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What Is a Great Room?

By D. Poupon
Updated May 16, 2024
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A great room is a large, centrally located room that has multiple functions such as those of a living room, dining room and possibly kitchen. The popularity of family-style entertaining has made formal living rooms almost obsolete and has given rise to the great room. Often a showcase room, it might feature high ceilings and a fireplace. It is typical in suburban houses, although open, multifunction rooms also are popular in many other settings. There are some disadvantages of this type of room, such as difficulty heating, decorating and cleaning it, and these make it less popular for some people.

Traditional houses contain a family room, a living room and a kitchen, but modern houses might contain a great room at the heart of the house. This combination room is used for entertaining and either replaces the family room and living room or replaces the family room, living room and kitchen. Typically, a great room has the same square footage as two or three regular-size rooms and is organized into separate zones for dining, entertainment and cooking. Most rooms contain a dining table, a couch and a television, and it will have a kitchen island if a cooking area also is part of the room.

Cultural changes have affected room usage and given rise to the great room. As space-hogging televisions, video games and computers have become the primary source of at-home entertainment, many homeowners have needed more space for all of their media. As entertaining has become more casual, formal dining rooms have come to seem outdated. With improvements in kitchen ventilation systems that chase away food odors, hosts no longer want to be sequestered to a separate room while they cook. The open-space layout address all three problems, allowing floor plans that have better flow, less wasted space and better contact with friends and family members while meals are prepared.

A great room typically showcases many architectural features, such as a vaulted ceiling, which might have exposed beams or might extend two stories high. It usually is a centrally located room and has many large windows that let in lots of natural light. These rooms often boast a fireplace, even in warmer climates.

Although the term typically is used in the suburban United States, many countries have embraced the idea of large, multifunctional rooms. Scandinavian homes are reputed for their open-space concepts with many architectural features such as high ceilings and lots of natural light. City dwellers who live in lofts or smaller studio apartments often combine cooking space, living space and sometimes even sleeping quarters in the same room.

The popularity of the room has waxed and waned, and it declined throughout the first decade of the 21st century. So much open space, with lots of windows, can be very difficult to heat and to cool. Creating a warm atmosphere is difficult, and furnishing and decorating the room is very expensive. Cleaning this room is quite a challenge as well, with so much surface area to cover and the need for a ladder to remove cobwebs and to wash windows. As families scale back their budgets, great rooms might become expensive reminders of a better economy.

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Discussion Comments
By anon995999 — On Jun 22, 2016

Great rooms not only have a high ceiling, but by definition; a great room is taller than a single story.

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