Our living and family rooms are the havens we retreat to after a long day of work to read, play games, watch TV and — in some cases — even eat. They are also repositories for all the stuff that goes with those activities, including books, games, toys, magazines and remote controls.
So how do we keep those items from taking over our space and distracting from the main mission of the family room: providing a stress-free comfort zone?
“The family room can be the sweatpants of the home, the yoga pants that you can’t wait to put on when you get home from work,” says Quintece Hill-Mattauszek, principal designer and owner of Studio Q Designs in Alexandria, Virginia. “You want to have things in place that allow you to have that comfort.”
Hill-Mattauszek applies that philosophy to her own home and to clients’ spaces. She, her husband and their two sons, ages 10 and 12, along with their dog, Tiki, spend lots of time in their recreation room, watching Marvel movies or shows in the evenings, sometimes over dinner.
When designing a family or living room, she starts by getting items off the floor and tabletops to create a less cluttered environment. She has a vertical ladder rather than baskets to hold her family’s cozy blankets. And she often suggests hanging planters instead of placing potted plants on the floor or tables.
“Clients usually tend to say they don’t know what to do with all of their stuff. Most of the time, it’s not stuff that they don’t need,” she says. “They need the children’s toys, the dog toys — all of that. They want to know how to incorporate them into a space, so it’s both functional and aesthetically pleasing.”
We asked Hill-Mattauszek to recommend items to help tame family room clutter. Here are her picks.
One way to keep tabletops uncluttered is to add vertical shelves for knickknacks, photos and more. “Sometimes it helps to get those things off of your surfaces and put them up on the wall,” Hill-Mattauszek says. She recommends installing two or more Burrow Index Wall Shelves ($325 each at westelm.com). Available in a white, walnut or oak finish, the units can be grouped horizontally or vertically to create as much storage as needed.
Instead of hunting down the remote controls every time you need them, add a tabletop organizer to corral them. Hill-Mattauszek likes the Yamazaki Remote Control Organizer Rack ($25 at westelm.com). Designed in Japan and made in China from plywood, the piece has a small footprint at roughly 5-by-6-by-6 inches.
The Sobro Smart End Table ($600 at wayfair.com) is a multifunctional piece that provides a central location for your devices and your drinks and snacks. It has a built-in cooling drawer and USB ports, Bluetooth speakers, power outlets and a wireless charging pad. The roughly 22-by-23-by-16-inch table comes in black, white, black with wood accents, and white with wood accents.
For plant lovers, Hill-Mattauszek recommends hanging planters to keep your floors and tabletops clear of pots. Adding one or more of the Riseon Boho Metal Plant Hangers (starting at $28 at amazon.com) can create an unconventional display. (They’re also pet-friendly, because the hangers keep plants out of reach of inquisitive cats and dogs.) They’re available in several shapes and in black, gold or green.
A magazine holder in a corner of the family room or by the front door is a great place to stash magazines, newspapers and catalogues, so they don’t pile up on a table or countertop. Hill-Mattauszek likes the HomeRoots Magazine Basket in raw silver ($151.49 at overstock.com), which is 16.5-by-17-by-10 inches.
The Crate & Barrel Nesting Play Table and Chairs Set ($399 at crateandbarrel.com) serves double duty as a table and storage area for child or pet toys. The 31.5-by-23-inch table comes in charcoal and gray or white and natural, and four kid-size seats can hold art supplies, books or stuffed animals. The seats tuck under the table when not in use, so they don’t take up extra space.
Hill-Mattauszek suggests thinking outside the box — or in this case, the standard oversize basket — to store blankets. Try a hanging ladder, such as the Anthropologie Avery Ladder ($168 at anthropologie.com). Available in a black or bronze color, it’s made of natural wood with brushed brass accents, it has four rungs and is 19-by-65 inches.