Modern families get the most out of small rooms

June 03, 2006|by CHRISTINE BRUN / Copley News Service

As America changes, so does its home styles.

Before the invention of television, the family home did not feature what we now call the den or family room. Before TV, homes had parlors where guests could wait to be received before being escorted to the living room. In the early 1920s, a typical bungalow included a living room as well as front and back porches suitable for formal and casual entertaining.

Mid-century homes added space next to the kitchen for informal family gatherings. And that's where households that wanted to preserved the older way of entertaining in a formal space placed the newly introduced TV.

But as time passed, the family room took on more jobs. Growing families needed room for doing homework, playing games and listening to music. With record players being replaced with high-quality sound systems, space was also needed to house sophisticated entertainment equipment.


And with the popularity of wide-screen televisions came floor plans designed to accommodate them. Now, things seem to be shrinking - wafer-thin screens are all the rage, as well as compact sound systems that offer superior quality.

A huge family room is not necessarily a requirement any longer. For young families and empty nesters, a smaller informal room offers the most flexibility for those who need or want a multitasking space.

The family room solution shown here is all about practical storage for board games, toys, coloring books and craft supplies. The key piece of furniture is straight forward and unpretentious - but delivers a great deal of storage in a small amount of floor space.

Often, people take an extra bedroom and convert it into a small den that serves as a game room, music room or library. Some think of the smaller den as a kind of quiet room that can double as a little office. Of course, then the ubiquitous TV will have to stay in the living room - even if that means sacrificing the notion of a more formal entertaining room.

Today's families have multiple needs when it comes to their home space. One solution to meeting all the needs is to have numerous small rooms that are dedicated to different functions.

Smaller households need to think in terms of creative multipurpose space. Furnishings must be exceptionally functional for every square foot they occupy. It would have been a pity to see the room shown here with a sofa table against the back wall instead of the drawer unit.

Inch for inch you can pack in a lot of function in creative ways. Needing room for a purpose can and will push you to locate the right furnishings that can aid in your quest. Take the proper time for organizing and tossing away unnecessary items. Research and study different layouts for your special multipurpose room. Allocate a realistic amount of money to the purchase of furniture pieces that will guarantee good use of the space. Don't forget to pay attention to comfort, durability of materials and good lighting.

A family room should be just what it sounds like - a place for special contact among family members in a casual way.

Christine Brun, ASID, is a San Diego-based interior designer and the author of "Big Ideas for Small Spaces." Send questions and comments to her by e-mail at or to Copley News Service, P.O. Box 120190, San Diego, CA 92112.

Copley News Service

The Herald-Mail Articles