The concept of the keeping room isn't new at all — it's actually 246-years-old. In 18th-century Colonial America, most cooking took place around the fireplace, since it was the main source of heat in the home. Naturally, family members would gather nearby to stay warm, too. However, to keep people from getting in the cook's way, the keeping room was created.
I'm thinking about my own cottage apartment, and small apartments, in general. Invariably, there is one room where families gather, guests hang out, and both keep company with whoever is making the meal.
And it's the same room. In a small space, with only one room providing all three functions, what do you call it?
The Keeping Room: The Heart of Your Home
It's an old, old problem. What to do with everyone and everything else, when you're the cook, and you need to stay in or near the kitchen. Given this problem, the keeping room solves it in three ways...
(1) You're entertaining, but missing your guests while they mill around in the living room. Bring them with you to the keeping room and continue your conversation, without them being in the way.
(2) Your kids are home from school, and they want to tell you all about their day, or they need to do their homework, but you need to get dinner started while they talk to you. Have them hang out with you in the keeping room.
(3) It's boring to just stand around in the kitchen, waiting for a pot to boil or a cake to rise. Have a comfy seat in your keeping room, and have a cup or tea or read a book while you wait.
I've done two of those three things in my own space.
Is it a keeping room? Historically, keeping rooms were also used to keep families room, and many, if not most, had fireplaces. Which is why another term for this room is hearth room.
This room does not have one, as most apartments don't, which may make it less likely to be a true keeping room. But wait, not so fast there...
They’re usually decorated in a cozy manner, with warm, rich colors and comfortable furniture and fabrics. Built-ins are also a popular choice, allowing storage for board games, books, and other miscellaneous items. In houses that only have a formal living room and no sitting room or den, a keeping room can fill that void, serving as a multipurpose room for the family while keeping the living room reserved for entertaining guests. - Homelight.com
The Family Room vs. the Living Room
The Family Room - I think of the family room as the room where the homemaker has designed a space for nurturing family relationships. It probably will have things in it that are meaningful to everyone in the family, but that might not be special to guests, even if they are family friends.
The Living Room - I think of the living room as one that is more formal. In this room, the homemaker has entertaining in mind, and though she creates conversational space, just as she would in the family room, she might have fewer personal decorations, and a more formal coordinated look.
That might be the room that holds more "look, but don't touch" pieces, and there might be an effort to keep it guest-ready, in a way that the family room wouldn't have to be.
Given those ways of looking at this room in an apartment, I think it's hard to decide which it is, in general. You'd have to take it on a case by case basis.
But in my home, this space is both a keeping room and a family room. When my son is making a meal for himself and I'm sitting in my cozy corner, we often have a conversation that lasts at least until the microwave beeps. ;)
And if we are hanging out, he has a seat across from my cozy chair, on the couch. Or, he brings out the hassock from his room, to scoot even closer.
But that may be a false distinction these days. Modern-day keeping rooms are considered to be multi-purpose rooms, so if it is adjacent to the kitchen, it can be considered to be a keeping room, no matter how you use it. Works for me!
How to Decorate the Keeping Room
They’re usually decorated in a cozy manner, with warm, rich colors and comfortable furniture and fabrics. Built-ins are also a popular choice, allowing storage for board games, books, & other miscellaneous items. -Homelight
If you are going to use your keeping room as a family room, then make it cozy.
Add comfy seating, pillows and throws. And consider adding baskets to contain whatever your family might need to have nearby, like toys, magazines, or create morning baskets for homeschool items.
Designate a space for playing board games, doing homework, or reading a book.
In a room where the space is designed to be a kitchen and dining room combination, you could turn it into a keeping room, by removing the dining room table and adding a loveseat and comfy chair, or two, instead.
If your home is small, what do you call that room?
See you next time!
Hi, I'm Jeanine
Author, tea matchmaker, self care coach and lifestyle blogger. I help women who want more time for tea breaks & self care simplify, and find time for both. More here.