Sunken Living Room

Sunken Living Room

You can read more about this project HERE. Years ago, when my mother bought a house after my father had passed away, her living room was sunken.I advised her then to level it out by installing rebar and pouring concrete. Oftentimes, these areas are depressions in the slab and, you don’t have to worry about the sides of the depression, they are typically concrete — so, basically, it’s a big wide hole. Such was the case in all the ones I’ve seen.My mother lived in that home for about 20 years; my grandmother ended up living there with her, too, until she passed. My mother was never so happy as when she would thank me for telling her to fill in that sunken living room. It was situated between the bedroom wing of the house and the kitchen. You had to go down and then back up a step to get to your coffee in the morning. My mother wasn’t elderly then, but she was retired. She ended up having hip replacement while living there and had to use a walker for awhile. My grandmother was elderly and was very feeble, and she never would have been able to get around in that house without the change we made.But, never mind the universal design issue that was obviously going on with this architectural feature, it’s much more than that. This is something I continually preach, and I did just that when I talked to my new client and advised her to fill in her sunken living room.  Design affects behavior. How our homes are laid out and designed truly influences how we behave, and that is powerful. So my client’s sunken living room, which was off the main entry, opened up to the kitchen/breakfast room. Also, off the entry hall, was the home office, a place where she works some during the day and needs privacy for phone calls and serious focus. You have to get to the kitchen through the sunken living room or through her office from the other parts of the house. Other members of the family tended to go through her office rather than through the sunken living room to get to the kitchen. Now it’s not that anyone living there is elderly or disabled, it’s just that it is ever so slightly more convenient not to step down and then step back up. Unconsciously, everyone was taking the easier route, interrupting my client and her work. Not only that, but the break in the floor really promoted the feel of a separate living room; and, as all young families love now, an open plan and a layout that flows seamlessly from one room to the other makes for ease of use and supports a more modern lifestyle.So, we’re filling in the floor. Money well spent on this remodel.Below, is work in progress. See how this is just a depression in the slab that can be filled in?
sunken living room 1

Sunken Living Room

Sunken living rooms have a significant history that goes back — at least in the contemporary sense — to conversation pit designs by the likes of architect Bruce Goff, who incorporated a sunken seating area into the Adah Robinson residence in 1927. In the late ’50s, architects Eero Saarinen and Alexander Girard added one to their famous Miller House in Indiana. Saarinen elevated the style with a snappy design in the JFK airport in 1962. Hollywood caught on, making a sunken living room the focal point of home life on the The Dick Van Dyke Show in the ’60s. The trend had been validated. Soon homeowners across the world were scrambling to be en vogue with step-down living spaces. (One Houzz user recently unearthed a long-forgotten conversation pit buried in his basement.) The style seemed to peak in the ’70s and soon tapered off. Lately, however, designers and homeowners are bringing sunken living rooms back, if for more practical purposes. The simple and obvious reason is that dropping the floor can create more headroom in spaces where raising the roof isn’t an option. But in a broader sense, the popularity of the throwback design is a response to the mainstream popularity of open floor plans, which, while airy and funtional, create one big continuous space that makes transitioning from one material to another rather difficult. Without partitions, walls or thresholds, how do you switch from a wood floor to poured concrete if there’s no clear delineation between spaces? The answer is at the bottom of the sunken living room.
sunken living room 2

Sunken Living Room

So my client’s sunken living room, which was off the main entry, opened up to the kitchen/breakfast room. Also, off the entry hall, was the home office, a place where she works some during the day and needs privacy for phone calls and serious focus. You have to get to the kitchen through the sunken living room or through her office from the other parts of the house. Other members of the family tended to go through her office rather than through the sunken living room to get to the kitchen.
sunken living room 3

High ceiling, large windows and a gorgeous view of the neighborhood, this modern sunken living room is a dream come true for many. The use of basic white on the walls, ceiling, doors and windows allows you to the flexibility and freedom to add on other bolder colors in your furniture or accessories. In this example, the living room was framed with white modern area rug to frame it against the Mahogany flooring. While most of the pieces of furniture seen in the room uses a basic black, white and stainless steel finish, the L-shape sofa is a definite stand-out with its fiery brick red velvet upholstery and animal print throw pillows.This design shows a two-level sunken living area. Directly parallel to the dining area and just one step down is the main sitting area with beech wood floors, and perpendicular to the dining room and right by the bay window is an even deeper sunken area with built-in bench seats that follows the shape of the window walls. This is a great huddle area, reading nook, or a perfect place to have your afternoon coffee or tea.
sunken living room 4

Sunken living rooms, or living rooms placed on a recessed floor level of a house, are typically employed on modern or contemporary homes, and is basically a modern idea. However, a similar, but subtler concept can be found applied even on older structures and homes. This type of living room allows the living room to feel like a separate space from the rest of the house, while still being able to employ on open layout for the space. Sunken Living spaces also defines a smaller area within a large floor plan, giving it a sense of privacy, as well as emphasis.
sunken living room 5

Compared to the other sunken living room examples, this one is longer, allowing you to create two separate sitting areas, or combine them as needed. It feels like a different room, although it employs an open layout, because the ceiling height for the living room is a lot higher than the other parts of the house and the floor level is 4 steps lower. Since the interior architectural details of the house has a classic European look – walnut floors, matching walnut windows and doors, yellow walls and stained glass – it compensates with its use of plain-colored furniture pieces, balancing the look. Luxury and elegance can clearly be felt in this small sunken living area. Just two steps down the main floor level and framed by 4 classical order columns, the area looks very defined as it uses cherry wood flooring as opposed to the polished granite of the main floor area. Aside from that, there’s a large Turkish Area Rug which further emphasizes the living area, especially since all fabrics used in the furniture is white.
sunken living room 6

This is a gorgeous contemporary living space with an open floor plan. The living area is adjacent to the kitchen area and is separated by a long bar counter. The large living room area is only slightly sunken, so it doesn’t have that closed-off feel that deeper sunken living rooms usually have. Also, the lower floor level helps emphasize the high ceiling and the exposed I-beams of the structure. The wood beams, plain white paint and golden teak wood floors, doors and windows is a warm contrast against the industrial feel of the charcoal-painted metal beams. Furniture pieces are basic loose furniture pieces such as a large modular L-shape sofa with pebbled light gray upholstery, a leather bench, a black modern coffee table and a simple console table. The TV is built-in on the low media cabinet, creating an unobtrusive entertainment area.
sunken living room 7

Diligence International A classic conversation pit leads to the sunken living room here.Spill: Do you have a sunken living room or a conversation pit, or did you have one in the past? We want to hear about it! Better yet, upload a photo below.