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The great family gathering recreational all
purpose media to do everything or nothing in room. Just as the name implies, we’re talking about the space that has been called everything. As a matter of fact, I read recently about a new condominium development in St. Petersburg, Florida that had a room called the "Vinoy" room. Yep. The Vinoy Room. As I read more about it - being the inquisitive type - I discovered that it was named that so that the purchaser could use it for whatever they chose to. One Vinoy room might be used as a den, another as an office, another as an extra bedroom or a sewing room. Of course, the word "Vinoy" came from the area of town and the developer of the property, so don’t think that you’ll start seeing Vinoy on floorplans in your area.
What you may see however, is that this idea will catch on. After all, we tend to name things after what we do or have in them. The bedroom has a bed in it, the office has a desk in it, we dine in the dining room (yes we do) and we should be living in the living room. (See the Home Style archives if you don’t believe it.) Of course there are exceptions to the rule, we don’t all have the state of Florida in our Florida rooms, although I do. So when someone says
"Come into my great room and sit for a while," I wait to see what room they’re going to that’s great. I think every room can be great, so you see, what you name it doesn’t matter as much as what you do with it.
The North American lifestyle has changed over the years. As with most everything, the ideal layout of the house is cyclical. We used to have to have a living room; now there are many that eliminate it altogether in favor of the "great" room or one of the other names above. Kitchens used to be totally separate from the rest of the house and the closest room to it was a dining room. What we’re leaning toward now is an open concept kitchen/dining room/den/family room approach. We’re spending more time at home (just like in the good old days) and we’re devoting more of our resources to family
gathering spaces -- rooms that offer something to everyone.
The one room that has maintained its appeal is the kitchen; it has always been a gathering place. Think about the last time you had company over or entertained someone. You cleaned the entire house, cleared out the clutter from underneath your couch, and where did everyone spend their time (all together now) in the kitchen. So what we’re doing now is making kitchens larger, and designing them so that we can accommodate several functions within one space.
If you have a chance, visit a designer show house. This is the time of year they’re so abundant across the country, and not only will you enjoy yourself, you’ll probably walk away with a gazillion ideas for your own home. The one show house that I saw this spring had an enormous kitchen. This "kitchen" included a walk-in butler’s pantry, a TV viewing area, a dining area and a kitchen workspace area. In the "meat and potatoes" part of the kitchen there were 3 dishwashers (yes, three) 3 sinks, and 2 distinct prep areas designed to accommodate two cooks. Needless to say, a third world country could have lived in that "kitchen" and I don’t personally know anyone who could afford it. (If you can, please email me.) The point is that our homes are as unique as we are and will be as unrivaled as we make them. What we dowith a room, how we use the room is what makes the room special.
For the sake of clarity, I’ll call the space a great room. Call it what you will, a great room can be large or small. There are no rules that say it must have space for 2 couches, a coffee/cocktail table, 2 recliners and a 50-inch television. You can create a great room with one or two well-placed comfortable chairs, an ottoman, a palm tree, a magazine rack and a reading lamp. Umm. Fireplaces are wonderful things to have in great rooms. They create an instant focal point, and add warmth in more ways than heat. They’re not required however. Pianos are nice too, but everyone doesn’t play,
so again - nice, but not required.
What is required? It’s really simple. Things that you, your spouse, your family love and use and enjoy. If you love to travel, you might want to have some travel posters framed and display them on the wall. If you love to read, build in bookshelves to display your literary treasures. If you love music, then by all means spring for a stereo system that will bring you audible pleasure. If you love antiques, try hanging a lattice from the ceiling that is
lined with dried flowers and hung with treasures. Art lover? Invest in quality pieces and light them with appropriate fixtures to draw attention to their beauty. And if you just want a place to take off your shoes, recline and watch the tube, buy yourself a top quality recliner or chair and ottoman, add some sturdy occasional tables, a cozy lap blanket or two and some indirect lighting.
Someone asked me recently where to start in decorating their home. When I asked them what they loved, they looked at me as if the question was somehow inappropriate, or maybe they just thought I didn’t know the right answer and was stalling for time. The truth is, there is no right answer. Decorating is a personal, sensual, expressive and hopefully creative way of placing things that we use and love in our surroundings. It’s no more, no less. Exercise your style - everyone has one. And as I’ve said in this column before, you’ll know when it’s right for you, because you’ll feel it. You’ll walk in a room called by any name and say, "What a great room."
Spring is the perfect time to visit those designer showcase homes in your area. Held annually as a charitable fundraiser, the area’s interior designers decorate individual rooms of the house. A nominal per person fee ($7 - $10) is charged at the door, and then you’re on your own to tour the professionally decorated house at your leisure. My advice to you is to bring along a notepad and even a camera if it is allowed in your area, and jot down and photograph
what you like about each room. Pay particular attention to the details - the mixture of color and pattern within a room, accent pieces, groupings of objects, floor textures, wall and ceiling colors and treatments or whatever interests you most. When you leave, review your notes or photos, and get busy creating your own masterpiece home. Even if you do nothing but dream, you’ll surely be inspired.