The History of the Living Room

History of the Livingroom | Greige Living

The history of the living room from its first name to the present day. On this short journey through time, each country has of course had its own change in style.

However, some movements and wars affected almost all parts of the world and were decisive for the historical development of today’s living room. So let’s take a look at how this came about:

What exactly is the living room?

In most houses, the living room is the center of the house. This can vary from house to house, as in typical farmhouses, for example, the kitchen is the typical focal point. Depending on the size of the house, some people use their living room as a room to entertain guests, while using another room as a family room.

This varies from place to place, of course, but most people use the living room as a space to relax and spend time with their family and friends. It is often the largest room in the house and is often combined openly with the dining or kitchen area. In the past, the main focus of the room was on a beautiful fireplace, but today the focus is mainly on the TV area.

When did the living room become a designated room?

The living room was born around 1815, during the so-called Biedermeier period.

The Biedermeier period was the time between 1815 and 1848. After the war against Napoleon, a large part of the population was disappointed with the government, as they had hoped for more rights and the opportunity to take part in political discussions. When this did not happen, many people resigned and began to focus more on their private lives.

Family, home and self-sufficiency became the most important things in life. A cozy home was all you wanted.

Before the Biedermeier period, in the Victorian era, the typical middle and upper class home was divided into an area for receiving guests and an area where the family actually lived. In the reception room, expensive furniture was usually displayed and children were not allowed. It was the buffer zone between the public and private areas of the house. If the family did not have guests over, the so-called anteroom, parlor or reception room was rather useless. The family spent their gatherings in other rooms, such as the bedrooms or the library.


After the war, people began to use the reception room more casually and used it to meet up with friends and family, read, have a drink together or engage in other social activities. Due to industrialization, people moved to the cities in droves and living space was very limited. So the reception room gave way to the living room for meeting up with friends and family. It was during this time that the popular Biedermeier furniture was created.

Biedermeier furniture became the most fashionable design style. It had no clear shapes as it was inspired by nature. It was elegant with beautiful curves and made from darker woods such as walnut, mahogany or cherry.

A typical living room was furnished somewhat differently to what we are used to today. A secretary for sitting and writing, a sideboard, a bed or chaise longue for sitting or lying down and a plant formed the basis.

• 1920

In the 1920s, the gramophone became affordable to the public, so music became an integral part of the living room. People began to spend their time there relaxing, knitting and embroidering or simply listening to music. Since the focal point of the room was usually a fireplace and no one needed a good view, armchairs were placed randomly and typical sofas were rather rare at this time in the history of the living room.

Furniture design evolved from Biedermeier to Art Nouveau, whose main characteristics were floral ornamentation and its organic forms. At the same time, the longing for a more straightforward design language slowly began to develop, as did industrial production, which began to grow and largely shaped the furniture industry. In 1919, the popular Bauhaus school opened its doors in Weimar. This school greatly influenced the design of architecture, art and furniture.

The Bauhaus students were the visionaries of the golden 20s. Their designs were progressive and future-oriented, but hardly anyone had Bauhaus designs in their home. Glass, steel and white modernism were too futuristic and too big a step away from the organic forms of Biedermeier or Art Nouveau design. Today, Bauhaus is more popular than ever, as the pioneers of modern design were trained there.

• 1950

From pile of rubble to glamor: in the 1950s, the world began to reshape itself. The Second World War was over, and the living room was transformed from a somewhat formal space to the comfort room that is typical today. While the older generation wanted to return to their beloved Biedermeier furniture, the younger generations were ready to conquer the world with American modernity. This divided the living rooms into two main design styles:

1. old-fashion: very heavy, dark and rustic oak furniture.

2. modern: Pastel-colored furniture in futuristic shapes, made of organically shaped wood. Radios were the center of the room and the main source of news, entertainment and sports. Towards the end of the 1950s, the typical living room was given a new look. The television moved in and changed the entire layout of the room. Whereas the seating used to face each other for easy conversation, it now faced the television.

• 1960

In the 60s, mass production determined the look of the living room. While innovative forms slowly disappeared, durable and solid furniture was seen everywhere. Large sofas moved into the living room and the practicality of storage space became very important, resulting in the first modular wall unit from Hülsta in 1968.

• 1970

Orange was the color of the decade and stood for the future and progress. The public was trying to escape the fear of the Cold War that was raging between the USA and Russia. This gave rise to the hippie movement, with bright colors and a flower power mentality.

The rustic oak furniture went to the recycling yard and was replaced by a bright green flokati rug. Organic shapes, patterned wallpaper, green floral sofas and plastic lamps in bright red conquered the living room. Shag carpets were widespread. One of the best-known design classics from this period was the all-foam sofa “Togo” by Line Roset, in bright orange.

Towards the end of the 70s, the color palette moved towards earthy tones. Dried flowers, pinboards and DIY projects were all the rage and have made a huge comeback in recent years. Boho was the trend. Upholstered furniture had a low profile and was used for sitting and sleeping. Modularity became an important aspect of furniture design.

• 1980

If the late 70s were boho, the 80s were eclectic. People wanted to make an optimistic statement through color and break out of the gray everyday life of the Cold War. Neon replaced natural colors, and the Memphis Group designed colorful, strange-looking furniture. While the walls remained mostly white, wall units and media systems became a must-have in the living room. Black leather sofas, veneer display cabinets and tiger textiles were just as common as the Billy shelving system from Ikea. Video games gained in popularity and made the living room even more of a space for relaxing and entertaining.

• 1990

Beige in all its facets. After the blaze of color of the 80s and the end of the Cold War, white in all shades took over, combined with more “grown-up” shapes. In the 90s, the living room had to be practical above all else. One of the most practical elements was the beige leather sofa, which was easy to clean, or the introduction of click laminate. Flat screen TVs helped to make the furniture layout a little wider, as the TVs were bigger and the whole family didn’t have to sit directly in front of them to get a good view.

While the shapes were more organic and airy, the 60s experienced a revival. Retro was back in fashion.

What does our living room look like today?

Scandinavian Livingroom | Greige Living

With a greater need for space, individuality and flexibility, our living room has come a long way from the Victorian reception room. Climate change and digitalization are influencing our lives and our living rooms. Digital products, home systems and small cleaning assistants are moving into our homes, while we are reclaiming nature through natural materials and plants. The typical bookshelf has been transformed into a decorative space for decorations and DIY projects.

Over the years, many different design styles have emerged that now dominate our living spaces. The bohemian living room is making a comeback, as is industrial design. Styles are being mixed and matched and nature is being brought back. In addition to these styles and the general trend towards sustainable living, there are two color styles that are very present:

  1. Light pastel colors with traditional shapes.
  2. “New elegance” with deep blues and greens. Rooms painted from floor to ceiling, combined with light wood.

The living room is more open than ever and is increasingly combined with the kitchen and/or dining area. It is a far cry from the original reception room, where people only wanted to show off their status. Our living room is the heart of the home. It is our comfort zone.

And now? Is history repeating itself or are we still evolving?

Of course, we are seeing many styles from past eras, but we think that the history of the living room is far from finished. In times of pandemic, our home has become the most important place of all. It is where we live and now also work. With the growth of remote working, we are also realizing that home doesn’t always have to be a fixed abode, but can also be on wheels. Digitalization and globalization are far from over, so we are looking forward to the future and are excited about what is to come.

How do you think the living room will develop? Will a sustainable lifestyle prevail? In which era would you have liked to have been a fly on the wall and which era did you not like at all? Feel free to write your opinion in the comments or write to us on Instagram. We look forward to hearing from you!

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