The Living Room

Have you ever listened to that program, “A Way with Words?” They talk about the usage and the meaning behind some of our words and phrases. They were talking about the differences between the use of the words: Living Room, Den, Parlor, Family Room, and Front Room. It was an interesting cultural study.

How many have memories of the Room you couldn’t Play in?

There was the room that had plastic seat covers, the room that was always company ready, but if you had folks coming to visit, they were friends and they were on the back porch or in the Family Room/Den. It was the room where the preacher sat when he visited. It was the room reserved for congressmen and and bosses. When they did visit, the slip-covers slipped off, we dusted, we vacuumed, we made sure the decorations were in the right season and were properly placed. And how often did those things happen? In my house? Never.

When you think about it, the living room was a formal space. So no living actually happened in the living room! In fact, most of the time, it was the room where you hosted the mourners when someone died. Why isn’t it called the Dying Room then? It would really have kept all the kids out of there!

The Den was the little hole where the kits were kept busy while the adult foxes did what they did. The Den was where the cub scouts had their meetings. Then that became the Man Cave. What? Just because it had a TV and a pool table and maybe a bar in it, doesn’t make it a cave does it? And would you have a Woman Cave? NO it is NOT the Kitchen. Not fair. The Home Office has come in now that Covid has moved people from the building to the home. But the office is not meant for entertaining and the Man Cave…That’s where poker happens.

To tell you the truth, the idea of finding a cosy nest in a hole or a cave is not my idea of a relaxing place to hang out. I think of close, smoky, smelly, bar-like atmosphere, not my ideal rooms. So there you have a Den, and a Man-cave…are those to keep the women out?

We’d want to clean it and spray freshener everywhere. Put me in a tree house anytime. I like the idea of a hammock that sways in the trees with the wind and staying out after dark. My issue is getting up INTO the tree! I have friends who have sewing rooms. One of my more salty friends goes to her “sewing room” to eat snacks, drink beer, and watch her soap operas. She’s the only person I know that does that. If the others do, they won’t tell anyone!

With the “open” look in new construction, there is no “room” that is characterized as a Living/Family/Parlor room. It’s an unspecific space where unspecific activities occur. At that point, it becomes the place where people drop their briefcases and coats and school books and back packs and all the detritus that we leave behind us when we mover from the outside world to the home world. There’s nothing unique or special about the room except what we define it to be. There’s where the fun happens! We define this space to be whatever we want it to be…whether the special room where the pope would sit if he ever came to visit, or the viewing room where you meet the mourners, or the room you open up for special occasions like holidays, wedding receptions, baby showers and the like. Every house should have a room like this.

The houses I lived in that HAD a parlor were very distinctive. They had a very formal set up and even a separate entrance. In both cases, the entry door had etched glass. One of these was boarded over when they opened the wall between the front room and the parlor. What a shame.

Take a look at your house. Are there any “Off-Limits” rooms? Where do you gather as a family for entertaining yourselves? Is it different from where you entertain guests? How can you define this “other” space? Let your imagination run wild!

1 thought on “The Living Room

  1. This is great! I love to ponder these kinds of subtle differences in how we live and speak. I grew up with “the Front Room” being the primary descriptor for where we hung out, where the TV was, etc. We also sometimes called it “The Living Room.” But we never had a separate formal “Sitting Room” or “Parlor.” Most times, we did not have a “Den” or “Family Room,” either. Houses were not designed that way back then; at least not for the socioeconomic strata in which we dwelt. I have heard the big open concept space called “The Great Room.” In the past few years – the last couple of 3 bedroom places we have lived – we have turned one of the bedrooms into “The TV Room” so that we can have a more formal “Living Room” in which to host guests for drinks and conversation. When my wife first suggested this, I thought she was nuts, but it has worked out very well.

    Thank you for fun reading!!


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