What to Know About Sunken Living Rooms

October 12, 2023

The popular and unique sunken living room of the 1960s is gaining popularity once again. These spaces, also called conversation pits, are versatile and can be comfortable and welcoming. If you’re simply curious about this kind of living room or are considering adding one to your custom home design, here’s what to know about sunken living rooms:

What is a Sunken Living Room?

Sunken living rooms are a feature where the living room is lower than the rest of the home, like a pit. This is why these spaces are also called conversation pits. This kind of space requires a recession in the floor so this feature is best for homes with a crawl space or concrete slab foundations.

While in construction, the builder changes the foundation to create a sunken space in the concrete slab. For homes with a crawl space, the builder creates the recessed shape by framing lumber. They’re typically not recommended for homes with basements because the recession reduces headroom in a basement. Typically, basements are a better investment than crawl spaces, but if you want a sunken living room, you may need to compromise.

Another option would be to leave the foundation untouched and create the illusion of a recession in the living room by building up around it to elevate the floor around the sunken or recessed area. In this scenario, you are sacrificing some height in the living room instead of the basement, but also aren’t making permanent foundation changes.

The sunken living room can be nearly any shape, size, and depth. In the past, sunken living rooms were typically carpeted but any type of flooring can be used. This design feature is unique and can be incorporated into any custom home design.

5 Design Ideas For a Sunken Living Room

Sunken living rooms are versatile and can be designed to fit in any type of home. Here are a few design ideas for a sunken living room:

1. Embrace the Mid-Century Aesthetic

Sunken living rooms were at the height of popularity with mid-century design. Lean into exposed wood beams or wooden trim to add warmth and a rustic feel. Opt for mid-century vintage furniture to complement the sunken living room.

Choose mid-century color combinations to add to the sunken feel. Popular combinations include pink and teal, yellow and blue, or a neutral color like beige with an olive green.

2. Make it Modern

One of the most popular architectural designs for your custom home is the modern design. In this design trend, keep the sunken living room minimal with clean lines. Asking for built-in sofas or other seating will elevate the space and make it feel luxurious. Light up your space with modern lighting to emphasize the modern design. Or, choose recessed lighting to really highlight the minimalism of the space.

3. Bridge Indoor and Outdoor Living Spaces

Blending indoor and outdoor living spaces is a popular home design trend right now. A sunken living room is a great way to create a flow between your indoor and outdoor spaces. Your sunken living room can flow right out onto a patio for entertaining.

As you or guests enter a lower living room, it’ll feel natural to move outdoors. If you want more space, simply ask for larger sliding doors or even bifold patio doors. This will double your entertaining space without a barrier between the indoor and outdoor spaces.

4. Brighten Up Your Space With Plants

To keep your sunken living room from feeling too dark or drab, add plenty of plants. Plants can help create an inviting area for relaxing or entertaining. Try a neutral color palette and let plants and flowers add pops of color. Picking the right plants for your space is a useful indoor gardening tip and will set you up for success.

5. Lighten Up With a Skylight

Adding a skylight right above your sunken living room will fill the space with natural light. Plus, the skylight will accentuate this unique design feature. You can opt for a simple skylight or choose something larger and more dramatic if you want this area to be a show-stopper. They’re also a good great room design idea to try.

This is just an overview of what to know about sunken living rooms. If you want to incorporate a sunken living room into your custom home design, contact Custom Home Group at 717-284-4090. We can help bring your dream home to life!