Reader SOS – Creating a Functional Front Room

I’m back with another “DIY Playbook, Save our Space”. My plan for #DIYPlaybookSOS is to take a reader’s space and (virtually) offer design tips and tricks on how to improve it.

Here are some of my favorite design solutions from this series…

Reader SOS from the DIY Playbook


Introducing EricaErica's townhome

Because I’m heading into maternity leave soon (May!), I’m doing my best to prep some content ahead of time and take a few things off my plate. I recently met Erica when I shot her gorgeous home for this Reader OMG! feature and she mentioned that she would love to help out with the Reader SOS series. She is always assisting friends with their own design dilemmas and has mad Photoshop/Graphic Design skills, so it is the perfect fit! She wrote today’s post and will be helping with future Reader SOS posts here on the blog. So take it away, Erica!

erica bio picHi, my name is Erica. I’m an art director (by day), but I love styling and designing ALL of the things, ALL of the time, whether it’s on set or in our home! You can always find me rearranging a shelf or a tabletop. It’s truly my happy place! In addition to all things home, I love to travel and to decorate our home with fun finds I’ve collected from our travels. Follow along as I share my favorite home styling tips and some of my favorite trips @chitownhouse. 

Now, let’s dive into today’s design dilemma…

How Should I Setup My Front Room?Reader SOS functional front room

I am hoping you can provide some inspiration for how to make our front room more functional. This is the room you enter immediately when you come in the front door. While the setup with a couch and coffee table is fine, it seems like wasted space to me because the room feeds into our family room, which has a big sectional and the TV. We have an eat-in kitchen, so I don’t want to make this room a formal dining room. How to create a functional front room
I was thinking it might work to put built-ins along the wall where the couch currently is. Ideally, I would like to be able to have closed storage for toys and games as well as desk space. It could also be nice to have a small table in the room for my daughters to color at and for family game night. I would like to keep the budget for this project under $2000. – StephanieReader SOS how to create a functional front room

Creating a Room with a Purpose

Today, we are tackling a design dilemma from a reader (Stephanie) who is dealing with a space that she feels doesn’t serve a distinct purpose. The room has great bones…including hardwood floors, great natural light, and a neutral paint color. Stephanie would like to make this space a bit more functional for her young family.

I totally understand the dilemma of an unidentified room like this. So many people struggle with what used to be designated as a “formal living” or “formal dining” space because they often go unused. Stephanie has the right idea – she’s willing to take the risk and not follow the rules of what this space is “intended” to be. The best part is even when changing up the “technical” or intended use for a space in a home, you don’t have to choose function over form. A space like this can be both functional and beautiful!

Start with a Color PaletteCreating a color palette for this functional front room

When I tackle a space, the first thing I like to do is create a foundation that I can refer back to throughout the development of the project. A great way to do this is by creating a color palette. I usually prefer a relatively clean canvas as a base. For paint, I typically use some version of white paint, like Behr’s Falling Snow, which would work great in this room if Stephanie is up for some painting. Choosing something like this not only instantly brightens a space, but also gives it the longevity to live on through various color trends.

For this room, I started with this gorgeous piece of artwork from Juniper’s Print Shop as a source of color inspiration. I then selected my favorite colors from the piece and looked to pull these colors into the space through other design elements. I kept this color palette in mind when selecting things like the area rug, pillows, furniture, etc. Having this palette serve as a point of reference allows for a cohesive and polished look and feel for the finished product!

Creating Three Vignettes

Stephanie really wants this space to be functional for her family, so I think it’s important to create zones with specific purposes. I ended up breaking this room into three distinct vignettes. I like to do this because it helps me not only to designate functional spaces, but it also makes the whole process A LOT less overwhelming.

Here’s how I plan to turn it into a functional front room for Stephanie’s family…

  • Functional Storage
  • Play Area/Future Desk Space
  • Casual Seating

Area #1 – Functional Storage Creating a wall of storage in this functional front room

For the first vignette, I suggest leveraging IKEA Billy Bookcases or Brimnes cabinets (for more depth) against the main wall to allow for maximum concealed toy storage. Another great storage option for this space would be a floating credenza or “Fauxdenza” like Casey did in her condo’s guest room. Placing the closed storage here will act as a great focal point to anchor the room, with wall space above to display some beautiful artwork, like the piece from the color palette.

Both of these storage unit options also offer a great surface on top, which is perfect not only for everyday styling, but also for entertaining. During the occasional family gathering, this surface space can act as a long buffet top to house food or even a bar top for serving cocktails.

A few tips for some of the details in this vignette…

Tip #1: One easy way to get that custom look for less with IKEA pieces is to simply update the hardware. It’s a small cost that goes a long way. The image above features these black leather pulls with brass accents and they make the piece look much more high-end.

Tip #2: Sconces are a great way to accent artwork and fill in the negative space on larger walls like this. The problem is that the electrical is never conveniently located for the placement of the sconces and it can be pricey to add it. You can use LED remote control puck lights as a great hack to get that cordless look without hiring an electrician!

Area #2 – Play AreaAdding a Kids' play space to this functional front room

While the whole room can act as a play area, this vignette creates a more defined space for the kids to sit and play. Poufs tucked under the low table offer additional adult-friendly seating that can be used for family game nights. While these lidded baskets create great secret storage for toys. Leveraging wall space for a bookshelf or large butcher paper roll for the kiddos to draw on is another great way to help define the space if the table is placed near the wall.

When the kids get older, this space can be transformed to house a desk for homework time!

Area #3 – Casual SeatingAdding casual seating

Finally, a casual seating area. Since there is a larger communal seating area in the family room close to this room, something like a chaise lounge (this one is only $300 from IKEA) is a functional alternative that creates a bit of a sanctuary for mom or dad. A place to steal a few moments to read a book or maybe enjoy a cup of coffee while keeping an eye on the kids. Sounds pretty heavenly to me. I also included this beautiful flush mount with brass detail because it’s such a steal on Amazon!  Oh, and don’t forget curtains hung high and wide to add texture and warmth in here (follow this guide for the best hanging tips!).

Putting It All TogetherCreating a functional front room for a family


Now for the best part…bringing all three vignettes together to create one functional front room! I think this would be one gorgeous space to welcome guests into your home.

Shop the Look

Items to create a functional front room

1. Hanging Planter | 2. Glass Vase | 3. Area Rug  | 4. Toy Storage Baskets | 5. Wall Sconce | 6. Lidded Storage Baskets | 7. Juniper Print | 8. Pouf

Seating area in a functional front room

9. Accent Table OR Look for Less | 10. Flush Mount Light | 11. Linen Curtains | 12. Chaise Lounge | 13. Striped Lumbar Pillow | 14. Butcher Paper Roll | 15. Kid’s Table | 16. Kid’s Cross Back Chair

Creating a functional front roomA big thanks to Erica for her awesome work on this post. I love her ideas to help Stephanie create a functional front room for her family. These designs are dreamy!

Submit your Reader SOS

I always love hearing your design dilemmas. If you have a space you want me to tackle next, email [email protected] with the subject line “READER SOS”. Please include as many photos and information as possible. Can’t wait to read…


More Reader SOS Posts

The Year of Casey

Hey there!

I’m Casey Finn, the voice behind The DIY Playbook. I’m a Chicago gal teaching you how to design, DIY, and maintain your home…by yourself! Learn more about me right here.