Form vs. Function in the Family Room: Balancing the Pretty with the Practical

I love our living room. I suppose the correct term is “family room” or “great room” but we refer to it as our “living room” because it truly is where we live. We do a lot of living here… some Sundays, I “live” in here, sprawled out in one spot, for 12 hours. It is the central point of our house and we can see most any part of our home from this room. I struggled when I was planning this room. I knew it would be the lounge space for our Netflix marathons, but I didn’t want it to look like a basement den. It is the most visible place in the house… how could I make it “dressed up” enough without sacrificing comfort?

I will admit, having tall ceilings and some cool architectural features help dress up a space without much effort. I lucked out by having some cool “bones” to work with. But, even if the structure of your room is basic, you can still apply the methods I used in this space. I’m sure many of you have seen photos of this room like this…

Two Story Great Room with Two Rows of Windows Two Story

…and like this. I am pleased with the overall aesthetic but what you may not be able to see at first glance is that while I love this room, it is a room that I stressed about, thoughtfully planned, and sometimes, even made sacrifices when it came down to form vs. function, erring on the more casual side.

Two Story Living Room with Balcony Catwalk and Stacked Stone Fireplace and built-ins

I knew I wanted a sectional for this room. Dave (my husband) was good with that, but what I soon learned was that his idea of a sectional and my idea of a sectional were two different things. I wanted streamlined and chic (surely I could find a comfortable option to fit the bill); he wanted something that reclined. Yes, reclined. My first stipulation when we walked into La-Z-Boy was “nothing that reclines or looks like it would be better suited for your man cave” (he totally has a reclining sectional down there too, by the way haha). I won’t bore you with the details of the hours and conversations that ultimately led us to the reclining sectionals, but within an hour of walking through the door, we were testing out a few models and kicking our feet up. (1 point for Dave.) We settled on a configuration from the Aspen collection; they whipped up a 3d drawing of our space and started plugging in pieces which was pretty nifty. It would have been more nifty had my measurements been better than just “guesstimates” haha. I went for a gray woven fabric (a little more dressy than the microfiber number going on in the man cave), in which I foolishly didn’t save the name (sorry!).

Nautical Sofa Pillows on Living Room Sectional

There is only one outer lever which I can discreetly camouflage behind this garden stool. A full table would obstruct too much of the walking area but a stool like this is the perfect side piece.

Garden Stool in Front of Recliner Lever

“Ok, so we are going with a plush sectional that reclines… that’s a pretty generous compromise, right?” It wasn’t. And, if five minutes before you would have told me that I would have agreed to the next feature, I wouldn’t have believed you. I don’t know if I took a water break or what the heck I was doing, but the next thing I knew, Dave was sold on a power console complete with light up cup holders and a full charging station. Here’s the proof. (PS: I think that’s like 42 points for Dave? 😉 )

La-Z-Boy Power Console and Cupholders

La-Z-Boy with cupholders

I pouted until I was excited. Dave’s job was to introduce the comfort, my task would be to dress it up- perfect for a den but worthy of a great room. *Insert the pillows and the throws* I’m not afraid to pile them on and am thrilled every chance I get to switch them up.  It took 12 weeks to manufacture but we timed it well with our home construction; I’m not gonna lie, our couch is amazing.

Gray La-Z-Boy Aspen Sectional with White Pillows

Is it what I would have chosen for a show home? No. Along with our sofa, there are a lot of decisions we made in our home that made the most sense for the people living in our house… us.

Living Room La-Z-boy Sectional Sofa with Chaise

So, now that you know the story behind my sectional, I’ll share how we made it work 😉 Yes, it has pillows and other layers but the primary room components that dress up the sofa actually have nothing to do with the sofa itself. While some people may have a tendency to “match” the look of the sofa with the other furniture in the room, I went in a different direction. Actually, I think I sprinted the total opposite way. A mirror-topped, oversized coffee table in a champagne finish with a matching side table? YES!

