For those who keep their ears to the ground, you’ve certainly heard the chatter about cozy seating — layouts that bring us closer, if not face to face, are all the rage as we distance ourselves from the Zoom era. But there may be no more architectural feature on the nose than the conversation pit.
Also known as sunken living rooms, conversation pits were a feature of mid-century modern interiors in the United States when entertaining at home was at an all-time high. Often located in a living room, they were built under the floor, a few steps down, and upholstered with built-in chairs. Modern architects and designers embrace function for many of the same reasons conversation pits were popular in the first place: as an interior trend, they bring a cozy dynamism with surprising dimensions.
“There are so many benefits to a sunken living room; from denoting space with a difference in height, to the sense of greater spatial volume, to a more intimate sense of lounging…none of that can be achieved with furniture alone,” said Kristin Korven, Los Angeles co-founder. part-office.
Eliminating furniture is, in fact, one of the main benefits of the conversation pit, creating a space without table legs and clutter, especially in open-air rooms that are easily blocked by an clunky sofa. But at the end of the day, the sunken living room trend creates a place to sink into and relax.
“I think it has to do with the more general trend of cocooning, the conversation pit is the ultimate place to hang out with your family,” says interior designer Joanna Lavén, co-founder of Studio Lawahl in Stockholm. “It’s cosy, comfortable and good-looking.”
As an architectural feature, it remains the ultimate talking point – here are a few tips that will hit the spot.
1. Watch out for the size
San Francisco architect Craig Steely conceived this perfectly backfilled pit to delineate space in a voluminous room without obstructing the view outside. He notes, however, that sunken rooms don’t fit perfectly into every interior – they make the most sense when there’s room to spare, both in and around the pit.
“Make sure your conversation pit is big enough,” Steely says. ‘At least 12’x12′.’ There should be plenty of leg room to get that lounge effect, or to fit a central coffee table that you can still walk around.
2. Double the seats
In this edgy design, LCLA office has taken the conversation pit to the next level; unlike the traditional living room layout, the pit edge acts as an additional seating layer thanks to thin cushions atop concrete slabs.
“Using different levels for seating can also contract the space and expand in section, which is why the flat roof works really well,” says architect Luis Callejas, noting how the space – with two layers of seating – feels larger, even with a standard room height, a common benefit of conversation pits.
3. Create a flow between open spaces
“A sunken space is a great touch that can add a lot of fun to your home, so whether you’re considering a cozy sunken nook, living room or sitting area, it’s essential to keep the design light and flowing,” says Los Angeles interior designer Jaqui Seerman.
While decor and finishes can do wonders for elevating a space — like the warm woods and woven rugs used here — this “step-down” concept applies to transitional spaces that would otherwise be separated by a wall ( such as from an open kitchen to a living room) can help create a seamless, dynamic flow as you move from one space to another.
4. Add curves to the recessed area
While the textbook layout for a sunken space is one of right angles, don’t be afraid to think outside the box and create curves or non-traditional shapes. Overlooking a garden and pool, architect Andrea Kozak of Studio Kozak in Bali collaborated with the owner of the villa to design a rounded corner in the well, creating a space that really cuddles when you sit on the velvet Chesterfield- cushions.
‘Our recessed bench follows the curved structure of the wall behind it,’ explains Kozak. “We made the bottom structure very low, so we could make the mattress size thicker than usual, to provide more comfort for the people who use it.”
5. Go above floor level
Doubling the comfort, conversation pits often come equipped with built-in, deep-seated cushions. But when building the space, consider a sofa that really fills the perimeter.
“I like that the sofa is a bit higher than the floor level, so you don’t get sharp edges when you lean back on the sofa and it also looks very inviting,” says interior designer Joanna Lavén, who held her design. with a thick blue sofa that softens the otherwise hard corners of the pit.
6. Maintain Low Sight Lines
If you’re in a sunken space, you’ll see a room from a different vantage point on the ground floor – think carefully about every detail in this direct line of sight. “We made sure there were many special details at eye level, such as the stone toe kick in the modern kitchen, so that when you’re sitting in the pit, adjacent to the kitchen, you don’t stare at dusty baseboards,” says designer Kristin Korven of this monotone scheme.
Architectural details to keep in mind (or out of sight) include electrical outlets, vents, and other amenities, while things worth highlighting include items like table legs, moldings, and artifacts on the bottom shelves of bookcases.