Creating a Beautiful and Functional Family Room – Part 1

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It’s so interesting to me to see how, through the years, the “focal point” of a family room has evolved.  In 1940’s, the oversized, warm and cozy fireplace was where all family furniture would be arranged.


But it wasn’t long before TV was introduced to the family and it then took center stage. The television became the most visible article in the room. People didn’t hide their TV’s behind artwork, or place them in cabinets. Instead, their TV was placed front and center and all furniture was arranged for viewing.


Today, we tend to have both in our family room. A large fireplace and sometimes an even larger flatscreen! In the photo below, the fireplace is rather small and the TV has only a sound bar, (no mantle) to separate the two features. In this room, that is actually a good thing, because it allows the entire wall to act as one large featured wall in the space. The floating staircase is actually the focal point because of the stark white wall contrasting the dark espresso stairs. If a chunky mantle been added to divide the TV from the fireplace, then you would have broken the lines and made everything look “top heavy.”  As it is, (to a degree), it is mimicking the staircase with one smooth wood backdrop.

Rule #1, when decorating a wall, divide the wall into 3rds and use each section to help you know where to place TV, or how to decorate a mantle, etc. I’ll explain that more a little later…



In the photo above, the TV is larger than the fireplace, but it is not larger than the mantle. That is what you aim for…the overall dimensions need to fit within the “frame” of the mantle, or in this case, the frame of the extended wood trim that surrounds the TV. If you only have a mantle, and want to mount a large TV above, you may want to consider adding shiplap or some kind of wood trim above the mantle to help “dwarf” the overpowering size of the TV and to give that wall more grandeur.


In the photo below, we see loss of balance and symmetry…no real personality. Here’s how that can be tweaked.



I lightened up the overall photo to show you how I actually “see a space.” With the photo lighter and brighter, you lose the detail trim work in the cabinets and the lines on the window and transoms fade out.  Basically, I see the room for 1) symmetry in decor and furniture placement and,  2) color — those 2 elements are what actually give a space “life” — symmetry and color. They tend to show “personality.” So “fade out” all the lines and see the “canvas of of the room.”

Here is what I would do to this one space:  

1) Add shiplap and paint it the color of the mantle, from mantle to ceiling. It will help the TV not look so lost and it will give the room a focal point. Also, paint the bricks white as well. Make that one wall seamless.

2) The candles on the mantle are too short – divide the mantle in 3rds, then your decor on top should complete another 3rd. So, take the silver vases on the built-in with the tall greenery (cut it down a bit if needed) and put one on one side and one on the other. That is all the mantle will need.

3) Gather the full collection of airplanes and display them in the far right side of the builtin, using the three shelves. That way, when someone wants to see the full collection, they can stand in one spot and admire them…not have to travel down the entire side of the room with their neck craning up. 🙂

4) Divide the boxes of greenery…place one on the side table beside the sofa, and another one in the large boxed area in the builtin. Beside it, take a stack of books and place one of the knick knacks that is in the top of the shelving and place it on top of the books (laying the books down horizontally). Take the two taller candlesticks from the mantle and nestle them into this boxed area.

5) Take the group of 3 candlesticks and place them on the coffee table.

6) Place the clock on one of the emptied higher shelves where airplanes once were. Then starting at the top of the builtins, working your way down, divide and group the books either by color or by size. You don’t want your shelving to be top heavy so keep “groups of 3” in mind as you place items on the shelves.   Your “3” could be:  a few books, a framed photo, and a low container holding a plant.

7) Remove the floor lamp. Find another small table (close to the same size as the one that is already there), and place two matching lamps on both end tables. The tables and lamps will create symmetry in this space; centering the sofa in front of the fireplace and having 2 lamps of the same height on either side.

8) To balance the space, raise a curtain rod high on the wall (typically 4-6 inches from crown mold) and let a nice contrasting fabric fall to the floor. Use the same color on the sofa in pillows.

So today’s HOMEwork is this —

Stand back and look at your family room fireplace and/or TV wall. What can you do to create more symmetry and soften the room with “less decor”, more “balance” and soft contrasting color?

Post your before and afters either below in comments OR on our Facebook group page – 

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lisa rippy

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