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The Evolution of the Great Room

NJ Architect Great Room Long-gone are the days of sectioning off every room in a house. While families of yesteryear chose floor plans that incorporated many smaller rooms, this model is not often conducive to modern homeowners. Thus came the great room. This multi-functional living space surely is not a new or unfamiliar idea when it comes to architectural design; however, the ideas about what a great room is and the overall functionality of the massive spaces have changed over time.

Step Back in Time

The history of the great room began as far back as Medieval Times. These great halls, with their massive dining tables and open space for dancing and entertainment, were commonplace in the homes of the elite. Commoners had no use for such grandiose spaces, and as such, they never really caught on in residential home design.

Fast forward a little further to the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries; architects and homeowners agreed that the more rooms a home had, the more appealing it was. This is why you see, for example, Victorian residences with a parlor, a formal dining room, a closed off kitchen, a family room and a study, as well as upstairs living spaces. Each room perfectly sectioned for privacy, and no great rooms to be found.

Great Rooms Gain Speed

Beginning in the mid-1950s, architects saw the benefit of combining some of these spaces to create seamless entertaining and family spaces. The invention of engineered building materials and the standardization of building practices gave builders more freedom to "create." Some of the common features this new version of the great room had included a kitchen, a dining space and a living area. The combination of the rooms gave homes a bigger overall feel and was more conducive to family life.

The idea caught on; homeowners liked having a space to cook, watch TV and keep an eye on their kids. As such, great rooms became more and more common in new-construction properties in New Jersey and throughout the country. By the 1990s, most new homes, both large and small, sported a great room of sorts. Boasting large windows to bring in lots of natural light, completely open designs made possible by engineer joists and higher than average ceilings, these rooms gave even the most common house a luxurious feel.

Modern Great Rooms

As the needs of families continue to evolve, so do common architectural elements in a home. Modern social kitchens adjoin informal dining spaces and easy living rooms in 21st century homes. Many great rooms also include bi-folding or French doors that lead to a deck or other outside space, which truly allows homeowners to connect indoor and outdoor living. Even with the numerous benefits noted in the great room, there are some problems that are starting to turn people away from them:

  • Great rooms, with their large sizes, are expensive to heat and cool.
  • There is little privacy in the main living areas. If you like to make a mess in the kitchen while you cook, or if the kids get a little wild while playing, there is no way to hide it from guests.
  • Though this is a benefit for some homeowners, there are fewer walls to decorate. Art aficionados or those that appreciate lots of color have fewer opportunities to show their personalities.

Are great rooms here to stay? This is only a question that architects and their clients can answer. When working with your N.J. architect, discuss the benefits of open-plan living and the disadvantages that come with it before making your final decision on the perfect floor plan for your family.

Please feel free to add thoughts in the comment section below!