To some, a great room — a home’s major communal space — is simply a square or rectangular room with higher than average ceiling height — a cube that contains cooking, dining, and lounging functions in one open space. Often this great space can be seen from a hallway overlook on a higher floor.
During the McMansion era, one measure of status was the height of one’s great room. I’ve been in great rooms that are forty feet high, where the space literally dwarfs even the largest scale furniture and people. A great room on steroids is not great: it’s uncomfortable!
We work with each client to design the type of space that will suit their lifestyle. And there are certain principles that we consider in every situation.
PRINCIPLES THAT MAKE A GREAT ROOM GREATER
Maintaining human scale. Proper scale is critical to feeling comfortable, no matter how large a whole space is. Even in the case of a great room for a large family or frequent entertaining, consider including elements that are of human scale: soffits along a window wall that also house lighting; a continuous line that is the top of built-ins or exposed beams that are at typical room height — nine or tem feet above the floor; ending or stepping back a fireplace mass to human height. Or flanking oversized windows with narrower ones to maintain scale.
Vary ceiling heights. Different functions suggest different ceiling heights for practical and emotional reasons. For example, it is more comfortable to cook in a kitchen that is ten to twelve feet high (where task lighting is optimal, everything is within reach, and ventilation is manageable, dine in an eating area of similar height and lounge in a space that is ten to fifteen feet high.
Volume should also be based on the number of people who will use an area on a daily basis. A great room for a family of four (plus guests) that is scaled to a once a year event for twenty feels cavernous the rest of the year. (That’s why open floor plans in modern homes where one can extend into adjacent spaces makes so much sense).
Vary the floor area. Isn’t it logical that a seating area for eight be wider than a dining room for six and a kitchen for three? Varying the width of a room is a good way to maintain proper scale for each function while maintaining a visually and functionally open floor plan.
At Warmmodern Living, we are committed to creating greater great rooms. The process includes exploration, discussion, and attention to detail. Our clients will tell you that the destination was well worth the journey.
Part II of “Designing a Greater Great Room” will include the use of lighting and thinking outside the box.