As TVs have gotten bigger and more sophisticated during their fairly young lives, our living rooms have been transformed into personal movie theaters. But as entertaining as televisions are, you may find that they can be quite distracting when you have guests over. If you’ve ever hosted a party and your guests spend most of their time in your house staring at your TV, you know the problem: TVs can get in the way of conversations and other meaningful face-to-face interactions.
In other words, it’s time to stop organizing your living room around the TV: a more people-oriented layout promotes more conversation and better connections with people.
The TV Challenge
In an ideal world, we would all have separate living rooms and TV or family rooms, but many of us don’t have that luxury. If you only have one room in your home for people to gather and relax, you may not be able to just throw away your television. But you can de-emphasize it, at least if you have guests:
Hide it. One option is to hide the TV when not in use. This can be done by placing the TV on a stand or in an entertainment center with a sliding panel or door that can be used when you want to hide it. This can be as simple or as complicated as you want (and can afford), including buying or building a cabinet where the TV can sink and rise as needed.
Disguise it. Another option is to hide the TV from plain sight by making it look like a work of art. You could take the easy way out by buying a Frame TV, but you can also hack your own DIY frame-style TV without too much effort. This way you can make your TV the center of the room but encourage conversation at will.
From the Middle. Finally, simply by not making the TV focal point of the room will go a long way in stimulating other activities when people are over. Having the TV on the side of an entertainment center or wall-mounted on one side makes it easier to ignore when you want something other than a Netflix binge.
Alternative points of interest
See, if you have a huge television dominating the room, people are going to watch it even when it is turned off. That’s just human nature. If you want a more people-oriented room, give people something to watch other than the TV – an alternate focal point.
The most obvious choice for an alternate focal point is a painting or sculpture or other work of art. But this can really be anything, as long as it grabs attention and sparks conversation. A fireplace, if you have one, is a built-in focal point that you can take advantage of by simply not mounting your TV over it. You can hang multiple pieces of art to create a gallery wall. You can use a large mirror as the focal point, or a window. You can even use a large potted plant or an exotic lamp. A focal point can be literally anything that is visually stimulating that you focus the space on. Just don’t make it TV and you’ve already won the battle for people’s attention.
The last piece of the puzzle to making your living room more of a people’s space is creating an atmosphere that encourages conversation and face-to-face interaction rather than staring at the TV. The goal is to create “conversation circles,” seating areas where two or more people can easily talk while sitting comfortably. This not only encourages group interaction, but also more intimate interactions that do not rely on the larger group.
Ideally, your conversation circles should overlap slightly so that people can switch from one subgroup to another at will. Think of a room with a large sofa and several smaller chairs or loveseats on each side – you could talk to someone on your right, then turn around and start a conversation on your left.
There are several things to keep in mind:
Movable furniture. If your room has double duty and will be used as both a TV room and a meeting place, furnishing it with pieces that can be easily moved and rearranged can be ideal. These can be chairs, tables and benches that are on wheels, but it can also mean skipping the large sofa and furnishing the room with smaller chairs that are easy to pick up and move around. This way you can focus everything on the TV when it’s time to watch a show with your family, then easily form a few conversation circles when it’s time to party.
Facing furniture. If you want to make a strong statement about encouraging conversation in your living room, position your furniture so that it faces itself. That could be two sofas on either side of a coffee table, a sofa facing a pair of comfortable chairs, or placing those chairs at an angle to the side. The goal here is to face everyone each other instead of a TV screen.
Furniture with a low backrest. If your TV is the centerpiece of the room and you don’t want to change that, consider placing low-backed chairs or a bench in front of the TV opposite the other seat. This way you have a clear view of the screen when it’s movie night, but other people are the center of attention when you have guests and you don’t have to move furniture.
If all you ever do in your living room is watch TV, make it the center of the room and make yourself comfortable. But if you want to be the kind of person who organizes memorable gatherings and actually has personal conversations, consider arranging things to focus more on people.
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