Ideas for Creating a Multipurpose Living Room

Meet a New York couple who needed to turn a portion of their small apartment living room into a separate bedroom-like area. Thankfully designer Brian Patrick Flynn had a plan.
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November 25, 2014

With the 10x16 living room now divided into two spaces, this family has not only enough space to gather together themselves but also extra room for Emily’s niece, Ryanne.

Thanks to the proper separation of Emily’s sleeping area from the family room, she and her niece Ryanne have their own designated space to hang out.

The redesigned living room has two defined areas: a sleeping space for Emily and a family room for the entire Kerl-Raskin clan. To separate the spaces without major renovation, a room divider made of darkly stained pine was installed with screws into the walls and ceiling, with footers along the bottom for support from below. In order to keep the color scheme cohesive, the same olive green tone was used throughout each space.

The room divider was created primarily to separate Emily’s sleeping area from the family room, but it also adds architectural interest and plays with natural light. During the afternoon, each of the horizontal gaps between the pine planks becomes illuminated, casting magical streams of light throughout Emily’s area.

To create a sophisticated sleeping space for Emily that flowed with the warm, earth-toned transitional style of the family room, custom draperies in a tone similar to the walls were added floor to ceiling. The drapes can be completely drawn for privacy.

To disguise the simple twin bed as a more polished, custom sleeping lounge, a slipcover made from silvery brown satin was added to the top. When it’s time for bed, Emily puts a fitted sheet on top of the slipcover, then adds pillows and a comforter, which stay stowed underneath.

A custom bedskirt made from the same slubby cotton basket-weave fabric as the draperies was added to Emily's box spring. The kick pleat in the center allows the skirt to be lifted up so that bedding and storage boxes can be stowed underneath.

When Ryanne visits Emily at John and Sarah’s house, she and Emily often hang out. A pair of bronze-toned occasional tables add table service and extra seating to Emily’s area. The easy-to-move pieces provide a cool metallic touch to the space and can be moved to the family room when John and Sarah entertain guests.

Keeping the color scheme consistent throughout both areas was an important factor. A large-scale transitional pattern wool area rug in Emily’s sleeping area helps incorporate browns and taupes seen in the family room.

Since the great room is used by three girls -- Emily, Sarah and Orly -- but also one man (John), it was important to add in some masculine touches for proper balance. For a tailored menswear touch, custom pillows made from houndstooth and tweed herringbone fabrics were added to Emily’s area.

For a touch of the unexpected, Emily’s sleeping space is identified by letter pillows made from recycyled knit sweaters that spell out her name.

For extra storage, equestrian-style wall hooks were added to the wall partition. This gives Emily a place to hang up purses, bags and jackets during her stays with John and Sarah.

Emily is a fan of horses. For an equestrian touch, wall hooks originally used in stables were incorporated. The graphic, numerical detail helps break up the dark, heavy tones of the wall partition.

In order to properly install Emily’s draperies, basic pipe, flanges and elbows meant for plumbing purposes were added to the ceiling, screwed directly into joists for proper support.

The wall partition between Emily’s sleeping area and the family room keeps the two spaces feeling separate, yet allows natural light to continue to stream in through gaps in the horizontal slats of pine.

To keep John and Sarah’s personalities present in the updated family room, a collection of art pieces picked up over the years as well as cherished items were hung directly over the sofa in a saloon style grouping.

The verticality of the saloon art wall is counterbalanced by a hefty solid wood coffee table that keeps the space grounded. Although larger furniture in smaller spaces seems counterintuitive, it's the proper way to fill a space best, both from a practical and a decorative standpoint.

The trick to creating a well-curated saloon art wall is to combine pieces with different frames that feature similar colors and to incorporate treasured objects with interesting shapes, textures and finishes. By arranging each piece with the proper amount of space in between, proper balance is achieved.

John and Sarah's book collection is housed on an entire wall of the family room. Since ample light flows through the space from the sliding glass doors and small window, the room is able to support the deep olive paint color without seeming too dark. In order to blur the lines between the walls and ceiling, paint was carried up on to the ceiling.

To add softness underfoot, a wool rug was added to the family room. The rug features a tribal-inspired zebra pattern, right in line with John and Sarah's love of folk and tribal art.

Storage is at a premium in New York. This rustic wood coffee table was chosen not only for its hefty construction and size but also for its integrated storage that keeps all of Orly's toys contained and concealed.

The family room is often the place where Sarah rocks Orly to sleep. To accommodate rocking, a glider style referred to as "chair and a half" was added. Since the glider mechanism is concealed by upholstery and a tailored skirt, the furniture simply takes on the appearance of a love seat, making it transitional enough for use in several types of spaces.

Childproofing the family room was a priority since Orly spends a good amount of time in it. To ensure the coffee table cannot be easily opened, safety latches were added to the top.

John and Sarah's color scheme was inspired by the fabric used to make their draperies and Roman shade. The olive green, brown and taupe tones in the fabric were pulled into the room on the walls, upholstery and accents.

The family room is filled with layered patterns, a designer trick used to add depth. Although the sofa upholstery is solid and neutral, it is broken up with pillows featuring different transitional style prints.

John and Sarah wanted their family room to feel personal and packed with meaningful objects. The end table is dressed with small ceramics that Emily and Sarah painted together when Emily was younger.

John and Sarah added a full wall size media and book storage system from IKEA to the family room. Doors attached to the front allow the TV to be in full view when in use and hidden when turned off.

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