Form & Function with The Nashes: A Family Room

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In this month’s “Form & Function” I thought we’d tackle more than just a piece of furniture. How about a whole room?  I felt the need to reach out to my generation about our strange version of the “family room” and a not-so-pretty trend I see creeping into millennial’s design that I fear is hostile to “brown furniture”. To take wood out of a room, is to take life of a room….and that’s a mistake I don’t want my generation to make.

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Does anybody remember that thing called “the den”? That room that was less formal than the living room, but still resembled a real room? That cozy place for family to gather and kids to play?

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Yea, that one….”The family room”…..The den”…..”The playroom”….”The TV room”. Some of us, like me, have one, while others of us may have all four. Others still, might have forgone all the normal functions of their house to give way to what is basically four TV rooms.  Well, in this Form & Function will you permit me to challenge you to think outside the box a bit and bring some warmth back into the “family room”? If these images look familiar….I urge you to consider some other options.

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It seems that among many of my peers, the modern family room/den isn’t complete without the sectional sofa, the particle board bookshelf, the wall mount flat screen so big that no art can be hung around it, and the occasional large cage for the kids. Am I right? Family rooms today seem to look more like something out of Soviet Russia than a place where anyone would actually want to hang out.

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This may look like it’s right out of Vogue, but it might as well be the 1980’s apartment of a Party official in Moscow.

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For what it’s worth, here’s what I did. My wife wanted clean and sparse. I wanted stacked and formal. Our compromise was a place where I could mix vintage and antique, fine and not-so-fine…..and she could find a peace in the comfort and simplicity. We wanted a place that could be made messy and chaotic during the day and be quickly put back together for cocktail hour with the grandparents by night.

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A far cry from the formal Living Room, where the French, the Gilt, and the Oils dwell, this is the true livin’ room. A place for the young and old,  whether for play-dates or cocktails….this is a real family room.

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The vintage Hugo’s leather chair and ottoman inherited from my grandparents is “Daddy’s Chair” and the lime/yellow vintage chair opposite, inherited from my wife’s grandparents, is “Mama’s Chair”. The Ikat ottoman from HomeGoods is really a trunk full of dress-up clothes. The salmon camelback sofa upholstered in linen was a find from the greatly missed “ESTATE” of Avondale; and is accented by a contemporary Turkish 4 x 6 from Carpet Concepts. Copying from the English, we put it all over a wool-jute rug that is soft for children’s play. A sea of “potato sack” burlap panels line the windows. We added pinch pleats to them for formality, but chose the burlap to add youth and warmth to the room. Burlap, lined with black-out fabric, is also an economical solution for the look of linen (especially if you need eight 96″ panels).

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Another vintage Hugo’s piece, this lady’s writing table is used for 1st grade art projects that are easily shoved into a drawer to make way for impromptu hors d’oeuvres  and a serve-yourself bar. A sturdy 1940s Windsor chair, made of English chestnut and a 1950s Hepplewhite style mahogany side chair make for extra seating at parties as well as durable bases for toddlers’ knees.

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One of my favorite pieces in the house, this Edwardian bookcase, circa 1900, is a great place to display wedding gifts and family heirlooms, while providing ample space underneath for those lovely primary colored, cardboard bricks and Fisher Price toys that can never seem to find a home. I love that from an adult’s eye view, you can see elegance, and from a kid’s…toys.

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I converted a painted tea canister used to ship tea from China into a lamp. The hunter green of the canister lamp plays nicely on the moss green burlap drapes and “Folly Green” walls by Farrow and Ball. A simple late 19th century New York bachelor’s chest serves as easy access for the kids’ toys and a Brunschwig and Fils pillow dresses up an otherwise unattractive vintage chair. And of course, everything has rather soft edges and corners for my little terminator.

I encourage my young friends and followers not to sell out to the sterile “Family Room” that can be easily purchased out of an online showroom. Kids, dogs, and life will wear on a room, why not embrace it and choose things that can handle the wear? Why do family rooms have to be sparse and ugly just because they need to be kid friendly and comfortable?

When you are shopping the Show this year, don’t just think of your formal living and dining rooms. Antiques have stood the test of time and can stand up to your 2-year-old.

So this holiday season, why not create a lovely and inviting place for the young and old….

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For the birthday parties and playdates….

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For the Christmas tree and the baby…

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Make it a real Family Room….a room that marries both form and function…..

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…….an elegant place where canines, sproutlets, and antiques can meet…

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….and a place where both your kids and grandparents will feel comfortable.

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