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Copycat thread- Is the formal living room dead?

11 years ago

stjamesb started a thread on the kitchen forum about whether the formal dining room was dead- the responses were extremely interesting and thought provoking!

Do you think the formal living room is dead? We have a large living room that we never use. (House built in 1986).

When we looked at newer houses, the living rooms were tiny! I kind of liked that idea- more space for the kitchen and family room.

Do you use your formal living room, or not have one, or do you think it's going away?

Comments (58)

  • kswl2
    11 years ago

    We have a separate living room that we are in every day. There are two sofas, four chairs and a fireplace, and a couple of dog toys on the floor, lol. Our most formal furniture is there, velvet couch, marble cocktail table, most expensive rug, etc. It is very comfortable and is the hub of the house. I like the fact that we use the room ourselves, instead of waiting for guests.

    But i dont know that my answer is indicative of any trend or lack thereof; our floor plan is very different--- no family room, kitchen round the corner from the LR, DR open to the front hall, and a library in its own wing down a hall. And two separate home offices, and no tv (movie room in basement).

  • hhireno
    11 years ago

    I know just what you mean about occasionally wanting to close off the messy kitchen from guests. In one of her books, The Not So Big House, the author shows a contiguous dining room and kitchen that had a folding wall that could be used to shut off the mess of the kitchen when entertaining. Maybe it's something you could do at your house with a folding screen?

    I think houses will always have a separate room, away from the great room, but how it is used will vary, as shown by the above posts.

    Years ago they were predicting the demise of the separate dining room. I don't know any newer houses that have eliminated it. Many don't decorate it "formal", but they all have it set up as a dining space.

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  • lynninnewmexico
    11 years ago

    We had this house of ours custom built for us 18 years ago, with a formal living room, formal dining room, and a family room . . . and we use them all, a lot. The family room opens to the kitchen and has the large flat-screen TV. It's cozy, comfortable and fairly casual.
    We eat breakfasts in our dining room on weekends and dinners there Sunday-Thursdays. Fridays & Saturdays we eat out on the back patio or in the family room while watching a movie.
    We use our living room for reading, listening to music and entertaining during the cooler months. It has gorgeous views of the mountains and mesas out it's many windows and is a lovely peaceful place to sit. Since we're a family of readers, we use this room a lot. One thing that I did do, though, was to make sure I kept this room not only serene but very comfortable and welcoming, as well.
    But . . . that said, I can definitely see this place done differently, with a larger family room, (still) a formal dining room and a separate tv/entertainment room with a pool table at one end. That would have been more practical place for our kids and their friends to hang out.
    So, do I think the day of the formal living room is over? I guess it just depends on each individual family. I like the idea of multi-purpose rooms myself.

  • palimpsest
    11 years ago

    There was a large formal living room in a NYC apartment featured in a magazine recently that had a sleeper sofa in it. The apartment was large enough to have a couple living areas, but I guess they decided this room, as opposed to the more heavily used office/den--made sense as another guest room.

  • blfenton
    11 years ago

    We used to have a "formal" living room that was never used. I used to say that we had the loneliest Christmas tree in our city. The tree would go in, it would get visited on Christmas Day and that was the only time the "formal" living room was used. We also have a small sitting area in the kitchen , an office and a seperate rec room. We also have a formal dining room and that will also exist in any homes we own.

    When we did our renos last year we "deformalized" the living room. All we did was add a big screen tv which sits on a small black console. It is actually much more inconspicuous than I thought it would be. It isn't dressed up with bookcases or shelving. It isn't the focal point of the room - the fireplace is. That room is now used everyday. All the other furnishings stayed the same. When we have guests over, we sit in the living room and the tv plays the music.

    When we did the renovations we could have taken down a wall and made a great room but Do I want a "great room"? No, for the reasons that forhgtv stated.

  • les917
    11 years ago

    Our "formal" living room is in an "L" shape with our "formal" dining room. The dog's favorite sleeping chair is there, it contains at the moment a stack of stuff belonging to younger DS, but even without that was rarely used. The dining room is now the computer/music room, with my computer/desk, the piano, a cello, viola, keyboard, and two bookcases, plus a shelf-sized stereo system on a tv stand which also holds the collection of CDs mostly from the pre-Ipod era.

    I also don't like open concept, and would never choose a home like that. I don't WANT to be relaxing or reading in the middle of the same space where DH watches his football/baseball/golf and shows in which I have no interest. I use the kitchen as my sitting space when I am not at the computer, so that I can enjoy what I like on TV. I appreciate having these spaces separate from the family room, but would never use them as the formal rooms for which they are intended. Not our lifestyle at all.

    I do think the trend has been away from the formal living room in average homes, and the ridiculously small spaces they now call a formal living room seem a waste, but in homes where people have lots of living space, I have a feeling they will live on.

