In Tudor times, only the very privileged/well off people had a living room. Middle class people only began to have them in their homes in the 17th century, but by the 18th century more people of varied classes were aspiring to own a living room. This was because in those days, the living room represented something like a “trophy room”, it was a room in which you would have all of your best possessions on display. People started to decorate their rooms with this in mind, putting all sorts of trinkets in the living room, like ceramics, window nets and any other objects of value in clear view for guests to admire as they visited.
Nowadays, the living room is much less of a commodity, and more of an expectation. Even if you opt to live in an open plan home, you would probably expect an allocated area of floor space for your living room. It has lost some of its grandeur, if you’d use that word to describe the trophy room. Often, grand houses of yesteryear had the lounge reception room on the first floor with a grand staircase leading up to it (many of us would call this an upside-down house now). Perhaps that’s why, in most cases, the stairs are usually located near the front door.
The “upside down” way of living used to be a normal house plan for those privileged people. It was called the “piano nobile”, the reasons for having the reception rooms on the first floor rather than the ground floor were for the improved views, and to avoid the dampness and smells of the street level. Most houses with the piano nobile floor usually had a second floor above that for the homeowners bedrooms and private quarters. Above that would usually be an attic floor containing the staff quarters.
Now the living room is more of a casual reception room, used for entertaining and socialising with guests, rather than showing off your material worth. We still decorate our living rooms, that has not become completely obsolete, but perhaps not as pretentiously as we once did.
Written by Jade Turney – Building Tectonics Ltd.