Picture yourself standing in a great hall in a medieval castle. The ceiling soars above you as in a cathedral with a chandelier’s lights twinkling. Your eyes are drawn to the living area and immense stone fireplace, the long dining table in the far corner. The large windows on the left spill natural light into the high-ceilinged room that has likely entertained guests in huge banquets and balls. Your imagination goes wild as you consider all the ways this great room can be utilized for your family and your lifestyle.
Your home could be just like this castle – filled with light and space and greatness.
The concept of a great room is actually nothing new. It began in the castles of Europe, and fell by the way side in the 1900s as living rooms and family rooms were built as separate spaces in houses. In the 1990s, developers across America were getting few demands for great rooms. Now, however, the demand for great rooms has risen to epic proportions. It has, in fact, become the biggest trend in housing development in the last few years, according to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). In Associated Designs’ 2016 Home from the Heart Survey, 86% of respondents wanted a great room in their dream home.
“The idea of a great room is fairly simple,” said Rick McAlexander, CEO of Associated Designs. “It’s a large, multipurpose room that’s centralized in the design of the home. There are no walls separating the living room, family room and kitchen. It simply flows.”
A family room is where you and your family gather with friends, watch TV, relax and play games. The living room’s purpose is more formal. A great room, in a sense, combines the good of each of those rooms into one centralized, gathering space. Builders in a 2013 NAHB survey, described great rooms as some combination of family room, living room, dining room and kitchen, but it is not confined to just those rooms and can include a study area or a kitchen nook.
But a home with a great room doesn’t necessarily mean the square footage is high. While most homes with great rooms are more than 2,000 square feet, according to the NAHB, the concept of a centralized, multipurpose room can be utilized in smaller homes, too.
“It’s not reserved for mansions,” said McAlexander. “The great room is about allowing movement in a house so that you aren’t confining living rooms and family rooms and kitchens to specific spaces. They are all connected in some way.”
There are two basic iterations of the great room: a true great room in which one large room contains the kitchen, living room, family room and dining room with no separation, and an open living style great room that provides some separation.
A true great room, like the one in Associated Designs’ Stratford 30-615 design, blends several rooms into one large space, each connected to the other. In the Stratford design, the kitchen, dining room and vaulted living room flow together in one expansive gathering space with a fireplace, wood box and window seat.
“A true great room can be a combination of several types of spaces, and that’s what this design does,” said McAlexander. “You have a centralized living space where everything happens.”
The open living style great room takes the grandness of the room and redefines it with slight separation. It’s still a great room, as all the rooms flow together, but there are clear delineations for each area’s purpose. The kitchen, for example, may be clearly marked by a curved countertop as in the Heartington 10-550 design. And while a true great room has vaulted ceilings, an open living style usually doesn’t. The bright and spacious living area in the Heartington is balanced by, and open to, the comfortably large kitchen and nook, but each space is set apart from the other.
“It’s still open and flowing, and you aren’t confined to putting a singular purpose onto one area of the great room,” said McAlexander. “But some areas are clearly allocated a purpose. It allows for freedom of movement while still providing some order.”
Every man’s home is his castle, or so the saying goes, which means a great room can be utilized and designed in any way that suits your family, your lifestyle or your personality. As more and more homes are designed with great rooms, there will be countless versions and countless ways in which they will be used. In the end, that’s the beauty of the great room – a gathering space of infinite possibilities.