Decorating Dilemma: Virginia’s Family Room

Decorating a large family room in a contemporary home

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,

We’ve recently moved from a 1930s cottage with cozy rooms to a much larger home that I’d describe as a soft contemporary. There are some great features here — huge windows, gorgeous wood floors, and plenty of natural light.

The family room is proving to be a real challenge, however! It’s 248 x 206″ and is open to an equally large kitchen and breakfast area. In the past, our dark/neutral furniture worked beautifully with honey-colored Oak floors and charming white built-ins; but here, it’s just too much dark — dark floors, dark granite, cherry cabinets, etc.

Plus, I’m stumped by how to work with the off-center fireplace and built-in entertainment area. This will be a much used family room so furnishings must been able to stand up to teen boys and be casually beautiful at the same time. I need help arranging furniture (change sectional altogether? add some chairs?), making the colors work, and adding some charm/warmth.

Thanks in advance for any help you can offer!







There are some great features in your new home and we can add some new pieces that will give the charm and warmth you desire.

We have kept your rug (we recommend turning it 90°), leather ottoman and pillows but have added two Candace Sofas with Sunbrella Basketweave Flax fabric for the durability needed for your teenage boys. The Olivia Mirrored 30” table on one of the sofa along with an Antico lamp will add interest to the room.  On the opposite end we have repeated the Antico lamp but with a Morgan End Table in black.

Tip: Use books to raise the height of this lamp to mirror the height on the other end. 

We are keeping it simple for the other Candace Sofa we added a Grayson Tray Table in oil rubbed bronze and an Avallon Floor lamp to provide you a resting place for a drink and ample lighting.

Decorating a large family room

Facing your fireplace, two Carlyle Swivel Chairs in Belize Taupe fabric will round out the sitting area.  The swivel will allow everyone to interact with everyone in the kitchen along with providing the best seats in the house for watching TV.

We think an Ananda Serving Table in Rustic Black would be great to add to the wall across from the windows. It’s slim profile will be a perfect addition to balance this side of the room and still allow good traffic flow. Two Courbe Ottomans in Mara Peacock tucked underneath will be great for additional seating. We have flanked two of our Seasons Prints on either side of the Ananda table to add height, again balancing the windows. Two Leona Lamps on the table will give you beautiful lighting and a few of Suzanne Kasler Gallery Wall Mirrors (we suggest an odd number) will create a fabulous vignette.

Consider hanging the Grand Palais Round Mirror above the fireplace will soften all the square edges on this side of the room.  Lastly, a few of the Blue & White vases on the mantle will add color and vibrancy.

We know these suggestions create the warm and charm that you want for your space.

Happy Decorating!

The Design Team

Decorating a large family room in a contemporary home

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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.


  1. Reply


    January 18, 2016

    Which fabrics would you use for pillows on the sofa and chairs if I went ahead with your rug and drape recommendations in the above comment? I already purchased the exact sofa, chairs and ottomans!

  2. Reply


    December 29, 2015

    Which drapes and rug would you pair with this ensemble?

  3. Reply


    November 30, 2015

    I am using this room for inspiration in my family room. I need ideas for pillows on sofas and chairs, possibly a rug and maybe additional artwork that coordinates with the seasons prints. Among other items for my home. Please contact me for assistance!

    • Reply

      Caroline @ How to Decorate

      December 1, 2015

      We would love to help you with your space. Simply complete this form, and our Design Solutions team will contact you with suggestions!