Back in Victorian times there was the parlor, a room which was kept for the purpose of entertaining guests. It was furnished in a formal manner, rather uncomfortably and austerely, with dark colors and pictures of long dead ancestors. Modern living rooms were for quite a while seen in the same light, as a rather formal room which got little use, and hence did not have much clutter. It was kept clean and tidy, ready for any semi-formal to formal occasion when it could be used. This traditional purpose for a living room is now undergoing change. Many homes now have no dividing wall between the den and the living room. In some cases the existing dividing wall has actually been removed. This leaves a large room which the family uses for getting together, relaxing and having fun.
Part of the reason for this shift in the usage of the living room is the more general shift towards a laid-back, informal way of life. The living room these days is seen as just that, a room where living is done every day. So if you have a more old fashioned, formally decorated and little used room, and you want to convert it into a modern living room, how do you go about it? You might still want to keep a control over the maintenance of this room, however, just in case you still want a space where you can entertain visitors which is more formal and businesslike than your TV room.
These days furniture is less for show than it used to be and more for practical use. This makes seating an important choice. You need to have enough seating for people, and to arrange it so that it facilitates interaction and conversation. Chairs and sofas should not only be attractive, they should also be comfortable. Place them so that people sitting on them are facing each other, and each person can see everyone else. Your room will appear more welcoming if you choose warm, vibrant colors. The lived-in, vibrant feel of the room is enhanced by the presence of up-to-date magazines, scrapbooks and family photos on your coffee table or other surfaces.
Lighting is another area which needs some thought. In the past, the fact that this room did not get much use led to its lighting being barely adequate. The light fittings and lamps were often rather fragile, and formal in appearance. Nowadays you need bright lighting so that the atmosphere is cheery, and which makes it easier for people to play games or read.
Floor coverings are another important consideration when it comes to brightening up a room, and they can themselves become a conversation piece. You can choose patterned, colorful area rugs which go with your furniture and the decor of the room, and at the same time create a feeling of coziness. If the patterns are intricate or the coloring unusual, then guests may be moved to comment on these, and this can be a great way to start a conversation. In addition, these rugs can provide lots of warmth and comfort for the members of the family while they are sitting on the floor playing a game, or even perhaps taking a nap.
You can display items around the room which might interest people and even stimulate conversation. For example, photo albums, trophies or souvenirs of your vacations. These can be natural ice breakers which also supply a homely touch, which really makes the room feel lived in.
You will need to do some planning to change your little used formal sitting room into a space which is comfortable for family and guests alike. The transformation, however, can be achieved without too much cost or effort. The result will be a great room for family to enjoy and to get together, and at the same time an inviting, warm space for socializing with guests.