  • Oakley
    11 years ago

    I would never, ever get rid of a formal dining room. It's one of those rooms which isn't used that often but when they are used, people are grateful they have the room. Plus they're fun to decorate!

    Where I live the formal living room has died and newly built homes (2-3,000 sq. ft.) are used as home offices instead of the formal LR. Best idea ever, IMO.

    Home offices instead of a formal LR in the same spot makes having company over without the congestion, and because entryway's are larger, and they make a good gathering place for chatting.

    However, what I do miss, which I posted about last week, are closed kitchens with a nice size table for eating/entertaining, instead of an island.

    I do have two pet peeves though, and I don't want anyone to take offense, but I do not like room descriptions as "Great Room" or "Keeping Room."

    My LR is 650sf, and it's a living room. Period. No one I know says "Great Room." And Keeping Rooms aren't used like they were meant to be used a hundred or so years ago. It's just another room with a FP is all. Why not call it a Den or an informal DR? I don't like these new made up words for regular rooms, they just sound pretentious.

  • beaglesdoitbetter1
    11 years ago

    oakleyok I used 2 of those terms you dislike in my very first post :) I'm not offended, those are just the words I use because they were the words on our floor plan (well, actually the "keeping" room was called the "gathering/ keeping room." It is funny how having something labeled on a floor plan automatically makes it such, esp. given when I first saw the plan I said "what the heck is a gathering room?!" but now I use the term.

    I am, however, curious what word you'd use instead of the word "great room." Our great room is really not a living room at least not in the sense of what I think a living room is. It's in the center of the house, two stories, open to the foyer and other rooms and bigger than what I would call a "living room." When I think living room, I think of a smaller, more closed off, more traditional "living room" style room. Like I said, we had a "living room" on our original floor plan until we took it off, which was separate from the great room, and most of the houses our builder builds have separate "living room" and "great room"s. For houses with multiple living spaces like that, how do you differentiate the rooms if you don't use the term "great room"?

  • lolauren
    11 years ago

    I agree that formal living rooms will live on in homes that can afford the square footage, at least. If our home was larger, we might have another living space..... I just couldn't afford it. :)

    I thought "great room" referred to rooms that were open to each other, in open floor plans? so, collectively, our dining/living/kitchen areas all are our "great room?"

    RE: "keeping room" .... I have NEVER heard that term used locally. I have seen it on this forum from time to time (along with "hearth room",) and I've wondered if this is a regional thing? So, it means a room with a fire place??? (FYI, I am in the Pacific NW.)

  • trailrunner
    11 years ago

    We had a formal LR in our first house. It was through a large doorway that was the formal DR. The rooms had double doors to close them off from the rest of the The piano was in the LR and I used that area daily to teach music. We didn't use the LR for anything else but we used the DR all the time.

    In this house we have 3 large rooms on the 1st floor. They can be anything we want them to be. This was pointed out by pal in another thread. Having large rooms in older homes with a decorating color scheme and furnishings that can be used in any of them makes it a wonderful space to work with.

    The current DR was the DR when we moved in . The current first floor den ( keeping room..sorry oak LOL) was the den when we moved in. It has a FP.

    A year passed and when we did our first remodel, we opened the attic and made it living space, DH and I slid the DR furniture across and down the hall and made the den the DR and slid the den furniture up and over and made the DR the den. Voila. I had a DR with a FP. The Oriental carpets and wall colors and furniture styles and colors and artwork all were inter-changable.

    This past Fall I decided I wanted a more Keeping Room feel to the den so we slid everything back again and now the den( keeping room) is back where it was 9 yrs ago and the DR is the DR again.

    The other large room has remained the music room/living room as that is where the grand piano goes. It is used most of the day off and on as DH is a musician. We neither one teach on it any longer but the room is an essential place for us. We would never have the piano in the main living space as the area needs to remain somewhat separate for the person playing to be able to have quiet and think . Fortunately when we have company the music can be heard and the piano/musician seen throughout the downstairs. There are 2 comfy chairs in the room and side tables.

    There is a large open informal den upstairs with sofa and chairs. We have no TV so that is not an issue. It is very quiet up there and like being in a tree house due to the windows. We use the area for reading more than anything else. When my loom comes next week it will officially become a weaving studio...I am so excited !

    Great thread and I am enjoying reading the other responses. I look forward to hearing how others use their homes. c

  • teacats
    11 years ago

    We have only one living area in this house! :) And this works well for us -- but we do have a second TV in the bedroom in case one of us would rather watch another show or movie.

    And we use the home office/guest bedroom every single day.

  • sheesh
    11 years ago

    It's kinda funny - when I was growing up in Chicago in the 1950-60s, we had a "front room." Never heard of a "living room" until we moved to the suburbs, where we had both a living room and a rec room, but our neighbors, called their rec room a "rumpus room."

