January 16, 2019

Style Solutions: Cleaning Up An Open Concept Family Space

I’m excited to bring you the second installment of our new series, Style Solutions, today!  One of my readers sent in her space with this note, which I’m sure many of you can relate to:

When my husband & I bought our current home it was meant to be the place we’d bring 1 baby home to but not more – at least in its current size / without a serious extension.  We’re now on baby #2 and happily (albeit exhaustingly) raising our daughter (3 1/2) and son (1) here in this tiny shoebox.  

As much as we try and keep organized, we’re overrun by kids stuff and struggling trying to figure out how to make our house look beautiful while still functional and realistic for 2 little tornados.  The nightmare is amplified by the fact that we have one main living space we spend almost all our waking time together in.  Our living room / dining room is the center hub for EVERYTHING; at the very front of the house and directly connected to the kitchen, stairs to bedroom and hallways to bath/bedrooms.  It’s where we feed our kids (table is terrible for little ones), entertain them / watch tv (Toys!), work from home (dining table again), host guests and attempt to relax after a long day (need comfy couches & seating!)  It’s the first place you enter into the house which means it’s the first room that you see.  When it’s clean and kids have been kept away (rare) you get a glimpse of a nice open living concept but more often its like getting hit in the eyes with a horror show, with the aftermath of our kids & daily chaos front & center.

There are many days when I’m so frustrated I’m ready to throw up a for-sale sign and get out of here.  But in reality our timeline has us here at least another year, more likely 2.  With that, we need to find a way to make it work for us.  Because I’m so design challenged, I’m not sure there’s even one piece that actually works for us design & function wise.  In a scramble to furnish our space on the budget I wasn’t able to get an expert opinion or buy everything at once.  The result is a cobbled together space with furniture that doesn’t fit, doesn’t really look great together and is FAR from what I’d ever imagine my dream space being.  I’m ready for an overhaul but don’t know where to start, how the furniture should be arranged or what I should even look to invest in that helps fix this disaster challenge without bankrupting me in the process. (My kids are doing that job for me on their own.)

I’m a homebody at heart and yet I hate this space so much I find myself finding every single opportunity to leave our house, just so we don’t have to be here / I don’t have to be buried in the chaos of this room.  I want to have a place I feel proud to welcome guests, that suits our kids during the day but also cleans up / provides storage so we can tuck their stuff away and relax at night.

Please please please please please help me.  From one hard working momma to another, I desperately need your help.

So here I am to help- first let’s look at the space as it is now.  She did a good job of unifying the entire space by keeping the window treatments the same, which a lot of people don’t do. But there is SO much furniture, and a lot of it isn’t the most functional use of the space.  Now, in an ideal world, I’d start by clearing it out and painting it a lighter color, like Benjamin Moore’s Winds Breath, which is my go-to light neutral. It will help brighten the whole space up a bit.  The color scheme and materials should remain consistent in an open space, but you can switch it up a bit to define each space as its own– I added a little black in the dining area but kept the accent color a steel blue throughout to connect the spaces.

There are some funny angles in the living area, and that chair is really causing some visual discord.

there are too many console type pieces in the dining area, and it feels VERY crowded. They need more storage but less storage pieces!

So here is how I’d lay the space out- I’d use a sectional in the living area to give more seating, and eliminate the chair.  If entertaining, I’d pull over a dining chair or two.  Instead of a freestanding dining table I’d use a banquette against the wall with chairs surrounding it- this frees up more floorspace for the kids, and actually offers more comfy seating.

Here’s the living area space- neutrals and blues, to create a soothing feeling, but lots of good storage from the large media console, tall bookshelves (that attach to the wall for safety) loaded with attractive baskets to conceal toys and a storage ottoman.  I’d use plug in sconces instead of lamps, which frees up table space and won’t get knocked over by the kids.  To free up visual space on the walls, I’d hang one large piece above the sofa and then surround the TV (ideally a Frame TV, but any TV works too) with matching gallery frames to create a “gallery wall” look. I’d replace all drapes in the house with white linen/cotton panels with solid neutral trim, again, to brighten the space since natural light is at a premium.  I’d also replace the ceiling fan with a nice flushmount fixture. The rug is vintage, which is great with kids as it already has a “patina” to it and is pretty great at concealing spills.

sectional // sconces // media unit // TV // gallery frames // drapes // drapery rods // rug // bookshelves // baskets //  storage ottoman // tray // ceiling light // side table // art // floral pillow // stripe pillow 

In the dining area, the banquette is done in a Sunbrella stripe, for durability. The chairs are actually metal, which is super tough and easy to clean. It appears by pushing the table up towards the wall, there is potential that one of the recessed cans could be in the perfect spot to switch it over to a pendant over the table, which will really help define this as a separate space.  These storage pieces from Ballard are a bit pricey, but offer up SO much more storage given their vertical height than several console tables. Above the banquette would be a grid of vintage drawings and on the wall perpendicular to the table would go a large round mirror to bounce light back into the space.  The corner is the perfect spot for a tree of some kind, since they clearly like plants, but have a few too many right now.

table // chairs // banquette // rug // storage pieces // lantern // art // pillows // mirror


I hope this helps the homeowner (and you) out a bit by offering up how I would view a small family space that houses kids AND adults!  If you like this series, be sure to pre-order my new book coming out April 2nd!  And if you have an issue in your home you’d like us to consider tackling for a future Style Solutions post, please email pictures and info to: stylesolutions@eringatesdesign.com!

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