Living Room with ZGallerie Coffee Table

Structured wingback chairs (HERE) with nailhead trim? Double YES! Just because one element in your room is casual doesn’t mean the rest has to be. Think of your room as an outfit. Pairing pumps and a blazer with jeans- totally put together, totally cute, and totally works. (Do NOT think of the tux with tennis shoes thing- that never worked and should totally be outlawed 😉 )

Pottery Barn Thatcher Wingback Chair in Living Room

I think some people are allergic to having a visible t.v…. or at least above the fireplace if the fireplace is a focal point of the room. I, on the other hand, don’t just not mind the look; I actually like the way a sleek, well hung t.v. looks above the fireplace. We planned for this from the start so we had the builder make the appropriate arrangements during the construction process.

Two Story Great Living Room with Stacked Stone Fireplace and TV Above fireplace

The cords are fed behind the television and down into the cabinet on the right. (I totally can’t believe I am showing this “shame” haha). With remote controls no longer having to have a direct signal, we don’t even have to open this cabinet. And you know what? We store those remotes, tucked away right in that power console 😉

I get a lot of questions about the height of the t.v. and whether or not it is comfortable. This was a first for us and we love it. However, when we recline, it is in our natural line of sight. If you have a sofa that doesn’t naturally tilt your head upwards, I would do some testing before committing.

TV Cabinet wiring behind fireplace

This last room feature was actually a joint, Dave and Kel Nan, comfort-based decision – the fan. Ohhhhh, the fan! Fans have gotten a bad rap for a little while now; we are definitely a “fan family” and I will still admit that I dream of a different plan for what hangs from the ceiling. In the bedroom, we are probably stuck with the overhead but I think I may have some pull to negotiate something a little different in this room 😉

Two Story Living Room Great Room with Stacked Stone Fireplace to Ceiling and Built In Bookshelves

That being said, if you are going to “do a fan”, DO A FAN! You may not be able to tell from this shot but she is large enough to take on the space of the room. She won’t be with us forever but while she is, she blends in well without taking away from the overall aesthetic of the room.

Living Room with Fan and Coffered Ceiling

So, yes, you can have a reclining sofa and a t.v. above the fireplace if you work to dress up the other accents in your room. Don’t be afraid to mix styles; casual doesn’t have to be accompanied by more casual. Ultimately, you have to plan your home to fit your lifestyle. Some of the comments I get on photos of this space? “She must not have kids/pets”, or “I prefer my home to look like an actual lived-in home”. To them, I would say 1.) thank you; if that is the appearance my comfort-packed great room exudes, I have done my job; and 2.) you must not know about my cup holders 😉

Two Story Living Room with Stacked Stone Fireplace and catwalk overlook open concept home floorplan

OTHER SOURCES & ROOM DETAILS

Oversized Tray | Mirrored End Table (Formerly Palais Collection) | Mirrored Coffee Table (Formerly Palais Collection) | Rug: HomeGoods | Sofa: La-Z-Boy Aspen Collection | Fan: Progressive Lighting | Paint: Versatile Gray by Sherwin Williams | Flooring: Nottaway Hickory in Weathered Saddle

*Note: Post contains affiliate links and sources throughout the post. Where product is no longer available, a similar substitute has been listed.

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58 Comments

  1. 8.31.16
    Jennifer said:

    I just love how real you are! You will help lots of people with this post….especially husbands 😉 You may even save a marriage! Tony really struggled with the ceiling fan deletion in the bedroom, but we “traded” for some other features he wanted to keep. I had to laugh at “42 points for Dave”!

    • 8.31.16

      Jen, thank you 😉 I think I will be using the “ok, we can keep the ceiling fan in the bedroom if we can replace the one in the living room”. Then, I will revisit down the road with “we can do xyz if we can replace the fan in the bedroom” 😉 Tony is a smart man!

  2. 8.31.16
    Teri Sortzi said:

    I love this post and how honest you are! Thank you!!

    • 8.31.16

      Teri, thank you so much for your feedback! I really appreciate and for you taking the time to stop by!

