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Planning the Perfect Great Room

Planning the Perfect Great Room
The fireplace adds focus to this living room.
The shape and character of a room can affect the way we feel. So what space makes you feel most relaxed and comfortable at home? Recent studies have shown that we spend most of our time in the great room or family room -- spaces that are usually open to or near the kitchen. That seems logical in today's open plans.

The living room shown above -- part of Plan 124-691 -- attracts me because it has both a sense of loftiness -- with balanced light from three sides and a window wall that draws the gaze up and out -- and also a sense of intimacy with the lower focus on the fireplace at the center that draws the gaze down and into the hearth. You could say the room has at least two moods, which are enhanced by the weather outside.

Of course comfortable furniture adds a lot, but if there is too much glare or the room feels claustrophobic, comfortable furniture won't help all that much. It won't be a room that compels you to linger. So here are some things to think about as you plan your great room.

Orientation. A room's orientation is very important -- how will the sun brighten it and at what time of day? Do you want morning sun in the kitchen; a southern exposure for a family room opening to patio or deck? Is there easy access to sheltered outdoor space so you can entertain or dine outside in good weather?

Focal points. There can be more than one -- views, fireplace, bookshelves, flat screen, dining alcove, for example. Each could form the centerpiece of a sitting area, or overlap as shown here in Plan 48-642.

Window height. Windows set low in the wall allow views to the landscape when you're sitting down and make a room feel more open and less boxed in.

(Plan 888-14)

Lighting. For flexibility in the use of table and floor lamps, consider outlets in the floor as well as the walls. Pendant lights over islands and peninsulas may also be necessary.

Try to achieve a balance between "ambient"or general lighting and more specific or "task" lighting, say for reading or cooking. (Kitchen view from Plan 124-691)

Materials. A relaxing space usually means the various elements and materials mesh well. Flooring, counter, and backsplash materials should complement each other in order to form a unified whole.

Noise. Relaxing after a family meal is not so relaxing if you can hear appliances churning away. Look for quiet dishwashers, or ways to close off washing machines and dryers if they are situated near dining or sitting areas. Also remember that concrete, stone, tile, and glass are all sound reflecting surfaces that will magnify noise levels.

Here's a strong great room layout, Plan 443-11, with the island kitchen at the opposite end of the room from

the fireplace. Also note how the stairs widen at the base for a more gracious transition and so they can also be used for sitting. To see more Plans With Great Rooms, click here.

Planning the Perfect Great Room Inspiration

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