    Now, I have a living room, a family room, a den/library, a formal dining room, and a kitchen with a breakfast nook. Some of my kids have great rooms and living rooms, and one has a parlor. It seems a room is whatever the times call it. Most of them will probably be around by one name or another or function forever.

    11 years ago

    Growing up we also had a "living room" and it was the only public room in the house beside the kitchen where our table and chairs were to eat at. I've never lived in a house that had a formal living room and a den or great room. When I built my current house we built it to suit us with no formal living room or dining room, only a dining area that is within the floor plan of the great room and kitchen. All open to each other.

    I think back in the day there were dens and living rooms seperate to suit how one wanted to entertain different groups of people.

  • boysrus2
    11 years ago

    This is an interesting topic with lots of diverse opinions!

    I would give up my dining room in a heartbeat. It's only used 1-2x a year. Its decorated with formal furniture now, but even if I re-decorated it more casually, I don't think people would gravitate to it. When we entertain, everyone always hangs out in the open floor plan kitchen, breakfast room and family room as well as the deck (we live in the South, so weather permits it most of the year). It's a good flow for parties.

    I wish I could take the space from the dining room and magically add it to my breakfast room which has a max seating of 6. I'd like to seat 12 or more there. Oh, well. Maybe in another house.

    I like my living room, but it's set-up as a library with a wall of floor to ceiling built-in bookshelves. Our piano is also in there. So it's a place to read and enjoy music. It's used daily.

  • leafy02
    11 years ago

    Our living room is not particularly formal, though it is the most formal room in the house. We use it every day; it's where we sit and read or listen to music in the evening, entertain guests, where the kids play board games, etc. The sole TV is in the family room, which gets much less use on the average day but still comes in handy when the kids have guests.

    I grew up in homes where the living room was never used except for major holidays, yet most of the furnishings budget was spent there and the equally off-limits dining room. I didn't want to replicate that, but then again, I don't have a "formal" life, really. Our entertaining usually takes the form of cookouts and potlucks for 20-60 people, not formal dinner for 6 or 8.

    I can imagine that other people, leading other kinds of lives and with different entertaining needs, will always want a formal (as well as separate) living room. A friend of mine heads a non-profit she started, and entertains people (potential donors) a couple of times a year. Having an "impressive" and formal space for those kinds of gatherings is probably an important function of her living room, whereas if I had that kind of room, it would just never get used.

  • forhgtv
    11 years ago

    I thought great room described the open plan kitchen, living and dining room, too. That's certainly how I meant it to be defined in my earlier post.

  • forhgtv
    11 years ago

    Hhireno, Luckily, you can't see the kitchen from either the dining or living rooms and most of the seating in the living room doesn't face the dining room. (I usually seat myself in the one chair that faces the DR directly.) The folding screen idea is a good one to keep in mind, though, if I ever decide to try for more separation between the DR and LR. Thanks for mentioning it.

  • InteriorStylist
    11 years ago

    I think it's a matter of desired lifestyle & I think there's a variety of lifestyles, needs & wants.

    I personally have no desire or need for either a formal living room or dining room.

    We don't entertain in the home & I'm on the verge of disability, so for me, less is more. I've designed a ranch home that hopefully will be built one day that serves my less-is-more mindset. It is, IMHO...the perfect home & will be appox. 1500sq. ft. Mind you, it will be architecturally fantastic!!! :-) To me, architecture is all-important, NOT size.

    I will be quite content without a "formal" LR & DR.

  • rmkitchen
    11 years ago

    InteriorStylist -- bingo! We live in a house built in '97 with nothing much to say for it except it's big in all the wrong places with so much wasted space! (We l-o-v-e our neighborhood, so there is something to say for it.)

    If we knew then what we know now ... we might've built from scratch with a separate den (home office) and one humongous living area / eating area / kitchen, all of a whole.

    Instead, this house has a living room bordering on smallish but with super-high ceilings, so it'll never feel intimate, a dining room, a kitchen with breakfast nook attached to a so-so sized family room.

    Our living and dining rooms are quite pretty but ultimately wasteful: waste of space, waste of money to furnish, waste of money to heat and cool, waste of my time to clean.

    Our children are young (7 & 5), our youngest has Exceptional Needs and requires constant line of sight, so we still have baby gates up to keep him in the same area I am.

    We have big bashes once or twice a year, and that's the only time it's nice to have the separate LR and DR, because otherwise everyone would be squashed in my dream one big space. And for now, the separate DR is handy for playing games / building Legos so my youngest cannot get at them.

    It depends at what stage of life you are and how you live that life. For our young family Yes, the formal living room is dead.

  • DLM2000-GW
    11 years ago

    shermann you sure made me laugh! I never heard the term "Front Room" until I met my in-laws who are in the suburbs but still very Chicago in mindset and speech. In true Chicago style, my MIL calls it the "Fron Troom" !!! It's actually difficult for me to say that and separate the consonants the way she does.

