Design Harmony: 7 To Balance An Open Family Living Room Space

Jasper Engineered Hardwood - Boulder Creek Unfinished Collection

Jasper Engineered Hardwood – Boulder Creek Unfinished Collection from BuildDirect.

With a little thought and a lot of compromise, you can create a balanced and beautiful open-concept living room that the whole family will enjoy. What types of flooring, and other design elements can help you bring balance to a new open concept family living space? Take a look at these 7 areas to help you get started.


I’ve been working on a living room redesign for some friends recently. It’s a bit of a challenge.

Scratch that.

A big challenge.

Here’s the scoop. The pundits say that it’s not smart to work with your friends. While I think that that is especially the case in most interior design projects, it’s not so much of an issue here. In this case, I think my friends, a husband and wife with two beautiful young children, would be better off not working with each other. Oh, they get along, but they have very different design sensibilities. In a large, open-concept living room, that can be daunting to address. And there’s always the spectre of kid-led destruction that has to be taken into account with every design choice.

My job? To find the right balance.

In this article, we’ll discuss how to create a balanced and beautiful open-concept living room. We’ll look at how to break up a big space into usable areas, and what techniques will make it easy to design a holistic look that works for everyone.

1. Start with flooring

Creative flooring is a fantastic way to break up a space into different sections. In my friends’ home, it was important to use a laminate product because of the high-impact challenges of their kids’ toys. But the great thing about laminate floors is that you can often find the same wood product with a number of different stains, which means that you can mix and match your kits. Hardwood flooring also works well, and can be a very high-quality choice, as long as you have a budget for refinishing in a few years.

Armstrong Hardwood Artesian Hand-Tooled Collection

Armstrong Hardwood Artesian Hand-Tooled Collection “Artesian Natural” Walnut (Rustic / 4″, 5″, 6″) from BuildDirect

Try sectioning off the space with darker-stained planks on the outer edges, or create bordered sections that serve as dining, living, and play areas. If you need to update the space later, grab an extra box of your primary laminate stained planks so that you can replace planks as needed.

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2. Make use of throw rugs and carpets

One of the biggest issues that many parents face is the threat of the stabbing pain that spare Lego pieces are wont to cause. For that reason, you won’t want to throw down a shag rug. There are, however, many rugs and carpets that are low-pile options.

Southern Charm Collection area rugs - Indoor Outdoor

Southern Charm Collection area rugs – Indoor Outdoor

Try a jute, sisal or Oriental-style rug for your couch or dining area, and invest in a softer, washable cotton rug for the children’s play area. You can coordinate using matching colors so that the room looks balanced.

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3. Don’t be afraid of putting your couch in the middle of the room

One of the problems I often see in contemporary homes is the tendency for every piece of furniture to be pushed up against a wall. In an open-concept living space, this just doesn’t make sense unless you want your home to look like a bowling alley. Try configuring your couches and chairs in a U-shape in the middle of the room, with your television or fireplace as the centerpoint.

4. Delineate the wall space

Just like your floor, you can break up your wall space into segments of color or pattern. Try spot paint colors, a block of wallpaper or a print with a molding border, or install wall panels that divide your room into different sections.

And be creative with color. One of the biggest challenges with my friends’ open-concept project was their different ideas of what constituted fabulous color choices. The fact is, however, that your palette needn’t be as monochrome as you think: it’s not a matter of choosing between blue or red or cream.

wall panel decorative print

Carrick Wall Paneling – Decorative Print Collection “Aquatica Tile” (5.7″ x 8′ x 9.5mm) from BuildDirect.

Not only can you use spot colors to break up the space, but you can also try horizontal or vertical stripes in coordinating paint colors on the walls, with different parts of the room picking up on each of those colors. For example, grey-blue, red, and dove grey can look wonderful together. Use more red in the children’s play area, and play up the greys and blues with throw cushions on the couch.

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5. Create a fun place for toys and games with room barriers

When you have children, you know that it’s not always easy to manage all of their toys. It’s no fun when your kids can’t explore and play at will, but it’s also difficult to spend time in an open-concept room where toys occupy every square inch of space. And it’s not always realistic to get everything back into a toybox at the end of the day.

What I like to do is set up a working room barrier. I’m not talking about a folding screen; with kids around, that’s only going to come crashing down on someone’s head (or, perhaps worse for some, their dollhouse). But, with the right barrier in place, you’ll be able to corral the clutter in one area of the room, and organize toys easily at the same time.

chair and bookshelves organized

Try a sturdy bookshelf in the middle of the room: one that is open on both sides and designed to hold storage containers for less-used toys. Or push two matching bookshelves together, back to back, so that they support each other.

I like using shorter bookshelves rather than full-height ones, so that parents can see their children easily across the room. When you’re considering storage containers, you can designate different colors for each of your children so that they have a sense of ownership in managing their space and their favorite things.

6. Cut down the sound

There’s a reason to put up curtains besides privacy, or even décor. For today’s modern homes, especially those in urban centers, curtains have one extra benefit: they act as sound barriers. Design harmony can be enhanced when you’re not listening to every car go by, and when you can block out light (and heat) on bright summer afternoons. Don’t be afraid to install blackout curtains: they act as the best sound barriers around.

7. Remember, this is a family room

This isn’t the last thing you’ll ever do with this room. Always keep in mind the fact that family room design is iterative: your kids are growing quickly, and their needs will change just as fast. In an open-concept space, invest heavily in your foundation: floors, wall paneling, and moldings that will protect your drywall. Spend less on your furniture, and buy shelving, bookcases, and couches that you can move easily. As your family’s interests change and its size shifts over time, you can always upgrade one piece at a time.

Balanced and beautiful

With a little thought and a lot of compromise, you can create a balanced and beautiful open-concept living room that the whole family will enjoy. And trust me, once you find the fun in this process, it can be an amazing way to bring everyone together.

Now all you have to do is decide what’s next on your Netflix queue.

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