The living room is somewhere that has taken on some fundamental changes from century to century and now is one of many focal points within a home. The actual term living room was one that was found within the decorative and somewhat glorious period of the 1890’s. Throughout this article I intend to show you the change in the living room from the 17th Century until now.
In times gone by the decoration, theme and design of a living room would be a reflection of the designer’s personality not so much the Victorian Conventions of the day. In the 19th Century this room in a home would be known as ‘the parlours’ but known to us now as either the living room, sitting room, lounge etc. One thing the living room has always been used for is the entertainment of guests, or somewhere we can relax, play games and read for example. However once upon a time it was seen as a much more formal place.
After plenty of time researching the change in the living room it is obvious to me that this was a place in which you could cement your signature on the home and people have always taken advantage of this.
The 17th Century
In the 17th Century it was obvious that there was one specific room in the home that especially the middle class would use more than any other, this room was known as ‘The Hall’ and it had many functions to entertain, socialise and dine whether this being just family or when guests where present also.
It is obvious to me that within this century a great deal of time was spent on empathising the hierarchy within a family and the furniture would be symbolic of this. We would have seen furniture such as the famous ‘Great Chair’ being apparent throughout the 17th Century and this chair would be occupied by the head of the home. Other pieces of furniture that are obvious to see in this time period where the upholstered stools and also joined stools.
In terms of the positioning within the hierarchy the upholstered stools would be taken by the next of kin and the wife etc. And then the joined stools would be used for any women within the household and also the children, it was something that all households would have within. These traditions only lasted however until the 1660’s as I will discuss next.
In the 1660’s and onwards the hierarchy within a home was something that was less noticeable with a suite of chairs being introduced known as the ‘turkey work’. Within this room it would not be strange to see things such as a virginal (music instrument) and also a book like bible and even a backgammon board. These are all indications that ‘The Hall’ was not only somewhere to dine but also to relax.
The evolution in the 18th Century
The 18th Century saw the parlour still being the main place to wine and dine and also entertain any guests.
We saw the introduction of cane chairs and also a gate leg table into just about any middle class household right up until the 1720’s.
We also saw one massive change in this era, that being the drawing room – The function of this room would be to entertain guests and also somewhere in which the family would wind down and relax after dinner. On a whole this was a fairly formal room and entertainment of this sort would happen here. This is the evolution of the first real modern day living room in my opinion and it is also apparent that this would probably be the most expensively furnished room within any home.
This evolution has continued right until now, as we see more eating taking place in the kitchen in the modern day home, and the living room being somewhere for relaxing in the home this was probably the first remarkable move in the change of the living room.
In the middle of the 19th century we saw the first huge change in the layout of a home, due to the fact that the parlour would no longer be place in which people in the home would dine. This brought the introduction of the ‘through room’. The parlour them became the modern day dining room as it was seen as only a place to relax with family and friends throughout the late 19th century.
The through room was connected by a set of double doors usually to the parlour and the function of this room would be solely for eating… This is now known to us and the dining room.
Furniture in middle class parlours
- Fitted rugs or carpets
- Comfortable chairs and sofas with sprung upholstery and deep buttoning
- Tables draped with large cloths
- Variety of furniture for activities like card games, sewing, music and reading.
In the 20th Century it was a lighter and bright home, however less densely furnished living rooms became ideal especially in the early half of the century.
Especially within suburbs with new homes, lighting and a clean home was the perfect look. Arts and crafts movement inspired the traditional English country form becoming seen in most textile and furnishing.
One massive change in the home was the fact that we saw a lot of old furniture from the 18th century being introduced once again. All of this takes us to the 21st century where we see the living room taking elements of history, art and also technology in order to create probably the most personalised room in the home.