    Formal anything is not part of my lifestyle. Our old colonial has the traditional floor plan with separate dining area and living room but our 'decor' is not formal. At this life stage I'd choose a different floor plan but do make use of the distinct spaces as they are now. We also have what I call the kitchen/family room. In my mind it doesn't have "great Room" status because ceiling height is 8' and it's not an enormous room but many people would still call it that. PotAto, potAHto

  • bostonpam
    11 years ago

    I never wanted a house with a "formal" living room - I remember my cousin's house and it was never used (at least when we were there). I thought it was wasted space and a big cost to furnish. It seemed so pretentious. Fast forward to today with our 1825 house and 2 front parlors. One became the TV room and the other (attached to the DR and passage to the TV room) is the "formal" LR. It has our old comfy living room furniture plus piano so it doesn't feel too formal. We use it every day. I love reading in there with our overstuffed chair and great natural light. We entertain 1 - 3 times a week and it gets a lot of use. With a separate TV room for the kids, the adults can relax in the formal LR. Also we hold a variety of school type meetings and we can seat 15+ people (2 on piano bench, double up DR chairs in 2 large entryways, etc.) This set up works for our family.

  • bonnieann925
    11 years ago

    We have a large living room and use it on a regular basis, to read, play piano, sit by the wood burning fireplace, and just knowing that we have this one room that's always clean and soothing makes it a sanctuary of sorts. In more recent years, we have started using it as a dining room for larger gatherings. It works for us.

    I do see lots of new houses in our area that have gone with a small parlor adjacent to a dining room, or an office instead of a living room. It's possible that many buyers today customize the builing plans to suit their lifestyle needs. With more people working from home, there's probably a higher demand for home offices than when many of our houses were built.

    I think there are infinite possibilites on defining a space to suit your family's needs and yes, that does evolve over time. We no longer need a kitchen farm table for 5, but it comes in handy as DH's workspace when he's working from home. That never would have been possible when our children were younger and the kitchen table was full of homework projects, and a place where we ate the majority of our meals.

  • sochi
    11 years ago

    No, I don't think that formal living rooms are dead. Perhaps the notion of LRs that are never used and have furniture covered in plastic is dead though (I hope so at any rate - was that a 1970s thing)?

    A well designed house should not have wasted rooms. We sold out last house three years ago b/c we didn't like the lay out, and in that house we did not regularly use the LR. The centre of the action in that house was the kitchen/family room (one large room) that overlooked our backyard. That was ideal when my children were babies (they are now 4 and 7), but it was far from ideal for entertaining. Although it was a good-sized room, when we had guests over it was too crowded and too hot (from both the fireplace in the family room and the kitchen). And the space was just too open concept for me, I didn't want them all crowding around me in the kitchen when I was preparing food.

    My current house has an unusual but perfect for us lay out. You might call it semi open concept, or perhaps well designed open concept. There is a formal LR not far from the kitchen and the centre of the home, but far enough that guest aren't hovering in your space while cooking. Nor can you see the mess in the kitchen from our LR or DR. In the front of our home is the family room - we call it the play room. That is where the toys live and the kids spend much of their time. But the kids use the LR as well - they dance there after dinner, play imagination games in there, etc. They have been taught to respect the more formal space and furniture in the LR and generally they do.

    My terrible secret about my LR - there is a large TV in the LR. Not that guests would ever know it - it is hidden away in a cabinet behind our sofa and it rises up when needed. The kids never use that TV, adults only. I'm very anti-TV and believe they should be hidden away in the basement whenever possible. But I didn't think our 4-foot high basement was ideal, even for a TV room (although my dh thought that an in-law suite might work well there) :)

    I don't think that having young children precludes having a welcoming and attractive entertaining space or LR.

  • palimpsest
    11 years ago

    You've seen it before. This is the formal living room I grew up with and it has looked almost identical to this for 25 years--and the furniture is all 42 years old.

    Once the grandchildren were over the random-knock-things over-stage, they were allowed in here by themselves.(Say nursery school age) There is no TV but it was often used for reading, putting together a puzzle, or other games. The only "rules" were no eating (drinks were allowed) and no magic markers. Anything else was ok. All the grandchildren used it and they are all adults and it survived looking like this, which is pretty pristine: it is possible to both use something and respect it at the same time.

    The only things I can remember getting broken were a couple of Christmas ornaments when the 24 year old was about 3, and and the black Wedgwood box from the table at right which was actually broken by a decorator measuring for those drapes.

  • LuAnn_in_PA
    11 years ago

    "If you mean a room without a television where I can enjoy socializing with family and guests, there will always be one in my home. If you mean a separate sitting room that no one ever enters, there will never be one in my home. "

    Put my name to that post too!!

    LOVE and will always have a living room... but it's not formal.

