5 clever ways to get creative with family living

Corner sofa
Jennifer Morgan,-Interiors Editor

Planning a space that works for everyone, yet looks stylish can be a challenge. Smart storage and a few design tricks will help you get it right

The living room is the hard-working hub of the modern home – the space where everyone gravitates towards throughout the day to relax, watch TV, do homework or play. Especially at the moment, as we place more and more demands on our homes. And if it’s an open-plan room, then it’s where you cook and eat, too. But how can you make this multi-functional space look stylish and smart while being practical at the same time?

String storage

Find furniture that works hard

The right storage is key to instilling a sense of order. Look for a mix: cupboards to conceal, drawers to contain smaller bits and open shelving to display what’s important to you. String’s modular shelving system allows you to create a bespoke solution, and for freestanding pieces, try the Dice range from House by John Lewis. Make games and toys accessible, placing them on lower shelves, while storage boxes, baskets and tubs can turn a chaotic shelving unit into a well-organised one. Large toy baskets are ideal for quick tidy-up sessions before the kids go to bed. For more storage ideas, we have 10 easy solutions that can work for any situation.

Blackboard in hallway

Strike a balance

In a family living room, you need to acknowledge that the space will be used by everyone who lives in your home. Setting a few simple ground rules will help in the long run – from no drinks on your new sofa to putting things away after they’ve been played with; a weekly edit of the magazine rack to a quick plump of the cushions before you go to bed each night.

Establishing areas for the kids will also stem the chaos from flowing into other parts of the room. Try painting a wall with blackboard paint, creating a chillout area where teenagers can use their tablets, or adding low-level chairs and a table for home schooling. Use baskets or bags to keep school essentials in, which can be tidied quickly at the end of the day.

Hallway with yellow chair

Tackle those tricky areas

Look at how your family uses the space and consider how it can work harder. If it’s a dumping ground, with bags and coats thrown on chairs, then fit handy hooks at reachable heights. Give everyone their own cupboard or drawer. You’ll have probably noticed that the amount of coats/jumpers/shoes/bags you are using has reduced drastically, so pop ones that aren’t being used away for now.

Soften up wooden floors with bright rugs to create areas for play, and add throws to protect your sofa while adding colour and pattern. If your dining table always seems to be buried under homework or colouring books, then keep smaller bits such as pen pots on trays which can be easily moved out of the way come dinnertime. Put up a family planner or noticeboard, where you can keep track of online events and lesson plans. 

Dining table and yellow chair

Create family-friendly zones

Open-plan family spaces need careful planning as they combine four or five rooms in one – TV room, home office, dining room, playroom and kitchen. Start with the things you can’t change, such as where your kitchen is, or bifold doors that lead onto the garden, then see if you can rework your existing space by thinking differently.

If your L-shaped sofa is pushed into a corner, would it work better brought into the middle of the room, giving you more wall area for storage while helping to ‘zone’ the space? Consider if your space works in a practical way – is the dining table next to the kitchen area, or do you have to walk past the sofa to eat? Are there corners or nooks for reading, with good lighting and a comfy chair or bean bag paired with a side table? Adding flexible storage, such as a nest of tables, will also help, creating mini breakout zones.

Picture gallery wall with TV

Keep it real

A family living room should be fun with a sense of energy, and reflect the personalities of all who use it. A gallery wall is a great way to capture memories – a mixture of black and white framed pictures helps keep the look cohesive. Make sure your gallery has space to grow, otherwise you’ll be forced to edit before putting up new photos or kids’ artwork.

While this is a busy room, don’t be tempted to hide everything away – this is your family’s space too, and if Monday to Friday it‘s a home school, office and playroom, then accept there are some things that will annoy you, but they won't be cluttering up your dream room forever.


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