Gone are the days of a formal receiving room or a parlor. It’s now more likely that you have a family room, sitting room, great room or playroom.

Depending on the size and layout of your home, you may have a common area that serves a myriad of purposes or multiple living spaces each with a specific use. We refer to these rooms as living spaces because they are often where we spend the bulk of our meaningful time. This is where we gather with friends and family, host guests, relax after a long day and play with our children and pets.

To optimize your living space first be sure that you are designing towards your own programmatic goals. Ask yourself who will be using the space most often and what they will use it for. Do you intend for the room to be adult oriented or kid friendly? Is this a public space or private? Consider how many people the room needs to accommodate on a daily basis as well as on special occasions. If you entertain often you may find it important to have a creative manner in which you can add more seating quickly.

In gathering spaces such as these, a good seating layout is top priority. Make sure your furniture plan allows for effective conversation areas but also makes sense for any other intended uses. If there is a TV or fireplace that serves as a focal point be sure that your furniture is properly oriented towards these elements or consider using swivel bases for flexibility. Provide a range of seating types; sofas for people to sit together and chairs for those who may prefer to sit unaccompanied. If you plan to have food and drinks in the room be sure that each seat is within easy reach of a table. Choose furniture materials that are appropriate for the rooms use  (past article on interior design: selecting furniture). Consider using outdoor or stain resistant fabrics if your space needs to be kid or pet friendly and make sure that delicate table finishes are reserved for suitable areas.

Lastly, provide flexible lighting. In addition to overhead light sources for general use, it is smart to provide task lighting when possible especially near individual seating areas. Table and floor lamps provide an additional layer of light and ambiance to the space.

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