  • peegee
    11 years ago

    In the early 70's we eliminated the formal dining room from our house plans and had the builder create one large long room we called a kitchen/keeping room. The kitchen was on one end. In the middle, our dining table and china cabinet, and the other end comfy chairs, a day bed and tv, etc. We didn't have a fireplace in that room. The living room was separate and a little formal, with no tv. At the time visitors would remark on how unusual our layout was. I loved it at the time, but after over 20 years there, I appreciate my current little house with separate kitchen and LR - I've downsized and eliminated my formal furniture - my LR my be separate, but is casual. I have no family room. The LR is it!
    From what I understand, the formal frontroom in older homes was where people came to view the dead. I've often wondered if that is why the other room that people spent their time in, came to be called the "living room".

  • lynninnewmexico
    11 years ago

    I love Trailrunner's habit/idea of changing the rooms around to suit her family's needs at the time. It's so practical!

    As for room names, having grown up in Michigan I'd never heard of a "keeping room" until I moved to Florida in my twenties. We have family now in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and Texas and I've they either have keeping rooms or their neighbors do. I've heard a few of my friends in New England talk about them, too. It's a regional idea that I like, but have never seen one out here in New Mexico.
    When and where I grew up, your living room was called the "front room". By my mid-teens, newer homes were being built with "family rooms". Our finished basement was called a rec room. I don't recall hearing the term "great room" until the mid-80's. It's still a very common term used here in New Mexico and in Michigan where much of my family still lives.

    Sochi, LOL!

    Pal: what a lovely room!

    As I mentioned here in an earlier post, what I really like and admire are dual or multi-purpose rooms. I like our library/study, but would have added bookcases to the dining room for a library/dining room if we couldn't have gone that other route.

    I find it fascinating to hear and see the great ideas that people here ~ and elsewhere~ come up with in order to make their homes work better for them and their families.

  • chocolatebunny
    11 years ago

    Shermann -- I grew up in Chicago too and we always called it the "front room", probably because it was at the front of the house! I live in the 'burbs now and if I said "front room" people would look at me funny. :)

    We have a living room, but it isn't formal at all. Actually, I think we use this room more than the "great room".

    We have a tv in there and it was pretty much out of necessity a few years ago when DH's father used to stay with us. We only had a tv in the family room (we call it that instead of "great room") and he used to monopolize it litteraly all day so we needed somewhere else with another tv as we do not have a finished basement.

    Our living room opens to our dining room, which is currently be used as the kids playroom. So that whole side of the house is the kids area, not that they aren't allowed to play in the family room. The kids' computer is in the dining room. It's nice when we entertain because all the kids are in that one area while the adults go between the eat in kitchen and family room.

    I want to get a piano and I am having trouble figuring out where to put it best. I think it would look best in the living room, and then move the tv possibly to the dining room. I would love to finish the basement but since we don't have the cash for that right now the kids stuff will stay on the main level. If I do put a piano in there, I think the room will be used a lot less than it is now.

    Most of my friends/neighbors do not utilize their rooms the way my family does. The living room, while not really decorated formally, is hardly used. They use their dining room only a few times a year as all the homes by me have eat in kitchens (and island seating!)

    I sometimes wish I had a dining room that was used as a dining room. When we do have people over, there is only enough for 6 around the kitchen table. We could put in a leaf and have seating for 8, but then it becomes very hard to get around the table. But the every day practicallity of having the playroom where it is outweighs the few times a year we have a lot of people over.

    DH and DD say that our living room is their favorite room of the house. Our family room has a 2 story vaulted ceiling so the room, while bright, lacks the coziness factor. Our living room is definitely lived in.

  • palimpsest
    11 years ago

    A typical suburban living room here is often empty, particularly in the larger sq ft, larger mortgage houses.

  • les917
    11 years ago

    Laughing about the 'front room' phrase. I grew up in the 'burbs of Chicago, and never heard front room except from relatives and friends who lived or grew up in the city or in Berwyn. But it isn't pronounced 'front room', it kind of gets slurred so it sounds like 'fronch room'. :-)

  • mtnrdredux_gw
    11 years ago

    I think what is "dead" is the automatic assumption that every house must have a living room per se.

    A formal living room generally implies a place for special occasion such as holidays, and for entertaining guests. Generally, family does not use the space regularly (they are in the "family room").

    In essence, a formal living room is a luxury good. If money and or waste were no object, one can dream up lots of special purpose rooms eg gift-wrapping rooms, man caves, music rooms, etc etc. We actually put in a craft room, because I want it to be as easy for my kids to sit down and draw as it is to turn on the TV.

    My former house had a formal LR and DR. They were used maybe 10-12 times a year. More than some maybe, but not a lot when you think that the kitchen and family room were used almost daily.

    That said, when we did host a party or a function, when it was a special occasion, it was very nice to have rooms that were appropriate for that, and that felt "special" to use. It was by no means necessary, but it was very enjoyable.

