Shiny plastic slipcovers? Delicate porcelain figurines? That was your grandma's living room -- a no-go zone reserved for mysterious folks known only as "company." Your living room is different: You and your family actually live in there! It's where you compete in epic go fish battles, laugh and cry at Pixar flicks, and create happy memories. Make sure your space is up to the task (or multitask!) with these simple ideas and upgrades.
Print fave pics on pillows: Turn the sofa into a portrait gallery by having your best shots printed on pillows. The photo-service site Shutterfly offers a range of surprisingly soft and stylish designs. Photo Pillows, $39.99 for 16- by 16-inch size, shutterfly.com
Crafter's Tip: To avoid color clashes, think about converting pillow pics to black and white (most photo sites offer a tool for this).
Consider a tuffet or two: Compact poufs make perfect kid-size seats for game playing and comfy perches for tired parental feet. When they're not in use, they can be tucked out of the way beneath the table. Pull Up a Pouf seats, $129 each, landofnod.com
Turn a tired table into game central: Score big with this fun and functional makeover for a bland or aging coffee table. Apply adhesive chalkboard decals and keep chalk or chalk markers stowed nearby. Chalk by BLIK, $12 for a 16- by 26-inch sheet, whatisblik.com
How to: Clean the tabletop well and arrange the adhesive decals (with the backing still on) as desired on it. (We used four sheets with corners meeting at the table's center.) With a ruler and chalk, measure and mark trimming guidelines, then lay the sheets on a flat surface and trim them with sharp scissors. Affix the decals to the table, slowly adhering them one sheet at a time and smoothing out any air bubbles as you go.
Keep clutter in disguise: Hide cords, DVDs, game cases, and other digital debris in roomy bins that blend with your decor. We adore these fool-the-eye canvas boxes from Mollaspace, designed to look like a shelf of books, an alarm clock, a radio, and a retro stereo speaker. Home Storage System bins, $10 to $20, mollaspace.com
Stop asking "where's the remote?": If you let kids decorate a special container for corralling the remote controls, they might even use it! We dressed up a dollar-store bucket with decorations cut from leftover chalkboard decals; other options include stickers featuring favorite movie characters or pretty patterned tape.
Post a sign of good things to come: Anticipating future fun is a winning strategy for increasing family happiness. One easy way to do it: turn a glass picture frame into a "coming attractions" sign for upcoming family movie nights. Slip a piece of colorful paper into the frame and write announcements with dry-erase marker.
Unbox the games (but keep them tidy): To keep diversions close at hand, clear out that closet full of neglected board games in tattered boxes and display the game pieces in clear containers. File the boards and instruction sheets in magazine holders nearby. Stack any too-large boards neatly on a shelf.
Solve the puzzle puzzle: Sure, they're a fantastic source of unplugged fun -- but how can you prevent jigsaws in progress from eating up valuable tabletop real estate? Simple answer: assemble puzzles on a corkboard. Attach furniture sliders to the board's back, and it can be slipped under a sofa between play sessions. The cork surface will help keep pieces in place.