Farmhouse Style Living Room

One big room equals one big happy family. It's a living-cooking-dining space where they can all be together—but each still do their own thing.

open floorplan sectional and blue ottoman

Together, but not too together. That’s the operating principle that keeps life at the Furtney home in Kentfield, California, humming along. A wide-open main living area—which includes gathering and eating spaces, plus kitchen—makes it work. Erin and Tom can catch a game on TV while their four kids (Ford, John Ryan, Audrey, and Fiona, who range from 18 months to 8 years old) pursue their own kind of fun but remain in visual range.

The couple added brightness to the great-room by whitewashing everything—beams, walls, and fireplace bricks. Even 1970s wall paneling looks like cerused wood after a decorative paint finish was applied. Then Erin further lightened the mood: Notice the “Beware of children” sign on the mantel? “You need to have some whimsy,” she says.

Pillow-lined window seats at both ends of the light, bright space beckon budding readers, and the ottoman is sometimes a racetrack, sometimes a doctor’s exam table. For homework, crafts, or puzzles, the young Furtneys can take their pick of three tables spread throughout the space. “This allows us to all be together, yet not have to do the exact same thing at the exact same time,” Erin says. Come Friday, though, personal space goes out the window. It’s movie night plus popcorn on the sectional—all together. Kids don’t cramp Erin’s style; they just tweak it. A big ottoman won out over a hard-edge coffee table, and the great-room sectional wears a washable slipcover.

eating nook with round table and modern artwork

A round table in the eating nook keeps everyone in the conversation for this family of six. Turquoise high chairs convert to regular chairs—Erin likes the mod look as much as the through-the-years functionality.

modern living room with arched ceiling

The large open space divides naturally into smaller, multitasking areas. Erin loves to read in the corner window seat where cushion covers are made of durable outdoor fabrics. A decorative paint treatment lightens once-dark beams while retaining the visual dimension and sense of coziness the beams bring to the high ceilings.

Editor's Tip: Consider using outdoor fabric to upholster seats that get heavy, everyday use—barstool cushions, dining room chairs, and window seats. Not only will the outdoor fabric make it easy to clean the fabric, but they'll also stand up to sun fading.

bright window seat in corner of modern room

With a kid-size table pulled up, the window seat works great for building Lego towers or hosting tea parties. Two additional metal chairs are ideal for kids at play.

deck area with french doors leading to great room

French doors connect the great-room to an outdoor gathering space, adding an alfresco room for dining or lounging, tricycling or roller skating—whatever the day may bring. The built-in planter beds frame the patio while small trees add height and privacy.

Homeowner Erin Furtney

Guests, kids—everyone ends up in the kitchen. I needed ours to handle all the action.

— Homeowner Erin Furtney
centered island in large modern white kitchen

“I’m always drawn to a fresh white kitchen,” Erin says. “It’s timeless, but also a little modern-looking.” The gray island adds a contemporary edge.

modern kitchen with dining peninsula

A U-shape kitchen with a peninsula lets Erin, who loves to cook, do her thing without putting messes on display. Dark stain makes common oak flooring look more exotic and chic. It also adds contrast to keep the neutral space interesting.

Rather than sacrifice the entire interior kitchen wall to the open plan, the Furtneys use a peninsula wall for ovens and additional storage on the kitchen side and a breakfast bar where barstools pull up on the opposite side. A super-size chalkboard (painted on the wall and trimmed out) can host messages, accolades, lists, and more. Wine storage added to the cabinet also has been a game changer, Erin says.

open floorplan living area with table

That spot behind the sectional isn’t going to waste! A narrow hand-me-down dining table turns it into a kid creativity zone.

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