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This undated publicity photo provided by Brian Patrick Flynn shows a playful family room in a home shared by two young parents and their two active sons. Interior designer Flynn deliberately used youth as a part of the room's decor with original framed photography of 1980s Duplo figures as well as playful accessories and a bold, vibrant palette of navy blue and fire engine red. (AP Photo/Brian Patrick Flynn, Sarah Dorio/HGTV.com)
Ask a Designer: a family room for the whole family
First Published Aug 07 2013 08:15 am • Last Updated Aug 07 2013 08:16 am

In many homes, the "family room" is decorated with just one purpose: to withstand the impact of juice-spilling, game-playing, cookie-eating, crayon-wielding children.

The result is often a room that’s long on durability but short on style.

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How can you create a stylish, sophisticated family room where grown-ups will want to spend time, while still keeping the space kid-friendly?

Three design experts — Brian Patrick Flynn of decordemon.com and Flynnside Out Productions; Betsy Burnham of Burnham Design; and Jon Call of Mr. Call Designs — offer some advice:

STRONG FABRICS

"Design technology and textiles are catching up with our family-friendly lifestyle," says Burnham. "There are so many outdoor fabrics, so many amazing vinyls" that are durable and easy to clean, but also look good. Burnham is a fan of Holly Hunt fabrics treated with Nano-Tex, which resists spills and stains without changing the fabric’s texture.

Indoor/outdoor rugs are another great option now that they’re being made with materials soft to the touch.

Flynn, who often uses Sunbrella indoor/outdoor fabrics, suggests upholstering with removable slipcovers for easy cleaning.

When choosing slipcovers, "washed linen is great since it’s meant to look worn-in and super casual." He’s also a fan of very dark denim: "Navy blue and charcoal are my go-to choices for denim slipcovers since they look more tailored than basic beiges or creams."

NEAT SOFAS


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Call recommends skipping sofas that have three or four seat cushions and several more cushions across the back. "If you’ve got kids playing and jumping on those," he says, you’ll constantly be finding the cushions out of place or on the floor.

Instead, he says, pick a sofa with one large seat cushion and no separate cushions along the back — "something tailored and clean looking" that won’t need its cushions adjusted constantly.

MULTI-USE TABLES

Family rooms are built for entertaining, so think about flexible seating, Burnham says. "Maybe a side table that’s also a stool, or a coffee table that’s also a bench or an ottoman."

Kids can use an ottoman as a surface for games, while adult party guests can use it as seating.

Opt for tables with rounded corners for safety in rooms where kids often play, Flynn says, and choose tables with "metal or weathered wood tops. Metal tops can withstand heavy wear and tear, while weathered wood is intended to look worn, so as kids take their toll on the pieces, it simply adds to the intended look."

VARIED LIGHTING

Rooms that do double-duty need lighting that does too, says Call.

"When you have adults over or if you’re watching TV or it’s a more intimate moment, you want a lamp by the sofa, at eye-level or below, to create intimate pools of light," he says.

But kids doing homework or art projects need the brighter light that overhead fixtures provide. Make sure your family room has both.

EXTRA STORAGE

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