Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Life and Death of the Living Room


The living room has been pronounced dead - again. Cause of death: asphyxiation by fabric, furniture and disuse. Born around 1910 as an offshoot of the parlor, the living room has been survived by the family room or great room. In lieu of flowers, the house asks that you observe a moment of silence on a sofa at your nearest Starbucks.
Every generation proclaims the death of the living room, yet it keeps coming back. Now with the ever increasing popularity of the "open floor plan" of the family room and kitchen one would think the isolated living room would be less popular than ever. But think again! A year ago, my husband and I moved into our new open floor plan home after downsizing when the children moved out. We haven't watched one entire television show in the last year without one of us shouting to the other, "What did they say? Turn it up, will you?" Either the dishwasher's running or some one's clanging a pan while making supper or running the faucet. Or the kitchen counter is cluttered with heaps of paper and mail that accidentally get wet. Yesterday I tripped on my dog's Kong chew while taking a hot dish out of the oven. After averting a near disaster, I yelled at them to keep their toys picked up. The messiness and noise of the open floor plan is not something I thought of and stirs a desire in me to restore a pocket of order.
And so the living room keeps returning. It is the physical embodiment of repose amidst the whirl of daily activity. It's like the sleeping cat, whose idle purring inserts a quiet rhythm into the busy biology of the household. Like a cat, the living room sustains us simply by doing nothing at all!

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