Back then this room was not a family room; in the real estate listing it was identified as the "fifth bedroom," located just off the dining room on the main floor of the house. The previous owners' grown son and his cat lived here. There is also evidence that the son was operating a shell corporation out of this room, but we won't get into that. The "before" pictures really do not do justice to how bad this room was, mostly because you can't smell pictures.
Despite the odor and its small size, we knew we wanted to turn the fifth bedroom into a family room because, with only four of us, five bedrooms seemed excessive. Also, we do not have a finished (by modern standards) basement, so unless we wanted to put our television in the formal living room, we had to create a comfortable space on the main level where our family could kick back, relax, and watch whatever Minnow dictates we watch.
It's amazing how transformative new carpet, fresh paint, and some handsome furniture can be. Although it is the smallest room on the main floor, the family room is where we spend the majority of our time together.
Originally, we wanted to tear down the ugly wood paneling and hang sheet rock, but our budget didn't allow for it. Instead, we had our painters prepare the walls with a special primer and then paint it a soft sunny shade (Benjamin Moore, Filtered Sunlight). We replaced the old carpeting with an inexpensive, neutral wool/nylon sisal. The light paint and carpet help the space feel larger than it is.
Because of the dimensions of the room (approximately 12 x 12), we needed a slim, low-profile couch that could comfortably sit at least two adults. We found this one at- wait for it- Bob's Discount Furniture! Also, it's a queen-size sleeper-sofa, which means we can use the family room as an extra guest bedroom when the need arises. But that's not the best part. The best part is that the man who sold us this amazing piece of furniture is none other than Richard Dreyfus. Don't believe me?
As my husband observed, all the good roles must have dried up after "Mr. Holland's Opus."
Our modular entertainment center and bookcases, from Pottery Barn, are some of the first furniture pieces my husband and I bought together after we were married. The bookcases house all sorts of personal affects, from my dormant law school textbooks, to family photos and mementos from our travels. The bookcases also house our combined libraries, which serve as a lesson on how opposites attract. For example, the John McCain biography in the upper left corner is his. The Marx-Engels Reader in the lower right corner is mine.
Also displayed on the entertainment center is my matchbook collection, which contains a matchbook from almost every restaurant or bar my husband and I have visited together since we started dating eight years ago. I love the story each matchbook tells, and I also love seeing all the pretty colors through the glass cylinder vase. Fortunately, Minnow has never shown an interest in dumping the matches on the floor and lighting a fire, but who's to say I will be so lucky with the next child? The matchbook collection will likely be put away when Peanut goes mobile.
Say hello to Geoffrey Giraffe from New York City. We picked him up at a flea market on the Upper West Side in 2009, and he has been with us ever since. He is one of my favorite things so, although space is at a premium in the family room, I insisted we squeeze him in there in the corner.
We bought this double-decker cast iron and glass coffee table from Pottery Barn back when we were childless and reckless. I liked it because it has space for our many coffee table books, including our wedding album and my Audrey Hepburn book collection. Sadly, after Minnow was born we realized what a death-trap this table is, and removed it from our Upper West Side apartment. When we moved to Bronxville, I insisted we bring it back, with modifications. You can hardly tell, but running along the cast iron edges on both levels of the table is a black foam bumper, which has saved Minnow's noggin on more than one occasion.
Another one of my favorite things, displayed on the coffee table, is this decoupage tray by John Derian Company, which was a bridal shower gift from my aunt. The tray depicts a whimsical essay about Central Park written by a young New York City student in 1869. Our first apartment in Manhattan was a block from Central Park, and this tray serves as a reminder of how lucky we were to live steps away from such an enchanted place.
Behind one white door is a spacious closet, in which we store extra pillows and sheets for the sleeper-sofa. Behind the other white door is our secret third bathroom. Not only do we not need a third bathroom, but this bathroom is revolting. Like all of our bathrooms, it had wall-to-wall carpeting when we moved in but, unlike our other bathrooms, that carpeting was saturated with urine of either the human or feline variety. Although my husband tore out the carpeting, the stench remains. I have been in that bathroom exactly once, to clean it. I do, however, have my husband check periodically to make sure that a family of raccoons has not moved into the tub.
The picture on the back wall is a framed message from GE that my husband clipped out of The Wall Street Journal ten days after September 11, 2001. It reads:
We will roll up our sleeves
We will move forward together
We will overcome
We will never forget
Of all the things in the family room, this framed sheet of newsprint means the most to my husband, a native New-Yorker.
With the autumnal dip in temperatures, the blossoms on my hydrangea bush are starting to change colors. I love how these blossoms, displayed in a Tiffany vase we received as a wedding gift, add color and warmth to our tiny space.
Minnow, of course, has her own seat in the family room: A chocolate and white polka-dot arm chair from- where else?- Pottery Barn Kids.
The bay window is bordered by botanical print curtain panels I bought on clearance from the Pottery Barn website. If you can't tell, I sort of have a thing for Pottery Barn.
Our long-range plan for the family room is to expand it by moving the front wall with the bay window up several feet toward the front of the house. In the back of the room we will eliminate the closet and creepy bathroom and conjoin the family room to a breakfast room we are building off the back of the kitchen. Because this will be an expensive undertaking, we didn't want to spend a lot of money upfront. We had a strict budget for turning the fifth bedroom/ home business headquarters/ cat habitat into a comfortable family room, and I am so pleased with the result.