When moving from one room to another within your house, do you experience a smooth transition? Are there doorways and narrow hallways that you need to navigate? Is there an abundance of clutter, such as children's toys, games, or equipment, seemingly present in every corner? When hosting guests, do they have ample space to socialize, or are they confined to a few rooms that feel excessively cramped?
A great room addition can solve all of these problems and more, creating the truly open-concept space so many homeowners we work with are looking for. A great room can offer space for children’s play areas that can be easily decluttered, entertainment space that flows easily indoors during the harsh Chicagoland winters, and between indoor and outdoor space in the halcyon days of late spring, summer, and early fall.
This article will examine the concept of a great room, the advantages of adding a great room to your home, and ideas to inspire your next home addition project.
Great rooms are multi-purpose spaces within a home that combine different functional spaces like a family room, dining room, and kitchen. A well-designed great room is ideal for hosting large family gatherings and everyday living. Rather than having the living/dining/kitchen spaces separated and small, a great room, just as the name implies, creates a larger, more cohesive space.
Typically, when homeowners approach us, they aim to create a house addition that serves as an overflow room or a more spacious living room suitable for hosting gatherings while maintaining a comfortable atmosphere for everyday family use. If the home’s existing floor plan is small, and the common living areas are disjointed, we help them imagine the possibilities by considering a great room addition.
In addition to better flow, more enjoyable day-to-day use, and creating extra space for entertaining, a great room offers benefits you might not immediately think of.
A great room can be multi-functional now and in the future. In addition to removing walls and allowing kitchen space to flow seamlessly into the living space, you can design areas for work and a command center for family organization.
Or, with entertaining in mind, add a wet bar or buffet counter in your great room adjacent to the kitchen area. If aging in place is a consideration, a great room can be transformed into an in-law suite when the time is right.
Great rooms are highly sought after by home buyers with children or those who are looking for exactly the kind of flexible, usable space a great room provides, so adding this new space can be an excellent way to add value to your home.
When designing a great room, add additional storage solutions that will meet your needs: this might include bookshelves, custom shelving, a window seat bench with storage, or other custom built-in storage for a larger, more cohesive space.
The most logical place for a great room addition is in the back of the house, creating a welcoming sanctuary for the family and a smooth transition area between the indoor and outdoor living spaces.
An outdoor alcove can be created by designing the great room as a partial addition in the back (added to only half of the home). This space can become a patio where you can build an outdoor kitchen, grill area, fire pit area, and/or pergola. With the updated backyard configuration, new paving and landscaping can be added to create a finished, cohesive look to the exterior of a great room addition.
A common question asked by homeowners is if their existing screen porch or patio can be turned into a great room. These do not often have the foundation required for building an up-to-code addition, and they typically have a smaller footprint than you are looking to incorporate into the new design.
Work with a reputable design-build firm to first define the uses of the space. By determining how the space will be utilized, you can then begin planning the size of the great room addition. It’s a good idea to map out what the great room will include and how the space will be used, including furniture placement. The size will be dictated by your needs, but you will also need to adhere to local land use and setback requirements.
Many homeowners often overlook the concept of incorporating floating furniture into their interior design plans for their great room addition. This involves placing furniture away from the walls, allowing for optimal utilization and visualization of open space.
It’s important to consider how you can reconfigure existing space in the home to seamlessly transition into the great room, maximizing usability. Creating a master plan allows for efficient utilization of available space while also considering future home renovation possibilities, eliminating the need to add unnecessary square footage to an addition.
Typically, great rooms are designed with unique features like vaulted ceilings or architectural elements such as exposed beams and large windows to let as much natural light in as possible.
Here are a few of our favorite great room design ideas:
Natural Light: Yes, this is a great space to add windows and skylights for maximized natural light (you know, we need all the vitamin D we can get here in the northern Chicago suburbs!) There are smart skylights on the market that can actually be opened and closed using wifi. There are also skylights that come with built-in blinds so you can lighten or darken the space as needed. If skylights aren’t for you, consider adding French doors that open out into your outdoor living space.
Smart Lighting: Consider adding Wi-Fi-enabled lighting where you can change the hue and brightness and perform a host of other functions, including scheduling lights to come on and turn off when you are away.
Sound Design: Transform the great room into an entertaining space with built-in hidden speakers within the drywall so that you can create the ultimate surround sound experience without a lot of equipment interrupting the sight lines of the room.
Make a Statement: Add a dramatic floor-to-ceiling fireplace or install a feature wall with built-in alcoves.
Add Functionality: Once you’ve designed these alcoves, use them to hide your TV or turn them into hidden functional spaces like a command center, storage, or small home office workspace. If you’re adding a fireplace, built-in bench seats surrounding the fireplace can be the perfect place for toy storage, seasonal decor, and extra blankets.
Read this article for more home addition inspiration "5 Home Addition Ideas to Accommodate Your Growing Family."
Adding a great room is the perfect way to enhance your home's livable space for everyday use and entertaining. Working with the right design-build partner will help you design a great room that will be personalized to fit your specific needs. Whether that’s hosting large dinner parties, inviting large groups over to watch sports, or creating an open space for your kids to play where you can keep an eye on them, a great room is a great design choice.
Start planning your great room addition by downloading the eBook "Home Addition 101: A Comprehensive Guide to Planning a Family-Friendly Addition."