The difference between a living room and a family room has often confused people because both spaces in the house are where people gather. Nowadays, open concept layouts have muddled the issue even more, as the great room takes over. However, formal living rooms and more casual family rooms still exist, with the difference between the rooms lying in the purpose, placement and layout of the room.
Where It Is Located in the House
Living rooms are often in the front of the house, near the entry way, and living rooms are more likely used to entertain guests on more formal occasions. Family rooms, on the other hand, are generally located in the back of the home, near the kitchen and often adjacent to an outdoor space like a deck or patio. Family rooms are more traditionally reserved for the family itself to use on a daily basis. Sometimes close friends and extended family members will be entertained in the family room during more casual gatherings.
Formal or Casual
The furnishings in both a living room and a family room tend to be similar in function but typically differ greatly in style. Since people gather and sit in both rooms, each type has seating areas with a couch or sofa and chairs. In family rooms, the furnishings focus on comfort and usually are casual. Family rooms are much more likely to have recliners and easy chairs and plush, comfortable sofas. Meanwhile, in living rooms, the furnishings tend to be much more stylish and sometimes more formal. For example, wingback chairs and sofas are popular in traditional living rooms. The living room is also the space where valuables and family heirlooms would be displayed.
Entertainment or No Entertainment
Casual family rooms are the place where families gather to play games and watch television and movies. The focal point of many family rooms is often a fully stocked entertainment center, complete with a television, music system and any gaming devices. In more formal living rooms, these elements are generally not present. Instead, living rooms are more likely to display fine art or formal portraits on the wall.
Many modern homes blur the lines between a living room and family room. Defining the space with appropriate decor helps set the proper tone for each room and defines the room’s purpose. For the family room, choose warm, inviting colors; plush, comfortable furnishings; and functional items like entertainment systems and bookshelves. Make the family room a space for the immediate members of your family to relax and enjoy being together, watch television or read a book. The living room, on the other hand, can still be inviting but needs to have a classic look. Antiques and art should fit the mood in this room. This is the place to display an elegant sofa and antique chaise. The living room should feel appropriate to host holiday gatherings and receive dinner party guests but not the right place for your children to color.
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