The Forgotten Formal Living Room

Home design is continually evolving as our lifestyles change with the times. 

Over the years kitchens have become the central hub of the modern home alongside open concept designs. When entertaining, we gather around a large island, maybe with a fantastic taco bar set-up that even the pickiest eater (and the obligatory vegan every friend group has these days) can easily make their own plate. Sadly, this doesn’t prevent their offhand comments about the living standards of the average chicken, but it will prevent them from getting hungry enough to start talking about gut biomes….I’m talking about you Gary.

oak and black kitchen with island and scallop backsplash
kitchen updated with black stained island, new countertops and backsplash

Dietary choices aside, the way we entertain in our homes is vastly different than when many of us were growing up. Remember the room that you weren’t allowed to play in? I lovingly call it the Forgotten Formal Living Room™. Sometimes, if it was raining and mom was just over it, you would get to play with your Barbies on the floor, but there was ABSOLUTELY no sitting on the furniture. This room was reserved for guests and entertaining only. It has the ‘good’ furniture in it. The matching suite of upholstery and occasional tables with the obligatory family portrait above the mantle. The furniture came from an older relative, or was purchased when your parents first got married, definitely before you and your siblings came along and made everything sticky. 

Now, that room is a sad remnant of the bygone days of the 1980’s and possibly earlier. It may even house the same furniture, but it now goes by the less favorable moniker ‘The Cat Room’. If you have older children, it’s also where all of their crap from college gets piled over the summer. If a visitor happens to use the front door instead of the garage, it’s the room you rush past and apologize for your housekeeping.

forgotten formal living room. existing design space
recent ‘before’ photo of formal living room

I hope this is all making you feel like you’re in a safe place. You’re not alone. The Forgotten Formal Living Room™ had it’s time, and now many of us just don’t know what to do with it. It’s become the catch all. It is often separated from the rest of the house and is out of the way unless you’re using the front door. It’s usually adjacent to the next least used room in the house, the Drop-Off Zone Dining Room™ (that’s for another blog post).

I have so many clients that have one or two rooms on their main floor that go unused, but it is rarely the reason why they chose to hire a designer. I’m usually brought in for a kitchen remodel, or family room furnishings. The rooms where we spend most of our time. However, as we begin working together and we start on the wish list for their project, the need for more space almost always comes up. 

entertaining grouping of four chairs around coffee table and stained wood built-ins
‘after’ photo of formal living room turned lounge

I love being the hero and seeing the ‘a-ha’ moment on a client’s face when I point out to them that they have a perfectly good room that is being underutilized. The old formal living room is exactly where we can create the game room, library, home office, bar, playroom, etc. you are looking for! It’s a much better solution than trying to jam it into another room in the house that is already being used. It’s also better than putting it in the basement for a variety of reasons. The solution is pretty straight forward, but also so mind blowing. 

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