Mother Earth Living

Upgrade Your Family Play Space

Feng shui and interior design expert Jami offers help on improving a family's living room.
By Jami Lin
January/February 2011
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Sara Grochowski wants her living room to be a cozy, warm space—but without the overcrowding issues she struggles with.
Photo By Sara Grochowski
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Q: Our living room spans the entire south side of our Dutch Colonial house. We spend most of our time in this area, playing with our son, watching television, reading and hanging out. We want a cozy, warm space, but we have struggled with overcrowding. Please help!  
Sara Grochowski, Minneapolis 

Sara’s living room is a design challenge because of its long, narrow shape. According to feng shui, this space, along with the entry, represents the important “room of first impression” and provides the only egress to all other rooms. This makes creating a multifunctional hang-out space tricky.

Unified Space, Unified Family 

Sara could create a “welcome home” transition between outside and inside with a small foyer that includes a narrow-depth console table to the left of the door. Sara might want to relocate the coat hooks from behind the door so the door opens completely (in feng shui, this signifies that the family is fully open to opportunities) and leave a 36-inch walkway to all other spaces.

Right now, the long room is split into a “living room” area and a “play room.” By replacing the sofa with a large sectional, Sara could create a focal point to tie the two spaces together. Instead of splitting the space, the sectional unifies the room and creates additional, multifunctional seating.

Open Space, Open Communications 

In addition to its function as a snuggle spot, the sectional’s long end offers three exposed sides, providing seating that can face into the living room or into the play area. Its low profile allows long views from the front door and from all sitting or standing positions. To mitigate clutter, the sofa’s high arm disguises a bookcase, which functions as an accessible place to store children’s toys and books.

An appropriate-sized, oval coffee table eliminates hard edges for no-bruise navigation. Glass and metal offer decorative interest, good feng shui (the elements metal and glass/water balance wood floors and earth/beige walls) and show off Sara’s beautiful burgundy rug.

Reuse and Recondition 

Warm and cozy are Sara’s keywords. She could add “contemporary aging” and charm by sponge-painting a faux texture in a lighter taupe color using the current taupe walls as the base coat and painting the front door, baseboard and window moldings the lighter taupe. Sara could add warmth and additional texture by framing several pieces of coordinated fabric and hanging them as a group above the sofa. An old quilt or children’s clothing can make for lovely décor with sentimental value.

The family could lend the armoire Old World charm by giving it a faux finish similar to the walls with an “antique” over-glaze. Vintage hardware could give the armoire more personality.   An inviting piece of art behind the door welcomes visitors.

The Finishing Touch 

To provide nighttime privacy and daytime lighting control and variation, Sara could install inside-mount pleated shades. She could add soft elegance to the room, reduce its linear feel and add pizzazz by mounting drapes on metal rods with finials that match the new armoire door pulls. Hanging the drapery rods halfway between the window frame and ceiling would give the illusion of higher ceilings.


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