The Sunken Living Room Comeback

An insight into the grand revitalisation of vintage and retro trends such as the sunken living room.

A growing number of pictures of sunken living rooms or conversation pits are popping up. Sunken living rooms were popular a few decades ago but slowly appeared less and less often in new homes, and now some might argue that the design trend is making a comeback. But is it?

They’re a way for architects to create distinct living areas in open-concept homes and, for another, these dropped rooms gain height without affecting the roofline. They simultaneously appear taller and more intimate than other parts of the house.

Patrizia Moroso’s home in Udine, north-east Italy

One common misconception about sunken living rooms is that you must have enough space for one. As this U-shaped display so effortlessly proves, these hallowed holes can bring their ease and charm to tinier living areas as well. As if you needed another reason to descend the stairs, here, guests are also encouraged to huddle around the fireplace. Talk about a stairway to heaven. Sounds cool, right? While it’s tricky to achieve the look without digging straight down into your apartment floor, we’ve gathered some inspiration photos.

Number 31, Dublin, Ireland

Let’s start with something local, Number 31, located on Leeson Close, Dublin 2, boasts a sunken living room where seating is arranged around a peat-burning fireplace. Number 31 is a guesthouse that you might consider visiting and get an up-close look and feel for one.

The Mandala House, Bali

A level change not only defines spaces without creating physical barriers but also hierarchises space. Raised floors signify importance or grandeur, and sunken floors evoke intimacy. They also allow for a loftier feel as the floor-to-ceiling height increases.

Villa Amsterdam by Marmol Radziner

When bordered by a cosy built-in sofa and topped with comfy pillows, it’s the ultimate spot to zen out.

Cupertino Home by Patricia Urquiola

This sunken living room is indeed a conversational piece for any home. Just one look and you know that sitting there is definitely comfortable and great for taking photos!

Bondi Junction Home by Alexander & Co.

As defined, a sunken living room is usually found in split-level homes. You can walk up a few steps into the kitchen or step down a few steps into the living room. This is a sunken living room with a great view of the garden.

CGI Visualisation by Ri Ko, Chengdu, China

You’ve seen some of the finest sunken room ideas, but all of them are in rectangular forms. Though most sunken rooms are with the form factor, you can also have sunken rooms in almost any other format, like the one in a circular form here.

Mabote Private Residence, South Africa

Now we move outside, as sunken rooms are not only for the interior of houses. As you see here, sunken seating areas are also suitable for outdoor applications (weather permitting of course!).

Conrad Co Samui, Phang Ka Peninsula

A sunken lounge room surrounded by a pool becomes a natural centrepiece of a home. And as connected as it is – one can sit on the sofa and almost be at eye level with those swimming.

Doing sunken living rooms well was one of the primary concerns among the design experts—they’re tricky to add to existing homes and can sometimes look outdated.

Sunken living rooms look open and spacious, and that’s exactly what gives them the inviting flair. The modern sunken living room offers a great space to spend the evening. From the circular living room to the couch built into the floor idea, there is a range of ideas for your step-down space.

And while these conversation pits are great for accommodating multiple guests, they’re just as cosy and inviting when you want to spend some time alone and read a book.