History of the Living Room
For most people a living room is the hub of the home, where people relax and socialise with family and friends. The word ‘living room’ was first used in the nineteenth century but in reality they existed well before this. The way that living rooms have been used, their décor and their furnishings have changed significantly over time.
For most people a living room is the hub of the home, where people relax and socialise with family and friends. Common living room activities include watching television, reading, playing with children and, for some, eating. The word ‘living room’ was first used in the nineteenth century but in reality they existed well before this. The way that living rooms have been used, their décor and their furnishings have changed significantly over time.
Back in the 1600’s living rooms were called parlours and were used to socialise and entertain guests. They were also used for dining. They were much more formal than they tend to be nowadays and hierarchies were clearly displayed with the use of chairs. The householder, who was always a man, would site in a chair called ‘the great chair’ which was a way of showing his authority and standing. His wife and children would sit in upholstered chairs while others sat on joined stools. In the second half of the seventeenth century musical instruments, books and games began to be introduced into parlours and they became more of a place for relaxation as well as a place for entertaining. Common furniture during the 1600’s included upholstered chairs, large dining tables, pianos, boardgames and books, especially the bible.
In the 1700’s drawing rooms began to be introduced in upper class household. These were typically used for formal entertaining while parlours were more family-orientated relaxation areas. Chairs and tables remained very similar as in the previous century while upholstered chairs and pianos were common drawing room furnishings.
By the 1850’s it was no longer the norm to dine in living rooms as they were used exclusively for relaxation and entertainment. A connected dining room became usual in newly built homes separating eating and relaxation. Décor typically consisted of carpets and rugs and window shutters, while upholstered sofas and coffee tables were popular additions to many living rooms. Musical instruments and books were amongst the things used for entertainment.
To an extent living rooms became more minimalist in the 1900’s and more craftsmanship became used in furnishings. Overall there was more variety. Early in the twentieth century they were still fairly formal, although less so than previously. Technology began to play a central role in the living room with this beginning with radios. The whole family would regularly gather around listening to the radio. Later in the twentieth century there were many changes. Society as a whole became less formal and living rooms followed suit. Televisions began to be introduced and became the centrepiece of living rooms. It also became more common once again to dine in living rooms, with this often depending on the size of a home (whether or not they had a separate dining room). Comfort became more important with sofas and chairs being chosen accordingly.
So far there has been little change in living rooms since the end of the twentieth century. Computers and games consoles have become more prevalent in general and are sometimes found in living rooms. This, rather than being something new, is a continuing trend that began in the late 1900’s.
Andrew Marshall ©
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