Most new homes are being designed with an open floor plan, which combines the cooking, dining and living areas to create a harmonious and efficient gathering place. At the heart of many of these designs is the great room. It is the place where the family spends time in the evening and on weekends playing board games, watching television, entertaining friends or just enjoying time together in front of a roaring fire.
The great room should be a comfortable space to spend time. It is not typically a formal room, so the décor is often casual and inviting. The focal point in most great room layouts is a fireplace or entertainment center. Arrange comfortable seating to take best advantage of your focal point and accent it with a large coffee table and small end tables to set down beverages, snacks, books and other items.
Today designing a great room without a fireplace is all but unthinkable. Remember that its size should be appropriate for the size of the room, whether it's gas or wood burning. With so many high-quality stone veneer products available you can create an authentic looking stone or brick fireplace.
If you want the room to seem open but you want a feeling of intimacy while dining, you can fulfill both wishes by dropping the ceiling in the dining area or adding columns to define the space. You can change the flooring from wood to stone or tile in different areas as well as changing the level of the floor by making the living area a step or two lower than the kitchen and dining area.
Most homes are designed with two-story great rooms that are often overlooked by a second-floor walkway or balcony. Those two-story spaces may look great, but if you live in a very cold climate, rooms with high ceilings and a lot of windows can often feel drafty and cost considerably more to heat.
You can still get the effect of a high ceiling without going too high or sacrificing second floor living space. Design 8' or 9 foot ceilings in your entry area, hallways and surrounding living spaces. Then in the great room, raise the ceiling to 12' or 13 feet. You'll get the impact of a high ceiling without sacrificing efficiency and usable living space.
You'll need to pick a theme for your great room before you begin selecting furniture and accents. Are you a nature lover, does your family enjoy sports or are you more traditional than modern?
Once you decide on a theme, it's a lot easier to pick and choose the design elements you'll need to create that feeling. You can easily create an area for board games and cards by adding a small table, chairs and some task lighting.
Some great rooms will incorporate a window seat to take advantage of the natural light provided by large windows. If your great room doesn't have a built-in window seat you can place a bench or loveseat beside the window.
The key to a great room is to have a wall of glass looking out on a great view. Most architects and designers use large, custom fixed-glass windows with French doors opening onto a deck or balcony.
With so many different activities going on in the great room, lighting is an important element. Track lighting in the ceiling can help provide overall ambient lighting, while pendant lamps or chandeliers can add beautiful accent lighting. Floor and table lamps can be used to provide task lighting in appropriate areas of the room.
Lastly, the fun is in accessorizing and really pulling together the theme for your great room. Start by selecting the furniture and then add accents that complement these core items.
If you take the time to design your great room and create a comfortable and inviting place to hang out, it will serve your family well.