  3. 8.31.16
    Mandy said:

    I love the sectional! You would never know that there is a hidden console or that it reclines. Clever use of the little table! I have the same exact floor plan as you do. We, too, have a ceiling fan and out TV hangs above the fireplace. I don’t know about your home, but in the late afternoon, with the sun steaming in, our room gets hot. The fan is a must to keep the air flowing!

    • 8.31.16

      Mandy, thank you! The afternoon sun streams in through our windows too; we haven’t noticed a lot of heat but it can be blinding in there for about half an hour!

  4. 8.31.16
    Margaret said:

    Your living room is everything I want mine to be! We have a low profile sleek gray fabric sectional and a 70″ tv over the fireplace. I have plenty of function, but need help with the “dressing up” part…so this post has answered my prayers. Is that a blanket at the foot of the sectional chaise or just a decorative sash? (Is that even what you call it? lol)

    • 8.31.16

      Margaret, you are so kind to say that! I am getting ready to roll out an overhaul of the sofa, dressed up for fall and can’t wait. At the bottom of the chaise is a folded throw 😉

  5. 9.1.16
    Wendy said:

    Sometimes you just have to compromise and you and your husband do it perfectly. This post shows how a beautiful and thought out room can look stylish and comfortable, even with all the gadgets in it. Love it.

    • 9.1.16

      Wendy, thank you so much for your positive feedback! We do enjoy that room so very much!

  6. 9.1.16
    Shauna said:

    You make cup holders look fabulous girl! 1. Dave is a lucky guy to have such a sweetheart for a wife 2. Don’t let him chat with Tim about the recliner part (I’ve been digging my heels down on that one. 3. You’ve made me reconsider because your sectional has fooled me for a year….always looks fabulous! Great post Kel! ❤️

    • 9.1.16

      Shauna, thank you my friend! You are so good to me. And, I definitely won’t tell Tim. Your gorgeous new addition isn’t going ANYWHERE! 😉

  7. 9.2.16
    Valerie McArthur said:

    Your living room is absolutely gorgeous! Actually, I love everything about your home! I especially love the white wood scrolled art work … do you remember where you purchased it?

  8. 9.2.16

    Kelley, I think you have impeccable style & I just adore your home. I think it’s the perfect mix of pretty & cozy. Let the naysayers talk. I have a white (slipcovered) sofa in our home with 2 boys (5&2) & 2 dogs that love that sofa. And I’ve made ‘pretty’ work for me in a home that ‘lives’…with kids & pets..the whole sha-bang! But seriously, I can’t believe your sofa is a reclining sectional! I never noticed. Great disguise!

    • 9.2.16

      Jenn, thank you so much! I love that you don’t let kids and pups deter you from white. Have a fabulous holiday weekend!

  9. 9.2.16
    Charley said:

    Does your sofa actually line up against the wall with the stairs without a walk thru path? My living room layout is very similar and I find it difficult to arrange. I also have the bar area and other opening on the side across from the FP.

    I always have a hard time reading your blog because the typeface is so light.

    • 9.2.16

      Hi, Charley! It actually does have a walk-through path behind the sofa. I know it can be tricky! And thank you for your feedback; I hadn’t heard that before so I will definitely look into getting that changed! Have a great holiday weekend!

  10. 9.2.16
    Tana said:

    hahaha, I love this! You know my struggles girl. Keep being classy, simple you – such a treat you are!!! Love this room…cup holders, recliner, tv and all!

  11. 9.3.16
    Karen said:

    Nan,
    Just like the others, I love this room. With all that bright light, I really thought your sectional was closer to white. What a wonderful neutral sectional, and somehow those cup holders work. I purchased my sectional from the previous home owners and recovered in a Sunbrella fabric that finally I can relax with. Like yours in a neutral gray. My TV sits above the fireplace too. Love the look for my house, and besides, it was the only place for it to go!

    Thank you for being “real.” I love, love, love your blog…. You are showing me how to work with my master bedroom currently and I hope it will lovely, functional and “real” too

    • 9.4.16

      Karen, thank you so much! Love a good, functional living space 😉 have a wonderful holiday weekend!

