV no smaller than 65 inches, with a projector and cinema screen for the full movie-going experience. For minimum intrusion, screens can be motorised to roll up after use and projectors can live in a nifty drop-down box.
Next, balance out the practicality with haute luxe tailored to your family. An L-shaped sofa is a good choice, along with a large custom-made ottoman. (Try Sarah Beech Ottomans for bold bespoke pieces.) Incorporating back-to-back sofas and furniture at different heights will create “zones” for different activities. “It’s a clever yet easy way to demarcate areas for relaxation, playing games or doing homework,” says Kelly Cinnamond-Santos, senior interior designer at Morpheus & Co, whose projects include branded residences in the Loire Valley and new mews houses in Belgravia. “A high table with chairs or stools works well for eating and doing homework, while lower, more comfortable seating and coffee tables are ideal for playing games and relaxing.”
Spotlights and decent task lighting should be chosen tactically, and contrasted with lamps and decorative wall lights for a softer feel – visit the Soho Lighting Company for inspiration. Simple LED strips bring shelves and books alive, or can be added to coving to gently illuminate the ceiling.
For those with young children and pets, smart, easy-clean options include wood-effect porcelain tiles and, for a bolder look, vibrantly coloured vinyl flooring, with a statement rug marking out the chillout zone. A family room should grow with you – and, with a little thought, it can.
Get the look
Knightsbridge Audio Visual
Malcolm Stewart’s top brand picks include Sony, JVC, Sonos, Bowers & Wilkins
Sarah Beech Ottomans
Morpheus & Co
Soho Lighting Company
Pictures from top: a Bridget Reading-designed family space (Chris Snook); a place to play music, study or watch the latest streaming hit, and a private movie room (both at Roden Park in Berkshire, available with Savills); a subtle Sonos speaker to create the perfect mood; and a double-height family room conceived by Bridget Reading (Chris Snook)