    In my new house, I made my formal LR and DR less formal, but I certainly didn't do away with them. For example, I made the eating area of the kitchen smaller, to encourage us to use the DR when the whole family is eating together. And I made the LR the comfiest spot in the house to read, since we all read every night at 8pm.

    So when sq footage is an issue, the formal LR is, I think the logical first thing to go. When it's not an issue, they are nice to have but I think homeowners should always think about how to encourage their broader use rather than rope them off.

  • newdawn1895
    11 years ago

    Growing up in Michigan I noticed the locals called the living room "The Front room". Some of them had heavy plastic on their front room furniture, remember that?

  • loribee
    11 years ago

    Our "formal" LR is very small...we call it the sitting room and it is used all the time. It's my favorite room in our house.

  • htnspz
    11 years ago

    I have a "formal living room" and I love it. I use it from time to time to sit and read a book. It's a space that is absent of a tv and a place to enjoy a cup of tea poured in fabulous china.

    I bought all of furniture with spill friendly, sumptuous fabrics and I mixed in some less formal elements in the room so it still feels comfortable. I love formal elements and feel more comfortable in them than most people.

    Truthfully, it saddens me that people are losing these spaces. I understand that people want more function in these spaces, but I really don't think it's pretty to walk into a home office or the gym when I walk into the space from the entry. I can't think that people would like that experience at all. I suppose it makes sense if it's completely it's own space though.

  • jmc01
    11 years ago

    It's funny that sq. footage has come up in connection with losing the living room if sq. footage is an issue.

    As an old house owner - all 1000 sq ft of it - not only do we live in our living room, but a family room/great room never made it into this structure in the first place. Entertain, read, watch tv, gather with family and friends ... Those are the daily activities that happen in our living room.

  • sas95
    11 years ago

    Our LR is one of the nicest rooms in our house. It's the place (besides the kitchen) that we like to hang out in the most. It's also the room that you first see when you walk in the door, so our challenge when we get around to buying new furniture (we recently moved in), is to make it striking, but also comfortable and accessible. A place to entertain guests, but also read and watch TV. I generally don't love the idea of a TV in the LR, but our LR is so much more pleasant than our family room, and especially with only 2 of us it seems wasteful not to get the most use out of the best rooms.

    As for the family room it is downstairs and not viewable unless you go downstairs. We turned it into a gym. It works well for us.

  • Oakley
    11 years ago

    Beagles (I love sporting dogs!), if there are two living areas we just call them a living room and den. It wasn't too long ago when architects started labeling these rooms as Great Room and Keeping Room.

    In fact, that's what the rooms are labeled where I live also, but no one calls them that.

    Back in the 70's and before it was formal living room and den. The den is where the TV was, and the FLR is where you entertain "visitors."

    Our LR could be called a great room, but it just sounds funny to me. It's very large, has a beam, FP and is rustic looking. For the younger set of home buyers I can see them saying Great Room.

    The difference could also be the area's in which we live. I think the terms are more common on the East Coast, especially for Keeping Rooms.

    Here, no one uses "Keeping Room" either, even though many an old farmhouse has one. It's usually a den.

  • bostonpam
    11 years ago

    Growing up in WI we called it the front room. I use that term now and then and the kids look at me funny. After 10 years we converted our 1825 house back into a single family home. We have twice as much space and the house came with 2 "parlors" - his and hers. One is the "TV room" and the other is the "sitting" room. I have group of younger kids here for various items - robotics, girl scouts, etc. so instead we refer to the various rooms by color - the orange room (sitting room) or the purple room (music room),etc. ha ha - it's good I didn't repeat any colors for the major rooms (purple, orange, blue, red, yellow, green...)

  • bird_lover6
    11 years ago

    We have a "living room" downstairs and a gameroom upstairs. The living room is in no way formal, and I like it that way, but I wish to heck that I could get rid of the tv in it; my husband refuses. And I see no good reason why he should have to go upstairs (our bedroom is downstairs) with the kids to watch tv when he's ready to chill after a hard day at work.

    I wouldn't choose this floorplan again, so this is a warning to folks who are like me! LOL

  • tinam61
    11 years ago

    I hear the term "great room" often. If I'm not mistaken, it came about when many home plans started doing away with a "living room" and den/family room both. In fact, our home plans say "great room". A great room is usually larger than a "den", but not formal like a living room. At least that's my understanding of it. A great room I think of as more centrally located and opens into more rooms than a "living room". Keeping Room - you don't see those as much in my area or hear that term so much. I have nothing against that term though - I think of a smallish, cozy room off a kitchen.

    In our home, we turned an extra guest room (good size) into a combo office/den. There's a desk, computer, etc. bookcases and also a leather loveseat. Nice place to read, or take care of business. We also use our sunroom as much or more than the great room. No tv in either the sunroom or office.


