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Q We have a lovely large living room, but except for opening gifts on Christmas morning, we rarely use it. How can we make better use of the space?

A In traditional homes, living rooms claim a substantial share of real estate, and there are lots of ways you can enjoy that square footage. The same theory applies to newer construction, where there’s a trend toward smaller, parlor-sized living rooms.

The first step is to analyze your lifestyle. If you’re passionate readers, why not repurpose your living room as a library? Think built-in book cases and a big table in front of the fireplace, flanked by comfy leather chairs. Or perhaps a billiard room would be more on cue.

If your living room already is home to a piano, you could expand that theme by creating a music room, a spot for listening as well as playing. A small parlor equipped with a wet bar can be readily transformed into a piano bar for entertaining.

You can make better use of the space simply by making a conscious decision to enjoy it. When you have guests, welcome them into the living room for a cocktail instead of heading straight to the family room. Or you could designate one night a week in which you turn off the TV and play board games with the kids in the living room.

Anyone can make better use of the living room
simply by deciding to enjoy it.

My husband and I have established a weekly tradition in which we enjoy tunes and tapas in our living room. We put on music—our chill-out mix—then share drinks and small, casual dishes in front of a crackling fire instead of eating a traditional meal in the kitchen or dining room.

Think of it this way: It’s your house. It’s your choice as to where you spend time. Why not enjoy each and every room?


Q I’ve heard mirrors make a space look larger, but I’m at a loss as to how I should place them. Any suggestions?

A Mirrors are extremely effective in visually expanding rooms. For maximum effect, hang a mirror opposite a window, where natural light will crank up the reflective volume of the glass.

Unless you are a ballerina in training, avoid mirroring an entire wall. It can make a place look dated. Consider portable alternatives, such as mirrored folding screens.


Q I’d like the one and only bedroom in my condo to be a restful sanctuary, but it has become a catch-all space. I’m tossing and turning trying to find a solution.

A Relax—and start clearing the room of anything that detracts from comfort and serenity. Set yourself up for success by choosing nightstands with drawers or doors so you can stash books, magazines and other tabletop clutter inside. 

Work and rest don’t mix, so don’t let your bedroom double as a home office. If there’s no other space available, set up your computer and other equipment in an armoire so you can close the doors and forget it (visually, at least).

A large, well-outfitted closet will help you keep your bedroom uncluttered. If you’re short on storage, resurrect a tip from the Victorians: Stow out-of-season clothes under the bed. (Unlike your great-grandparents, you can go to Target and buy see-through boxes that do the trick.)


Q I’m so happy warmer weather is here. How can I celebrate the season inside my home?

A Lighten up by taking down heavy curtains and putting up gauzy linen panels in purest white. Toss suede and tapestry pillows off the sofa and bring in pillows covered in cheerful cotton or chintz. Cool off the fireplace by placing a big basket of flowers on the hearth. Roll up the rug and unfurl a summery sisal carpet.

Have a decorating dilemma? Send questions to Ask Eileen at smithreports@comcast.net

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