  12. 9.26.16
    Andrea said:

    Hi Kelley. I’m dealing with the same dilemma. My husband wants a recliner and I don’t. You did an amazing job. Thanks for the great inspo! By any chance do you know the exact fabric color name you choose?

    • 9.26.16

      Hi, Andrea! I totally understand! And, thank you 😉 I don’t- I hate that I never made note. Even my order slip didn’t have it listed. They have a TON to choose from though- wishing you the best of luck!

  13. 10.11.16
    Mary Williams said:

    I adore your house! We (I have a Dave too!) will be building and I have been pouring over floor plans for over a year. Do you happen to have the details of your floor plan or can you post a basic drawing of it? I love your layout. It is exactly what I have been looking for!

  14. 10.11.16
    Tricia Cusma said:

    I LOVE the fireplace. I am actually in the process of redoing mine and I love your stacked stone! Do you know what the name of the manufacturer and the color are? I’ve been having a heck of a time finding one I like! Thanks!

    • 10.12.16

      Tricia, thank you! Unfortunately, I do not as I picked them out of a lineup without paying attention. I am so sorry!

  15. 1.1.17
    Vanessa said:

    What a beautiful room! Your home is stunning. I have been struggling with this exact issue – comfort vs. pretty; husband man-cave preferences vs. my more feminine pallet. We may have our solution in the Aspen couch! May I ask – how is it holding up? Cushions, fabric, reclining mechanism? Also, you menioned switching up the pillows and decor for fall/holidays — any pics? 🙂

    • 1.4.17

      Vanessa, yes! I do rely on throws and pillows to make it a bit more feminine. The upper head rest of the chaise has started sinking but I believe that can be “fluffed up”; I just haven’t taken the time to do it. They do have a really good waranty. I have lots of pics at the top of the page under “Home Tours”- Christmas is my most recent. Good luck on finding the perfect fit! xoxo

      • 7.24.19
        Amanda Welsch said:

        Hi Kelley! Beautiful set-up! Like so many others, I really appreciate someone flat out acknowledging that we have to have function in addition to style. You have totally inspired me with your room! Sectional cupholders and all! Haha. We are getting ready to order Lazy Boy living room furniture for our new house this week. I very well may order Aspen thanks to your blog.

  16. 1.24.17
    Phoebe Christ said:

    Kelley Nan,

    Thank you! We are going through a forced remodel (we flooded in Louisiana back in August…6ft) right now and I just left the la-z-boy store with fliers and fliers trying to compromise with my husband. Got back saw your post and immediately sent it to my husband. We have three small children and he wants the recliner (which I was happy to see that flood…I know shame on me) and as much as I would love a picture pretty living room it just isn’t practical. Although as far as I can see yours is picture pretty and practical. Your post makes me excited about a big comfy but stylish space.

    Thanks for the ideas!

    P.S. we have a huge fan and love it too, although sometimes i wish for a chandelier

    • 1.28.17

      Phoebe, sending thoughts your way! I know it can be a struggle finding that balance. I hope you find the perfect mix!

  17. 1.25.17
    MaKenzie Burns said:

    Stunning! Is there anyway to find out color of sectional?

    • 1.28.17

      Thank you so much! I wish I knew- our receipt doesn’t have it listed 🙁

  18. 3.5.17
    Kathryn said:

    His sectional is divine and may be EXACTLY what we need! How are the back cushions. I have a sectional now but the back cushions get mushed down and I am constantly trying to fluff them. It just looks a bit sloppy now. ? How are yours holding up?

    • 3.5.17

      Kathryn, these get slouchy too in the areas I sit a lot and I get lazy about fluffing – they can definitely be revived; I just haven’t taken the time.

      • 3.6.17
        Kathryn said:

        Thank you so much for your response!! That was supposed to say THIS not his!! Ha!! I wish there was a magic cushion that just instantly made it so fluffy again after you sit on it. I’m wondering how that will hold up after several years. I have to fluff mind all the time and it drives me nuts. Too bad there isn’t a memory foam couch cushion! Maybe we should create our own! Your blog is absolutely one of my brand-new favorites. I don’t read very many blogs anymore, but I have been reading your entire blog this weekend! Thank you for being so open and sharing with all the work you do!

