While I don't really care for the term (not sure why, I'm just weird) I knew in our new house I wanted a "great room". The kitchen, dining, and family room all connected in one big space. Almost every place we've lived has had the kitchen separated from the dining and/or family room area and, as someone who enjoys cooking and baking, I haven't loved that. I like being able to talk to my kids about school and help with homework while starting dinner or start a movie with them while cleaning up a bit. I like having the place more open. In some places we've lived the spaces have been so far apart my kids would sneak away and it would be a major struggle to get everybody rounded up for dinner. It's amazing how the design of a home can have such a profound effect on our family dynamic. Homework time and after dinner cleanup is usually much more smooth now simply because the places we want to be are all connected.
I knew I wanted a massive island (It's two cabinets deep plus some for an overhang) with no sink or stove top interrupting the counter so there would be plenty of space to work and let kids gather around. I only wanted a few upper cabinets so I could have a whole line of windows for lots of natural light instead. I am in heaven with my 6 burner gas stove and a double oven in the wall. It's something I've thought would be so handy countless times over the years and it hasn't disappointed.
With no super close neighbors in the back yard had almost the whole back of the house lined with windows and the natural light we get all day is glorious. It helps bring the outside in and invites my kids outside more than every before. I had our dining table top covered with stainless steel (something I've wanted to do for 7-8 years) and I couldn't be happier with it. Even the leaves are topped with the steel so it can expand to an enormous size. It's so easy to clean and I love the dull shine.
Our family room space has an area for the TV and a separate area for the fireplace. I like having them separate. Eventually we'll find some more comfy chairs for the fireplace area but for now these have worked well.
This is where we all spend most of our time and it's worked for our family just as well as I had imagined. It helps us grow closer in a lot of ways and it's helped me feel like I know what's happening with everyone in the afternoon and evening when family life tends to get a little chaotic. Knowing what everyone is doing at a glance has helped calm the storm as much as a house with 4 kids can be calmed.