Let's Bring Back the Conversation Pit

Let's Bring Back the Conversation Pit

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Nancy Mitchell
Jul 1, 2015

The post I wrote last week about groovy 70s furniture got me thinking about conversation pits. I'm convinced that conversation pits were the pinnacle of architectural evolution, and it's all been downhill from there. Maybe we're just afraid of that kind of greatness. But it's 2015, y'all. We've accomplished so much, and we've come so far. I think it's time to bring the conversation pit back.

Anna wrote a little about the history of conversation pits here. Pictured above is one of the very first conversation pits, in a home designed by Eero Saarinen and Alexander Girard in the 1950s. Although we may think of the conversation pit as an example of 70s excess, they were originally conceived by midcentury architects as a way to keep living rooms sleek and uncluttered by furniture.

(Image credit: You Are Electric)

Here's a slightly subtler vintage version of the conversation pit, from You Are Electric. Sure, a sectional sofa would accomplish much the same thing — but it would be a lot less interesting. This conversation pit, which even has its own fireplace, is almost like a modern-day inglenook.

The design of the two conversation pits above is really quite minimal — notice how they allow for uninterrupted sight lines through the space by essentially lowering the seating into the floor. But eventually the conversation pit evolved into something... a little bit different.

Spotted on 20th Century Home.
(Image credit: 20th Century Home)

This is probably how most of us remember the conversation pit, covered in shag carpet and ripe for debauchery. The 70s version of the pit made up in exuberance what it lacked in class. This could, perhaps, help allow for the disappearance of the conversation pit... but fortunately, some intrepid architects are starting to bring it back.

(Image credit: Design Boom)

This conversation pit design, spotted on Design Boom, really hews close to the intention of the original conversation pits — allowing for a lot of seating while still maintaining a feeling of spaciouness and openness.

(Image credit: Freunde von Freunden)

Here's a conversation pit in an Amsterdam apartment, spotted on Freunde von Freunden.

(Image credit: Decoratrix)

If you love the idea of a conversation pit but aren't able to make a giant hole in your floor, there are other ways to get the look — like covering an entire room in pillows.

The conversation pit has also crept outdoors, like in this exaple from John Robert Nilsson Architects. There's something especially appealing about sitting by a fire in your little nook under the stars.

And finally, from Anna Williamson Architect, one more outdoor conversation pit. This one isn't really a pit, per se, but it still has that sunken seating nook thing going on so I think it counts.

What do you think? Is it time for the conversation pit to make a comeback?

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