Carol Sampson

Our family room in the summer time is the No. 1 focal point for all gatherings and activities, from special to mundane. It’s our favorite place to hang out, hide out, and chill out from the humid summer monsoon. It’s the gathering place for the family, it’s the casual place for entertaining friends, it’s the kids homework and play space, it’s TV central and it’s definitely the coolest retreat and the most utilized room of the house.

Since we all spend a huge percent of our time in this room, it’s possible that we can get bored with the way it looks. Colors may have faded on seating, flooring, accessories or we may just be tired of looking at the same old paint colors, fabrics, or out dated window coverings. Furthermore, some things may have just worn out from so much use.

Slipcovers can quickly and inexpensively change the look of the family room by using light-colored slipcovers and adding pillows in cheerful summer blues or sandy beiges. Slipcovers can refresh the seating area sofa and chairs without re-upholstering if the sofa structure frame and cushions are still in good shape. However, redoing the sofa and lounge chairs by re-upholstering with updated fabrics is less expensive than buying new.

Year after year, we all collect more “stuff” such as books, photo albums, games, DVDs, favorite collections, mementos, art work, etc., all of which needs a storage or display place. Because family rooms hold the largest amount of our personal things, it may no longer work well as the family evolves and grows, it may need to be re-furbished or remodeled.

What better time than the summer months when we are a captured audience of our own making to re-evaluate how our family room works for us. Storage and display space may need to be redefined to better fit our current activities and growing family personalities. Eliminating clutter, broken or un-used and out grown items can be done in a family friendly way with everyone participating, or it can be done with a grand sweep by one person. Whichever way it is done, the No. 1 item to reassess is storage, we never have enough of it.

Custom built-in storage units for the family room cannot only store your things but it can create a beautiful focal point and add value to your home when you decide to sell it. The standalone storage units give choices that are limitless and can be moved to other locations in the house or when you move to a new place. With so many choices, you may want to get the opinion of a professional interior designer to create a unique custom storage unit that will give you the most for your investment.

There are other smaller storage units that are less expensive but can hold lots of stuff. An ottoman, created in any size or shape, can be a wonderful multi-purpose piece to not only put your feet on but it can store children’s toys, books, newspapers, dog toys and other clutter. Also, custom benches that are upholstered in long or square shapes with top openings are great for smaller family room storage. For example, the do-it-yourself person can build customize benches to fit on either side of a fireplace and be used to store individual children’s toys and games.

Proper window treatments for the family room windows cannot only look great but can serve different purposes. Family rooms on the south side of the house benefit from multi window treatments keeping the harsh sun from fading colors on fabrics, wood furniture, carpeting and some art work such as watercolors while also providing privacy in the evening. Several design styles can cut down on summer heat transference and probably reduce the electric bill as well. Layering window treatments such as Roman shades that fit tightly against the window, plus decorative panels on either side can get the best results of both function and design. Drapery linings are a must to again help with insulation. Blackout linings are great for insulation and darkening the family room for a movie and TV viewing and are also greatly appreciated in bedrooms.

Making the family room the heart of activities with enough storage, beautiful surroundings and comfortable seating can be a reflection of all family members. Each can contribute their share of personality and together they can all share the best room in the house. Inside summer family events are more fun when the family room reflects everyone and when it functions perfectly for all.

• Ahwatukee Foothills resident Carol Sampson is an award-winning interior designer and author of 35 years. Reach her at (480) 759-6763 or visit

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