Great Room Design - Home - Interior Design

Great Room Design   by Charles Gueli

in Home / Interior Design    (submitted 2011-05-10)

Great room design has a direct link to the open plan concept which was begun by Frank Lloyd Wright. This was a somewhat radical departure from the traditional house design where boxes were connected by doorways and hallways. Wright's ideas were influenced by the more open Japanese house design.

For the first time, kitchens were connected to living and dining areas. This was helped by new technology for venting, making it possible to remove offensive cooking odors. A new problem was quickly identified - how to differentiate one area from another?

Wright solved it by using architectural elements to separate the areas. He also varied ceiling heights and flooring patterns. Without this variation, a great room design can be pretty uninteresting. But varying the ceiling heights makes a world of difference, without requiring any structural changes.

When starting to formulate your great room design, ask yourself these questions:

What will the room be used for?

What shape does the room have?

Is there a natural focal point that would be best enhanced or subdued?

Will the layout of furniture work well with the traffic flow, or is it intended to segment traffic and create coziness?

Repeating patterns can make a room look smaller, while sparse use of texture can open up a space and create visual rhythm. Texture in carpet, wall paper, paint and furniture can give the room more depth. Too much texture can overwhelm the viewer and detract from the interesting items, like artwork, that you want people to notice.

Once you start implementing your great room design, minimize accessories on tables. Utilize shelving units or consider a curio cabinet to display collectibles and personal items.

This keeps cocktail and end tables free for simple arrangements of candles and flowers. A small magazine rack next to an oversized reading chair will work well.

And don't forget the windows. The trendiest curtains feature straight, clean lines. Hardware is simple and strong, often utilizing black iron or pewter. Plantation shutters also are in vogue, providing full light during the day, and privacy at night.

Acoustics is something you have to incorporate into your great room design. Large rooms with high ceilings are acoustical nightmares. Imagine the TV is on, someone's listening to a stereo on the balcony overlooking the great room, and someone else is making dinner. All these sounds are magnified by the tall, hard-surfaced ceilings.

There are a few strategies you can use to keep the openness, but increase comfort. At the same time, you can create atmospheres that are as inviting and nurturing as the more traditional homes.

You can create an implied ceiling over the eating area with a hanging light fixture that suggests a lower ceiling. If you want more definition, a hanging "cloud" made of fabric, or wood veneer, can give the illusion of shelter.

Add a surrounding soffit or display shelf just above window height. This also gives a sense of shelter for the activity below.

Use area rugs or throw rugs to designate different areas. There are other flooring options to accomplish separation, but rugs offer greater help with acoustics.

Open plans get more popular every year, and they offer several benefits for today's family. These include:

Greater flexibility to rearrange functions and activities as the family changes.

Better traffic flow.

More natural light.

Colors should be warm and natural. The purpose of a great room is to bring family and friends together with an inviting atmosphere. After all, without them, it's just another room.

Great room design has liberated us from the more formal constraints of separated rooms for each activity. You can have a space to watch TV; designate another to sit and read; create a conversation area; put the focus on your fireplace; and so on.

But this design journey is ongoing. Constant refinement of the room and its elements will yield a living space that is both comforting and aesthetically pleasing. In a great room, you will have plenty of wall space to fill. You should choose artwork that is in harmony with the mood and style of the room.