Living Room Versus Family Room: Are They The Same Or Is There Really A Difference?

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In today’s homes, the living room and family room are often interchangeable due to the lack of square footage in home sizes. For example, a larger taman desa house for sale may have the luxury of having both a living room and a family room, but an apartment unit in KL may only have one. Especially right now in smaller unit residences where living room and family room are marketed as one and the same.

Nowadays, people often use the terms “family room” and “living room” interchangeably. In the parlance of design and décor, the expanse of conflicting terminology can sometimes get a bit baffling. It can be downright difficult to pinpoint the nuances between two seemingly identical yet different concepts. However, when it comes to the clash of the family room versus the living room, is there really a clear distinction that separates one from the other? The answer to that is yes, as a matter of fact. 

When it comes down to the family room and living room, often it comes down to how you use the space you have. You might ask, what is the exact nature for using these spaces? No worries, although it has been mysterious for a long time, today we’re here to debunk some of those misconceptions.

Living Room vs. Family Room

Living Room

The living room (or parlour) is often the main common space in most homes. Historically, the living room is a remnant of the drawing room, which was the formal social and reception space of 18th century homes. It started out as a formal display space reserved for welcoming guests and morphed throughout the years into the more casual gathering spaces that we know today. 

Until the late 19th century, the living room (or then referred to as the parlour) was reserved for formal social events, which included where the recently deceased was laid out before the funeral. Thus, prior to World War I, it was called “The Death Room”. After that, as the space became increasingly used for various activities and became a more lively place than a mourning space, it came to be called the “living room”.

The living room usually occupies the front portion of the house, is the most spacious and is usually at the central part of the house. The living room is more likely to be used for entertainment of guests, especially on more formal occasions. However, in most of today’s homes, the living room is more relaxed in nature. Although in other larger homes, especially those with multiple common areas, it retains some of its more original formal underpinnings. 

Some homes have grand living rooms that only get occasional use, while more ordinary social activities take place in smaller rooms that have a different name (like family room or recreation room). Traditionally, design and décor in the living room emphasises form over function. Thus, décor and furniture are usually more “decorated” and do not necessarily have comfort in mind. For example, wingback chairs and bourgeoisie French furniture. 

Family Room

The family room has a similar function and nature as the living rooms of today: as an all-purpose gathering place for friends, family and guests that serve social and recreational needs. A family room is a newer concept that dates to the mid-century. The family room popped out as an antithesis to the living room: as a new space created to accommodate activities that were unsuited to a formal living room or parlour. Today, the family room is traditionally reserved for use by the immediate family on a daily basis. Closer friends and extended family are also usually entertained in the family room, especially during more casual gatherings.

In most homes, the family room is generally adjacent to the kitchen and in some cases is part of the kitchen itself, flowing into it with almost no visual breaks. The family room is usually located further away from the main entrance

Family rooms are generally less formal, both in terms of function and furnishings. Materials in family rooms are also more “tough” and for harder use, which makes it easier to clean. The space is also more flexible and versatile to accommodate its multi-faceted function and casual nature. The key idea for décor and design in family room is above all, comfort. Consider pieces like recliners, easy chairs and plush comfortable sofas.

Is there really a difference?

In the modern homes of today, the lines between a living room and family room are blurred. Thus, you can call a space many different names and call it whatever you like. At the end of the day, it is up to you to define what function a space needs to serve for your home and household. Whatever you want to call your space, either a family room or a living room, the most important thing is that life is short, and your space should be for living. And sometimes, that’s all that matters.

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