Jo Alcorn’s clients had a problem. The Ontario-based designer behind Alcorn Home—a brand of housewares including lighting, furniture, and easily washable dog beds—could see their family’s TV room wasn’t doing them any favors, emotionally or comfort-wise. “It was just kind of lackluster,” says Alcorn. “We had finished the other rooms in the house, and this became the eyesore that stood out. It had a builder fireplace and a three-seater sofa on one wall that wasn’t conducive to cuddling with family to watch TV properly.” Her directive: make it a showstopping lounge area all ages could love.
She began by doing what, until recently, would have been a bit cringe-inducing to many members of the design cognoscenti: she added an electric fireplace by Dimplex. “I’m all about changing out gas fireplaces now, because you can only use them for a certain amount of time out of the year,” she says. “With electric, you can enjoy the ambience all year round because you can turn off the heat. They’re easy to install, and now come in so many shapes, sizes, and colors. They’ve come a long way.” Another reason to go electric is that they are entirely low maintenance (no dealing with ashes, soot, or lugging of logs).
The fireplace mantel was tailored specifically for modern family life. The TV is on a swiveling mount arm from Wayfair so it can pull toward the kitchen, where these parents can keep an eye on their son and daughter during meal prep. Built-in benches on either side of the hearth contain necessary secret storage by Metrie—a boon for parents of toy-obsessed kids. “Drawers are limited, so the storage is actually a mini door that folds down for full access,” says Alcorn. “The family stores electrical stuff, games, and blankets inside.”
Alcorn derived the room’s color scheme of blues and grays from the family itself—an unbeatable source. “Using their favorite colors means they’ll enjoy their space all the more,” she says, noting that it also has continuity with the rest of the home. “You don’t want to be too trendy. Select hues you’re going to love for a long, long time.” Because it’s a family home with young kids, Alcorn chose hard-wearing, durable fabrics for pillows and upholstery. “I try to find fabrics that have polyester in them for washability,” she says. “Natural fabrics, you’re going to be worried about. With kids or if you’re a frequent entertainer, you want to focus on 100 percent polyester with a high rub count. You can get it in velvet, micro suede, cruelty-free leathers—they can mimic anything nowadays. My collection is 100 percent polyester and fully washable. Like electric fireplaces, these fabrics have [come] a long way.”
Her sofa choice itself is a no-brainer for larger clans: the extra-large L-shaped sectional by Structube in gunmetal gray, softened with the addition of a circular coffee table. “You’re able to utilize a room’s space better for more seating with a sectional,” she says. “Now, everyone can sit together on one sofa and truly enjoy it.” Alcorn added personality in a big way with the sculptural side chair—and even a plush rocking chair with a modern, streamlined silhouette. “I always wanted to tie in a modern rocking chair for reading,” says Alcorn. “Now the seating is functional but also fashionable.”
The art she chose for the walls is personal, but far from cliché. “Because it is a family room, it’s fun to bring in family photos, but I’m not a huge fan of the typical family wall.” Alcorn’s solution: abstract images taken by the family and printed via Posterjack, an online photo printing company. “We went with candid, artsy photos of the family that don’t scream ‘family photo!’, and they can always change them over time as the kids get older into something else they love.” A transforming, transformative family room you can grow into . . . what could be better?
“You have to think about storage,” says Alcorn, who recommends investing in furniture pieces with hidden agendas, such as benches or ottomans with concealed compartments.
Match Your Fabric to Your Lifestyle. Of course, durable polyester fabrics are a wise choice. But even beyond that, it’s important to think about how you use your home. “I try to match interiors to your dog’s color [if applicable] so you always look like a better housekeeper,” says Alcorn. “I have white dogs, so my whole house is white!”
Be Not Afraid. “I can’t stand when people don’t have coffee tables because they’re afraid,” says the designer. “If you have younger kids, just opt for rounded edges that kids are less likely to injure themselves with.”
Bring the Outdoors In. If you’re worried about staining the rugs, Alcorn has the panacea. “There are stunning outdoor carpets now you can bring inside. There are certain things worth spending money on, but don’t buy an expensive rug—it’s going to be switched up over time.”