Formal Vs. Informal Living Spaces

Whether you live in a house, apartment, town house, condo, or beach house, you likely have room for two distinct living spaces. Many homes are built with a room near the doorway, in sight as you enter, and then a second living space deeper into the home, usually near the kitchen. These two spaces do not have drastically different purposes, but they tend to be designed as such. Both are for entertaining guests, relaxing, reading, and performing other activities that generally involve being seated, but the smaller room by the front door is usually considered the formal living space, whereas the larger one by the kitchen (or on the second story landing, which is also common) is considered the informal living space.

How do you formalize and in-formalize a room? When it comes to attire, the sophistication differences are marked: formal means a dress and suit or tuxedo, whereas informal means jeans and a comfortable T-shirt. How do you create different moods and convey a tone to your guests with a room? After all, the formality of the space will often affect the formality of the interactions inside the room.

Considering Design

The key to distinguishing these spaces is in design. In design, spaces, or rooms, are said to have a certain style. Style is not the key to differentiating formality and informality, as virtually any decor style–rustic, Mediterranean, Zen, English, etc.–can be appropriate for a formal den or informal living room. Therefore, just designing these two spaces in different styles will not differentiate the tone of the two rooms by default.

The amount of decor is not necessarily the issue either. While being overly cluttered is unappealing, no matter a room’s purpose, stark, minimalistic rooms can also express an air of informality. When shopping at furniture stores in St. Petersburg, FL, you should not decide to fill up the living room and be stark with the den and expect a different tone. This is the cause of boring, unused dens and messy, cluttered living rooms.

Rather, there are other ways in which you can create a design for your den that is different from the design for your living room–ways that create individual tones and convey a different level of sophistication. Often, design can be challenging. You might attempt to design something to a certain effect or try to replicate something from a magazine, only to find that you did not achieve the right look. Something might feel “off” or just seem unpleasant. The following are a few simple ways to create different tones between the formal den and informal living room.

Comfort Level

Like with fashion, comfort is usually associated with informality. Living room furniture should be softer, more welcoming, angled for relaxation, and more fabric-based than den furniture, which should be more straight-backed and rigid. However, do not go to extremes. Overstuffed couches are too informal and a den full of nothing but wooden or metal furniture will be incredibly uninviting.

Pattern and Color Variations

Informal living spaces tend to feature more variations in pattern and color than a den would. Again, do not go to extremes, but try matching several compatible patterns and colors in your informal space and sticking to 1 or 2 motifs in your formal space.

Objects

Objects that remind people of certain time periods or functions can effectively alter the tone of a space. For example, china and silver tableware make a dining room formal by association, whereas colorful and ceramic tableware will feel less formal. Incorporate objects that feel formal into your den, like cigar boxes and pendant tables; decorate an informal living room with homey and comforting objects, like framed photographs and pillows.

Furniture

Remember that your formal den is not necessarily for your pricier furniture. In fact, a large, comfortable sofa for your informal living room might be one of your big-ticket items. Instead, focus on decorating both rooms with quality furniture. When you visit furniture stores in St. Petersburg, FL, you can find furniture that is both elegant and comfortable.