Sunken living rooms are a classic midcentury home feature that create a naturally cozy conversation area. Back in the day, they were where the adults enjoyed a pre-dinner cocktail and caught up on life and where the kids enjoyed story time before bed. When you’re in one of these conversation pits, it feels like an intimate, secluded space inside an otherwise wide open layout. But what can you do if your home doesn’t have a sunken living room? We’ve put together 5 tips for styling your living room to create the feel of an atomic ranch conversation pit - whether your home has a sunken living room or not.
Photo: AA Real Estate Photography
Starting from the ground up, look for a fantastic rug to create an area of focus in the room. Whether you have a sunken living room or not, an area rug that is large enough to touch each couch, chair, and table in your designated conversation area will tie each element together and create the cozy, intimate feel you crave. To dial up the Mid Century feels, look for a rug with bright colors and/or a geometric pattern.
Photo: Tara Bussema
When choosing the seating for your conversation pit, start with the largest piece - the sofa. When at the showroom, test out a few options to see how comfortable they all are. A fabulous-looking sofa that’s uncomfortable to sit on after a few minutes will not bode well for your conversations. Then choose an armchair or two depending on how much space your conversation area has - you don’t want it to be too full with big pieces. If space is an issue, smaller profile chairs like dining chairs can work and still be comfortable enough for a conversation space.
Photo: North Design
Like seating, a coffee table is a must-have anchor in any proper sunken living room. The coffee table options are vast, so choose one that fits the mood you’d like to have in your conversation area. A table with a glass top, curved lines and abstract shapes will make a smaller room feel more open, while a wood-topped table with straight lines will be more of an anchoring element and help ground a larger space.
Photo: Andrew Sherman Photography
Make a statement with art that communicates the feel you want to have in the room. Do you want lively, fun, and exciting conversations? Then go with bright, bold art pieces like abstract paintings or a shiny chrome starburst light fixture. For a more relaxed, low-key feel, choose art pieces like landscape photographs or natural, handmade ceramic sculptures that communicate a laid-back vibe.
Photo: Kirsten Hepburn
Bringing in nature is a sure-fire way to add some detail to the room and create that finishing touch that will draw your guests wandering eyes into your carefully curated space. If you have a credenza or shelving in your conversation room, create a small display or two with some succulents, ceramic knick knacks, river rocks, or wooden sculptures. One of our favorite pieces is the Aspen Magazine Rack. It’s sweeping, nature-inspired shape brings just the right natural touch to any conversation area. Organic shapes and natural colors add just enough detail and contrast to bring the intimate feel all together.
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