From Dining Rooms to Great Rooms

American life is pretty well known to change at a ferocious pace.  It’s strange to think about how different things were fifty years ago – most people still lived close to where they were born, social equality for women and minorities were much farther off, and families still sat down to the dining room table together every night.

Well, some things change for the better, and some things . . . just change.  While some of us work hard to hang on to the old dining room tradition, the vast majority of families on the go have settled into different rhythms than their parents or grandparents’ generation.  And naturally, they want a home that reflects those changes.  That’s why now, instead of a separate dining room, many architects, developers, and remodelers are opting for what’s known as a Great Room – a single space that flows between a kitchen, a dining area, and a living room or lounge area.

The Great Room concept is a response to a lot of social trends – some of them great, some maybe not so much.  The Great Room accommodates the hectic flow of modern family life, as dads, daughters, and Cousin Joe zoom around on their own missions, snatching snacks from the fridge and counter willy-nilly.  That might not please those who see the ideal family interaction as five people sitting down for an hour over a meal.  The Great Room is also a monument to contemporary informality – it makes just as much sense to carry a plate of food to the couch in front of the T.V. as to the kitchen table.


But the Great Room also strengthens families, since the open, flowing space makes it easier for us to connect. Mom is no longer sequestered away while the rest of the brood eagerly await the fruits of her labor – instead, the kitchen in a Great Room becomes a social space, with the kids hanging out and watching the magic. And for today’s sometimes larger families, which are more and more likely to include three generations under one roof, the spaciousness of a Great Room can be a very practical amenity.

When family isn’t the order of the day, a Great Room’s flow can make for a great football Sunday or wine bash, giving people different areas to congregate in.  And this sort of layout is truly at its best when our family lives mesh with our social lives – during the holidays. The cooks and gourmets can hang out in the kitchen, the social butterflies can chit-chat in the dining area, and the jocks can watch football – each doing their own thing, but staying connected by space, and freely mingling.  Certainly an improvement over the old days, when a family would be divided up between totally separate rooms.

So, if you’re in the market for a home, consider how your life works – and how you’d like your home to work with it.  Maybe a Great Room would fit your flow.

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