Unleashing the Greatness of Your Great Room

Larger and more open than your typical living room, great rooms can be daunting to design and decorate. Try these expert tips to put the "great" in your great room.
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December 05, 2014
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A Chic, Coordinated Look

With soaring ceilings and generous square footage, the great room of this traditional-style two-story Atlanta house is packed with soft color, rustic texture, a play on scale and a smart furniture plan. See the elements that went into this space and get tips for incorporating them in your own home.

Decorative Trim

Many new-construction great rooms with soaring ceilings, while open and airy, can feel impersonal. An excellent way to visually lower the height and make the space more intimate is by adding decorative molding. Here, the same 1-inch-by-6-inch wooden trim seen in the crown molding and door casing was used to create a graphic grid effect, which helps ground the space.

Soft Color Palette

Using color in expansive, high-traffic spaces can be intimidating since there's so much surface to cover. Dark tones can visually shrink spaces and make them feel cavernous, while super-saturated tones can be too bold or intense. Soothing tones such as lavender, sage green or blue-gray are great choices since they add just enough color to make a room feel personalized and vibrant, but not overwhelmingly bright.

French Doors

French doors are a great fit for great rooms, as they provide natural light and easy access in and out of the room. When sourcing French doors for your own remodel, keep in mind that they're available in outward-swinging and inward-swinging options. Rooms with furniture placed near the doors are best fit for outward-swinging doors, while spaces clear of furniture are ideal for doors that swing inward.

Paned Door Windows

There are dozens of styles of French doors to choose from. To make the selection less daunting, you can narrow down your choices to two main options: full glass or paned glass. Full glass offers a clean, seamless and modern look. Paned glass provides an extra layer of architectural interest and works especially well in traditional or transitional great rooms.

Arched Entryways

With generous square footage, great rooms offer up plenty of opportunities to play with architecture. Here, the room is framed by arches leading in from the home's main entry. When adding arches to a space, keep in mind that labor costs are likely to increase since the rounded manipulation of the framing lumber, drywall and molding is more labor intensive and requires special carpentry skills.

Floating Furniture

A common mistake homeowners make when furnishing great rooms is pushing their seating against the walls and leaving the central area open. When square footage allows, consider a floating space plan, in which the furniture is positioned away from the walls and centered around a focal point, such as a fireplace.

Stylish Chandelier

To anchor a great room with soaring ceilings, choose a light fixture that fits the space's scale and proportion. Here, a 40-inch-wide by 18-inch-tall iron and hand-blown glass chandelier was hung in the center of the room, directly above the coffee tables. Since the chandelier and coffee tables are similar in scale and proportion, the space instantly feels more grounded and balanced.

Area Rug

With a wide variety of styles and sizes to choose from, picking an area rug for your great room can be overwhelming. To make the selection process easier, keep in mind that 8 x 10-foot and 10 x 12-foot sizes are often best for large spaces. If both sizes are too small for your room, consider grouping multiples of the same rug together for a custom look without the custom price.

Personalized Gallery Wall

Put a modern spin on family photos with an oversized black and white gallery grouping. To get the scale and proportion right, choose one expansive great room wall with enough height and width to arrange photos in odd numbers. Before arranging the photos on the wall, first lay them out on the floor to decide on the proper spacing.

Dark Wood Floors

Darkly stained hardwood floors have become a staple for interior designers worldwide; however, dark floors tend to highlight flaws, rendering them problematic in high traffic areas with children and pets. An excellent alternative to extra-dark stains like ebony or Jacobean is dark walnut. Considered medium brown, this stain is just dark enough to add contrast to a great room, but light enough that it won't highlight flaws or absorb too much light and darken the space.

Ceiling Beams

Interior designers refer to ceilings as a room's fifth wall, often addressing them with as much detail as walls, floors or focal points. In large great rooms, ceiling beams can add another layer of architectural interest and break up an otherwise expansive, flat drywall surface. Beams are constructed by adding a cleat along the surface of the ceiling, then attaching a three-sided box to it with a nail gun or wood screws before painting or staining the wood.

Feature Wall

Every great room should have one key focal point. Here, what was a lackluster, contractor-grade fireplace is now an architectural masterpiece thanks to a reclaimed barn siding wall application and a custom mantel made of welded steel.

Coordinated Kitchen

Since great rooms are characterized by open-concept floor plans, it's important to make sure that living areas, kitchens and dining spaces coordinate seamlessly. To continue the gray and lavender color scheme, the adjacent kitchen is outfitted with gray-toned cabinets, dove gray tile and purple-toned accents, as well as a trio of over-scale metallic pendants.

Breakfast Nook

Many new-construction homes come with breakfast nooks, which are often difficult to furnish due to odd dimensions. To maximize a breakfast nook, consider using a round pedestal table and armless chairs. The lack of corners around the table allows for more chairs to fit comfortably.

Complementary Artwork

As a finishing touch, artwork can tie a great room’s entire look together. To round out the color scheme and introduce new shapes, modern abstract art by Jenny Andrews Anderson was placed above the mantel. In rooms with generous square footage, designers suggest choosing over-scale art rather than smaller pieces, which can get lost or look like clutter.

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