The Evolution and History of the Modern Day Living Room

The Evolution and History of the Modern Day Living Room

The term living room was found in the decorative literature of 1890’s period. The personality of a designer would be a reflection of this room rather than the Victorian Conventions of the day. Known as the parlours in the 19th Century – but now often described as the living room, front room, sitting room, lounge room or lounge.  It is the room that has always been a place in which the host or hostess would entertain guest, relax and read, yet was seen as a very formal place.

From early on, the living room has been seen as a place to which you can display your signature on your home.

In this article I intend to explain how the living room has changed throughout centuries, from the 17th century to now.

17th Century

Life at home especially for the middle class centred around one particular room known as ‘The Hall’. This room would be used to dine, socialise while also to entertain any guests of the household.

Furniture wise ‘the hall’ would have Joined stools, with Draw-leaf tables, in the first half of the century. They also preferred to use pieces of furniture such as upholstered stools, yet there was one noticeable piece of furniture in this room named as ‘The Great Chair’. Now ‘The Great Chair’ was symbolic and used as a way of showing the hierarchy within a family, as where the upholstered stools.

The Great Chair would usually be the chair of the owner of the household, or the elder male figure in the house. And the upholstered chairs would usually be takes by his next of kin and his wife etc, leaving the woman and children usually sitting on the Joined Stools.

From the 1660’s onwards in this period of time the hierarchy was replaced with a more even looking set up and suites of chairs were introduced, these were called ‘turkey work’.

Things in the inventory would have included a virginal (musical instrument) along with a backgammon board and a religious book like the bible. This shows that ‘The Hall’ would be a place in which people would also relax, enjoy music and read.

18th Century

In the 18th Century the parlour would remain the place in which the family would spend most of their time and would if they were to entertain guests.

Cane chairs and also a gate leg table would be the norm for a middle class family furniture wise in their parlour, this was a trend to which continued all the way through into the 1720’s.

It was common in wealthy households for a drawing room – This room was somewhere in which the family would withdraw after dinner. It was more likely that formal entertainment would take place here, especially when entertaining guests at the household – you would notice that this room would be more expensively furnished than the parlour.

19th Century

By the middle of the 19th Century the typical parlour, especially in the middle classes, dramatically changed as it was no longer a room in which you would dine. The parlour would simply be a room where the family would relax and entertain their selves as well as any guests. This saw an introduction of a new room to the households, enter the ‘through room’.

This was a particular reoccurrence in new built homes, and it was a room that consisted of two large folding doors which connected it to the parlour, this room was commonly used as a dining room but it some cases used as one big parlour.

Furniture in a middleclass household would begin to include:

  • Fitted Carpets and Rugs
  • 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

20th Century

The 20th Century lighter and sunnier, yet less densely furnished living rooms became ideal, especially in the first half of the century.

This was so common in suburbs especially where new homes had electric lighting. The homes were also designed to be far cleaner and more hygienic.

Arts and Crafts Movement inspired by the traditional English Country Form became seen in most textile and furniture.

And fashion did loosely change to the front of the eighteenth century to which we saw furniture manufacturers reproducing a lot of older furniture.


All of these movements take us on to the 21st Century living rooms we know and use every day– taking elements of history as well as technology changes that have resulted in more flat packed furniture instead of traditional solid furniture, as well as crafted sofas replaced with cheaper alternative.



This article was provided by Ryan Hirst who writes helpful guides and tips for Eurofit Direct on their blog


  1. one
    Comment by Mia@Miami Real Estate: Apr 17, 2012 at 6:56 PM

    Good post. The living room is the soul of the home it sets the standards of atmosphere, style, and general identity of a home as a whole, no matter what kind of home it is.

  2. two
    Comment by home decoration@keyword: Apr 19, 2012 at 11:31 AM

    It is interesting to know how living room have undergone so many changes over the centuries. I’m not sure about the old times, but today you can judge a lot about the personality of the inmates by seeing how they decorate their living room.

  3. three
    Comment by Eddie@Real Estate: Jun 19, 2012 at 2:13 AM

    I think that no matter the styles of furniture, or the technology that changed the way we interact with each other (or not interacted, in some cases) when we’re spending time there, the living room is a vital component to a home. The living room sets the standards of atmosphere, style, and general identity of a home as a whole, no matter what kind of home it is.

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