  19. 6.30.17
    Meaghan said:

    This was such a great post! Loved the realness!!!

    • 7.4.17

      Meaghan, thank you!! Wishing you a wonderful Fourth!

  20. 9.13.17
    Michelle said:

    How do you like the Thatcher chairs?? I’m redesigning my sisters living room and we have our eye on one, but don’t know if they are comfortable…. it will definitely be sit on her in space! Would you recommend an ottoman with them?

    Thank you!

    • 9.14.17

      Hi, Michelle! I love them! They are good, sturdy “sitting chairs” but I wouldn’t curl up for a Netflix binge session on them, if that makes sense 😉

  21. 2.6.18
    Jenny C said:

    I love your living room. We are buying the Aspen sectional too and I love the fabric color. What’s the name of it?

    • 2.7.18

      Hi, Jenny! Thank you so much. The color was actually discontinued :/ BUT, they have a ton of similar tones.

  22. 10.5.18
    Morgan said:

    Hi! I just discovered your site & I’m so excited! My husband & I recently purchased our first home, and the layout and colors are very similar. I’m so excited to use your tips! Would you be willing to share some photos of how you change things up for different seasons? Also, how do you like having the chaise portion of your sofa? I keep going back and forth about keeping the colors more neutral versus adding in more colors with rugs, etc. Any thoughts?

  23. 10.5.18
    Morgan said:

    Hi! I just discovered your site & I love it! My husband & I recently purchased our first home, and the layout and colors are very similar. I’m so excited to use your tips! Would you be willing to share some photos of how you change things up for different seasons? Also, how do you like having the chaise portion of your sofa?

    • 10.9.18

      Hi, Morgan! Thank you so much! I have seasonal home tours at the top of my blog where you can see what I do for each season! We actually just changed our sofa; the chaise ended up being too unwieldy and difficult to get in and out of :/

  24. 1.28.19
    Missy said:

    So thankful I found this post. We just purchased a story and a half home with a two story great room. I want a sectional and my husband (who doesn’t ask for much) wants to be able to recline. And he wants the TV mounted above the mantle. I love your ideas and this has given me vision for what we can do that will be a good compromise. I’d checked out Laz-y-boy’s website yesterday and this confirms it’s probably the way to go. Love all your ideas!

  25. 7.28.19

    Wow! You have given me a renewed hope! I came across this post when searching for ideas on how to combine mine & my husbands VERY different ideas on living room furniture. Actually any furniture…pretty much the only fights we get in are about home choices. 😉

  26. 10.7.19
    Freya Sienna said:

    I just really loved the way you explained everything. this helped me so much in setting my living room.

  27. 1.1.20

    Articles like these help so much in understanding the products and choosing the right type of product. Thanks for your efforts.

  28. 1.25.20
    Tina said:

    You did the impossible! You made a reclining sectional look classy and so chic! I’m in awe! This room is stunning! What can I put behind my reclining sofa to hide the bottom of it?

  29. 12.9.20
    Gretchen Bernard said:

    Kelly,
    I know this is an old post, but I am dealing with the same issue now. Our reclining sofa is also in our living room and the back is one of the first things we see when we walk in the door. It is so ugly! Do you have any ideas what could work behind a reclining sofa? The back is not against a wall. Thanks!

    • 12.14.20

      Hi Gretchen, I so appreciate you stopping by! That’s a tough one. You could always strategically drape a pretty throw across the back of the sofa. I hope this helps!

  30. 2.17.21
    Jamie Rose said:

    Haha. My husband would totally add in all the electronic man accessories to our sectional too! I am definitely going to look into this Aspen sectional. You can’t tell it’s reclining. And I want it to recline but the hubs doesn’t. So gotta hide that feature 😉

    • 2.19.21

      Hi Jamie, Thank you for taking the time to stop by! We loved our sectional when we had it. The comfort can’t be beat!

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