Family Room vs. Living Room: What’s the Difference?

Know the difference between the family room and the living room. Decide whether you need both rooms in your house or just one of them by identifying the main distinctions and the purposes served by a family room and a living room.
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Beautiful living room with beam ceiling, shiplap wall panels, a flat screen TV above a stone fireplace, a beige sectional with multi-colored throw pillows, an ottoman coffee table, and large windows with stunning views.

The family and the living room are actually two separate rooms in a house. Understandably, many people often interchange them and confuse one with the other.  The popularity of an open concept living space and the great room only helped muddle things further.

The family room and the living room may appear the same, but their differences lie in their function, location in the house, and even the layout. While most homes may just have one of the two, larger homes with the luxury of space have retained the formal living room and the casual family room.

Family Room
Family room with black and white sofa and accent rug.

Unlike the living room, which is often towards the front of the home and located in a prime location for receiving guests, a family room is generally at the heart of the home and may be connected to the kitchen, making it easy for family members to move between these rooms without drifting too far from each other. Family rooms have a very different function than a living room does, and that is to provide a space where the family is able to spend time together and enjoy their favorite activities.

This means there should be plenty of seating in the family room for everyone to spend time together, and that the seating should all be very comfortable. Unlike in a living room, where the style of the furniture is just as important as its appearance, furniture in a family room should be able to stand up to daily use and abuse without tearing or staining. Families who have children will benefit from choosing furniture that is durable and hardy so that it doesn’t need to be replaced very often.

A family room with electric fireplace, perfect for family entertainment session.

Because family rooms are used for the family to spend time together, they are often where an entertainment center is located. This makes it easy for a family to get together in the evening and watch TV. Having side tables for snacks and drinks is ideal as it will provide a family with plenty of places to put their food while watching a movie. It’s important to have plenty of room in a family room for storing games, books, and craft supplies, and by using family pictures and knick-knacks, it’s easy to make the entire room feel more comfortable and less formal than a living room.

Because these rooms are located in the heart of the home and are where the family will spend a lot of time, it is normal for them to be a little bit messier than a living room. This is not a problem for most families, as they tend to only invite close friends into the family room.

A large family room with comfy sofa seating and fireplace in hardwood flooring and glass windows.

Since family rooms are used on a daily basis, it is important that all of the furniture and surfaces are easy to clean to keep the space neat and picked up. These rooms are generally large and ideal for hosting a child’s party, as there will be very few fragile items in the room that may be broken. Decorating a family room with artwork from children as well as favorite heirlooms will allow the personality of everyone in the family to show through.

It is important that a family room is cleaned on a regular basis to ensure that the family has a safe and clean place to spend time together. A family room is a great place for a family to relax and enjoy their favorite activities, whether that is painting, reading the paper, or working on the computer. Rather than entertaining guests in this space, families should focus on making their family room as comfortable as possible to ensure that space works for their family.

Living Room

A white living room makes it very convenient for visitors to come in to the house and relax.

In general, living rooms are located closer to the front or entry of the home and are often used to entertain guests who stop by the house. Because these rooms are generally located closer to the front of the home, they make it very convenient for visitors to the house to come in and relax without being exposed to messy rooms. They are great for entertaining during formal occasions and traditionally have more formal furnishings in them than family rooms do.

While a living room will usually have the same type of furniture as a family room will, including chairs, a coffee table, and a sofa, they are generally more stylish and formal than comfortable. It’s common to find wingback chairs in a living room and to have family heirlooms and valuables on display rather than knick-knacks and family pictures.

A large white living room with fine art decor and built-in shelving and a fireplace.

Because a living room is more often used for entertaining guests and not for the family to spend time together in the evening, they generally do not have entertainment systems or a TV. While there will be some signs of the family who lives in the home, they are mostly going to be fine art or family portraits, while snapshots of the family will be displayed in other areas of the home, including the family room.

One great way to make sure there is a clear difference between the family and the living room is to carefully choose décor that is appropriate for the use and the feel of each room. Using antiques and art to decorate the living room and relying on elegant furniture will help the space feel as special as it is. While your guests should feel at ease when invited into your living room to spend time with you and your family, this is not the ideal place for children to play and should be treated appropriately.

An impressive grand living room with piano and carpet flooring, great for hosting larger parties and events.

A grand living room will typically not get as much use as a family room will, but this type of room is still important and has used in your home. As long as you have taken the time to carefully decorate your living room and ensure that it will be comfortable for guests, this is a great location for entertaining visitors. Because this room is generally more impressive than the family room or other rooms in the home, hosting larger parties and events in your living room will allow you to ensure that your event is impressive and that everyone enjoys time in a formal room.

Because these rooms tend to be less kid-friendly and often do not see as much action as a family room does, they are easy to keep in great condition and only require surface cleaning on a weekly basis to ensure they are always ready for company. When you have a living room set up to receive guests and take care to clean it on occasion, you won’t ever have to be worried about where you are going to entertain unexpected visitors.









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