  • palimpsest
    11 years ago

    I think laptops and wireless and other portable devices are going to cause another shift in how houses are planned.

    When I was small we had one TV and four channels, so if you watched TV, it was together. When the grandchildren in the family were small there were four TVs and three would usually be on something different and sometimes the fourth, up in my parents' bedroom would be pressed into service.

    Now, everyone has their own device of sorts, and that house is back down to 2 TVs but I think my dad is the only one who watches it, large and loud. Everyone else is on their laptop.

    So, sometimes there will be a number of people sitting around the kitchen table on computers, but depending what you are doing, if you need sound you end up going off somewhere, so there may be 10 people in nine different rooms in the house.

    I don't watch much TV so I found myself, even in a large house, having to retreat to my bedroom for quiet. So on some level I think there will be a resurgence of individual spaces although each may have multiple purposes, not all of which need to be "dedicated" or "built in" per se. But even the laundry room may end up having a small space to sit with a computer or device as a temporary workspace, and living rooms may shift back to having a center table or game table in them again, rather than a coffee table, so it is high enough to sit at with a laptop.

  • jillinnj
    11 years ago

    I have a not very formal formal living room. I would not want to give it up. It is not used daily, but when we host large events (we host Thanksgiving every year) it is very nice to have. The family room, open to the kitchen, but separate, is the largest room and has a large screen TV and that's where those that want to watch football hang out. The living room, on the other side of the house, is used by those that are not interested in football, and do not like all the noise at that end of the house. We have also hosted several large parties for parents' milestone birthdays (70, 80, 90!) and it was very useful then too.

    Now, if I could dole out the square footage differently, I would probably make the living room a little smaller, and the office (which is attached to living room through french doors) a little bigger. But, it's not that big a deal.

    roarah - I would love to know your trick for getting people out of the kitchen! At Thanksgiving, when I have 20 or so people, I put a long table in the family room in front of the french doors and that's where I put all the appetizers. My attempt to keep most people out of the kitchen most of the time. Doesn't work! They go get something and come right back in the kitchen! Good thing I love them all dearly :-)

  • lavender_lass
    11 years ago

    Our living room is our TV room...and it will be, when we remodel the farmhouse, too. We don't have a separate family room and we don't entertain formally (we live on a farm) so 'formal' living and dining rooms are not really necessary. If we lived in town and did a lot of entertaining, maybe we would want different spaces. Right now, a mud room and a big pantry...maybe even a greenhouse...are much bigger priorities.

    We do plan to have (what I thought was) a keeping room, in the farmhouse, but it's just one end of the kitchen, with a wood stove and two chairs and an ottoman. Much too small to be a den or family room. Just a little area to sit and be part of the kitchen and open to the dining area...which is also informal. I really like big farm kitchens, where everyone can interact, bake cookies, snap beans or have a relaxing cup of tea, in a comfy chair.

    The TV and sofas are for the living room. I don't like the TV in the kitchen, but wouldn't mind a little music. That would be very nice :)

  • IdaClaire
    11 years ago

    I've never had a "great room", but have had at least a couple of "so-so rooms." ;-)

    I could have written this statement, word for word:
    If you mean a room without a television where I can enjoy socializing with family and guests, there will always be one in my home. If you mean a separate sitting room that no one ever enters, there will never be one in my home.
    I am one of the minority that dislikes the great room concept. I find them to be too noisy and to have too many competing functions . . .
    I prefer small, cozy rooms and while my living room isn't necessarily formal, it's the one room with comfy furniture that's reserved for sitting and chatting, reading, or napping. DH keeps making noises about putting a flat screen tv over the fireplace, but I'm not giving in. I think it's important to have at least one tv-free zone in a home, and I intend to hold my ground on this one. I also really need that sanctuary where I can just simply sit, without distraction.

    Our little living room/front room has a happy history of being the primary room in our house that has been the gathering place for family events since it was built in 1940. The women who grew up in my house have told me some very sweet stories about family traditions that went on in that little room, which makes me love it all the more - and makes me all the more determined to allow it to serve the purpose that it always has.

  • adrienne79
    11 years ago

    Just to tag in..... I lived in Chicago from 83-06 and the term front room is very common LOL I remember when I moved to Kansas and went to a decor store. The lady asked me what I was looking for. I said some sheers to go in the front room. She looked at me like I got off an alien ship. Until I moved to another state, I thought that term was common. Now I know it's a formal living room..not a front room :-/

    In any case, I love the idea of having a formal living room. We recently purchased a raised ranch. The living room is the first room you see when entering the house. I'm in the process of turning it into a sorta formal living room. Not so formal that you can't sit in there, but also formal that it's always pretty and neat for guest and myself. IDK I like entering my home and seeing a beautiful well decorated room first. Then I walk into the madness of living with 2 teens and a husband later. I guess i'm different b/c I also do not like open spaces. I love the idea of having separate rooms, which is why I purchased an older home.

