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Is the living room due for a rebound?

Aim to improve the flow, appearance and functionality of this increasingly used space

By Erik J. Martin

They say you’ll spend one-third of your life — 90,000 hours, give or take — at work, which typically means an office or location away from home. But over the past few years, the home has remained the primary job site for millions of Americans who continue to work remotely.

But that doesn’t mean all of these folks occupied a home office, bedroom, or kitchen table as their go-to work area. Research by Ferguson Bath, Kitchen & Lighting Gallery reveals that the room we occupied the most in 2020 compared to previous years was the living room (chosen by 50% of respondents surveyed), with one in three Americans completing remote work in their living rooms.

Consider how formal living rooms, popular among previous generations, have practically gone the way of the dodo bird. Homeowners have had to reimagine this room time and again over recent years to make it more functional and valued.

Which leads to a curious question: Is it time to rethink the purpose and look of your living room, which may be more in-demand today than ever before?

“Since the work-from-home evolution, with people spending so much more time at home, the living room has played a crucial part in the lives of many. It has become more than a place of leisure; as well as being a spot to gather with family, it has been used as a workplace, a classroom, and even a home gym for some,” says Julee Patterson, broker/owner of a boutique real estate brokerage in Northern California. “Homeowners today want a large, functional space that is flexible to the needs of their families, and the living room can make that happen.”

Amy Lewicki, a home decor blogger from Portland, Maine, isn’t surprised the living room has become the focal point of the home lately.

“People are craving the feeling of togetherness,” she says. “It only makes sense that the room intended for gathering has seen a spike. Friends and family members of all ages are finding comfort in a safe environment. Living rooms allow us to engage in activities that feed our soul in some way, whether it’s cozying up on the couch with a loved one or engaging in a game night with kids.”

Erin Strasen, a New York City-based interior designer, foresees this trend continuing indefinitely.

“I think more people will continue to work flexible hours and negotiate working from home to reduce their commute time. Although the formal demands of our living room may lessen in the future, the multifunctional needs of this space are here to stay,” adds Strasen.

For these and other reasons, it pays to devote extra attention to reinventing or at least updating this room, as necessary.

“One of the easiest ways to transform a space is with a fresh coat of paint and/or with more natural light. Don’t be afraid to open up the curtains and add an accent lamp if needed,” suggests Lewicki. “Aim to enhance the room’s flow, as well. Ask yourself: Does the layout of your furniture make sense? We recently swapped out our two oversized couches for two smaller loveseats and arranged them across from each other versus an L-shape, which instantly made the room feel way more open.”

Finding items that feel at home in your living room but also function for your workday needs could be good investments.

“Consider using pieces that can be dual purpose, like a sofa table that can double as a desk,” notes Patterson.

A table lamp with a fabric shade or an ergonomic desk chair upholstered in a more residential fabric can help you achieve that balance between work and play, recommends Strasen.

For extra seating without compromising too much of your floor space, incorporate stools or Ottomans.

“These can be easily rearranged and tucked away or moved throughout the home if you don’t have a ton of space and still want to make the room feel big,” Karen Gutierrez, an interior designer with Mckenzie Collier Interiors in Phoenix, says.

Think about helpful storage options that can quickly de-clutter the living room, too.

“Cabinets are your friend for organizing and hiding untidiness. Also, something as simple as adding baskets to toss games or toys into makes cleanup a breeze,” Lewicki says.