Decorating Dilemma: Alison’s Family Room

Alison's family room on a lake

Decorating Dilemmas is a weekly column in which our stylists answer your design questions, so you can tackle your home decorating project with complete confidence.

Dear How to Decorate,

My husband, babies (6 months and 21 months), and I recently moved into a home pursuing our dream of living on the lake. We have a large family room that previous owners had a “stage” in the corner of the room. I call it a stage (have no idea of the original intent or purpose), but it was elevated flooring for some odd reason. My husband just finished the removal and the hard job of laying down hardwoods to match the rest of the room.

We are currently in the process of painting (Bleeker Beige by Benjamin Moore) to eliminate the wood paneling that was making the room so dark. With the large windows on the back wall that provide a great view, I think the room will have to be divided somehow and that is where we are stuck. Obviously, with small children we need everything to be functional (and durable!).

Please help us take this room from odd karaoke stage to functional family style.

Thanks for your help!


looking straight outside
left side of room looking out
view of right wall - windows behind
door into other space
window right corner


Dear Alison,

What a fabulous room with a stunning view! Let’s make it amazing by dividing it into several areas, add softness and comfort and bringing the outside in with rich teals, leafy greens, and neutral wood tones.

A Hill floorplan

In the play area, our Larkin Swivel Glider, in soft, cleanable Sunbrella Basketweave Flax, is guaranteed to be your little ones’ favorite chair. A Helmes Wing Chair in Queens Velvet Teal paired with an Indoor/Outdoor Wainscot Rug in Gray give the softness. Between the chairs we suggest a Morgan Small Cocktail Table along with one of two Upholstered Cubes in Asha Pewter. A pair of Toulouse Tall Bookcases with adjustable shelves will provide storage for books, toys and some great family photos. Also along that wall, position a Louis XVI 44 inch Console in Walnut as handy storage and serving space in the dining/work space. Hang the Crab Island Stretched Canvas above the console and perch our Capiz Table Lamp for accent lighting. A Bornova Side Table in Warm Gray and a Tasseau Floor Lamp in Natural finish off this first area while providing great space to relax for story time.

The TV/media area starts with a great place to gather on our super comfortable Baldwin 4-Piece Sectional in a Trilby Basketweave Bark Slipcover in Drift. On the floor, let’s use the plush Parish Indoor/Outdoor Rug in Sage for soft color and easy clean up. Our beautiful new Cortona Console in Tuscan Brown will serve as the perfect piece above which to hang your television. Make an artful statement on both sides of the console with our Blue and Green Seaweed Framed Prints.

Our Ananda Serving Table is ideal to place behind the sofa and then top with two Havanna Table Lamps. This console table gives a great place to store Upholstered Cubes and a set of Suzanne Kasler Market Baskets for extra blankets and toys. Our Large Morgan Cocktail Table with Baskets and the Morgan End Table in Dark Mahogany keep a contemporary line with generous space for serving and great storage for magazines, toys and games.

To pull the natural light into the back of the space, hang multiples of the Garden District Mirrors in Weathered White on the wall above the sofa. Other stunning accessories for a fabulous finish would be the Durham Tray Table, accent Pillows in Courtney Spa, Spa Linen, the Landon Linen Flange Pillow and Custom Pillow Covers in Queens Velvet Teal.

Adding a 42” Sidney Dining Table in Hickory Brown will allow you space to work on your laptop or have a snack. Our Mia Dining Chairs and Side Chairs with Brass nailheads, upholstered in Sunbrella Herringbone Spa will look great and be easy clean up. Suspend a bronze Orb Chandelier over the table as a beautiful jewel. Be sure to use a dimmer switch for amazing ambiance.

And finally,  a spot for enjoying the outside view, reading a book and just relaxing! Bring in a pair of our Candace Chairs in Danish Linen Leaf offer the ultimate comfort. Between the chairs, a Casa Florentina Caprice Side Table in Distressed Gray provides beautiful function. Accessorize the chairs with a Shiloh Spool Ottoman in Sunbrella Basketweave Flax, a Jeffrey Floor Lamp in Antique Brass, an Avlon Dhurrie Flatweave Rug in Gray and accent pillows in Courtney Spa round out a beautiful space.

We know these ideas will bring your family room to life!

Happy Decorating!


Alison's family room on a lake
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How to Decorate Team

We enjoy spending days interacting with How to Decorate readers. From answering Design Dilemmas to writing How To articles and working with guest designers, our passion is to provide informative and accurate resources to help people solve their design problems.