    IMO the formal living room depends on the lifestyle. If the children were younger, I don't think I could pull off a formal living room.

  • kkay_md
    11 years ago

    When we added on to our 1940's (small) house, our architect asked if we wanted to add a family/great room on the main floor--which would have given us a living room, family/great room, dining room, and kitchen (with an eating island) on the main floor, among other things. We knew that if we added a family room to the main floor, we wouldn't use the living room--we have seen that happen too many times. We did add a "lounge" upstairs, though--a family room that is very quiet and private, since it's upstairs.

    Our living room does not have a TV--there is no television on the main floor at all (we have a "home theater" downstairs, plus a TV in the lounge upstairs). We use our living room to read in, and to have before-dinner drinks when we have guests, and just go get away from the busy hub of the dining room and kitchen. It's a peaceful room with some of my favorite artwork and furniture. We had the main floor wired for sound, so we can pipe in music (or radio) in specific rooms, if we want. The sound of a television drives me mad.

  • Oakley
    11 years ago

    Jmc, I think sq. footage plays a large role in how we use a room and what we choose to name it.

    I'm finally understanding "The Great Room" name if it's based on being centered in an open floor plan. But it's still a plain old living room. To me, Great Room implies a large room. It just doesn't make sense to call an average size room a Great Room. lol. I'm just glad the majority of people here still say LR.

    When we built on and remodeled, we deliberately made the LR large so it could be a fun and functional room not only to entertain in, but also used as a multi-purpose room. We can do our own thing together and still have our own space. It doesn't bother me at all if someone's watching TV and I'm doing something else.

    We added a 3 walled book nook w/built-in's and a window, which is a smallish room off the LR. The LR also has a very large cooking FP, large closet in the back of the room with built-in's. One side of the closet was custom made for the Christmas tree and decortions, including wrapping paper. :)

    The front half of the room has the sofa, chairs, coffee tables. The sofa is in the center of the room facing the FP and TV. FP is in the corner. A sofa table behind the sofa "divides" the room.

    The back of the room which is just as large as the front half holds a large, round Persian rug with a wood dining table and chairs in the center, aka "Game table." I do many tasks on that table. Great place to wrap presents and watch TV!

    We have another seating arrangement in the back of the room along with a writing desk and chair. I love sitting there paying bills and looking out the window towards the creek and road.

    There are 16 places in the LR for people to sit and not be crowded, and plenty of space to bring in extra chairs.

    My room is merely a living room. There are 2 large areas to put pallets down if we wanted to lay on the floor. Which we've done many times.

    There are two offices in the house. Saturday night another couple spent the night, the men in the LR playing guitars and watching movies. My friend and I got on the computers and watched TV. We had so much fun I got one hour of sleep! So we do have different areas of the house to play in.

  • Oakley
    11 years ago

    Adrienne, "front room" is a common name here in OK, so I'm surprised the lady you met had never heard it before.

    Here it's just another name for a formal living room or a parlor. Parlor is rarely said anymore.

    And these front rooms are in the front part of the house, which is the same location as formal LR's.

    Jen, I never saw your LR as being small! I think it's a great size, IMO. And cozy. :)

  • sergeantcuff
    11 years ago

    An easy trick for keeping people out of the kitchen - have a small kitchen! Anyone hanging around is obviously in the way. For a larger group, I put appetizers in the living room and drinks in the dining room.

    I think jmc01 hit the nail on the head - it depends how large your house is. Older, modest-sized houses do not have family rooms. The old house I grew up in did have a den, but it was inhabited by the kids and furnished with living-room cast-offs. My parents used the living room.

    We use our living room for everything - reading, TV, music, puzzles. Architecturally it is a formal room although I'd enjoy a cozier space to escape to. Sometimes I wonder what decade it is when I walk in there and see the prominent fireplace, persian rugs, etc and then notice the computer modem and that the kids have been playing DHs vinyl records. I do not like open floor plans and could not live with a great room. I often feel that I am a dinosaur!

    We use our dining room for dining. Kitchen isn't big enough for a table, so there's no sitting in there.

    I too thought "keeping room", etc sounded pretentious but I do see that those with very large homes have to differentiate the rooms somehow. I can imagine someone calling out: "I'm in the den" and being answered with: "Which one?"

    I now feel funny calling our enclosed back porch a mudroom. It is an unheated space with shoes, recycling bins, small garden tools, birdseed, etc. The spaces that posters here are calling mudrooms are furnished indoor spaces, certainly not areas in which a certain amount of mud would be expected!

  • sas95
    11 years ago

    I don't think it matters whether or not there is a TV in the room where you entertain company. It's whether or not that TV gets turned on when company comes. Ours doesn't. Ever.