The Living Room Unveiled: The Intriguing Backstory Behind Its Name

The living room the sanctuary of comfort in our homes where we unwind after a tiring day, watch movies, or have hearty conversations with family and friends. But have you ever stopped to ponder why it’s called the ‘living room’? Today, let’s embark on a fascinating journey to uncover the origins of this commonplace term.

To give you a hint, it’s not merely about the life that the room embodies or because it’s where your elegant potted plants reside. Oh no, the story is much richer and traces its roots back to history, culture, and societal changes. So sit back, and let’s explore this interesting tale together.

The Death of The ‘Parlor’: A Room Transformed

In the late 19th and early 20th century, this so-called living room was often referred to as the ‘parlor.’ This room had a somewhat grim association it was a space where deceased family members were laid out for viewing before their final journey.

However, post World War I saw a major societal shift. People were leaning towards a more optimistic perspective on life, and the term ‘parlor’ didn’t quite mesh well with that. As the nation tried to distance itself from the somberness of war and death, the transformation of the parlor began.

A Lady and a Vision: Meet the Game-Changer, Edith Wharton

Edith Wharton, the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for Literature, played a monumental role in this nomenclature transformation. Known for her novels, she also co-wrote a book called “The Decoration of Houses” in 1897. This publication laid the foundation for modern interior design principles.

Edith was one of the first to advocate for a more ‘livable’ space that could serve multiple purposes rather than just being a room of formalities or farewells. Her book initiated a crucial shift in how society perceived this communal space, paving the way for the term ‘living room.’

The Rise of Ladies’ Home Journal: Spreading the Word

The term ‘living room’ didn’t just gain popularity overnight. A pivotal point in this transition was a 1910 issue of the Ladies’ Home Journal, a popular magazine of that era. This issue encouraged the reader to consider renaming their parlor to the ‘living room,’ as a symbol of life and vitality.

The name began to stick, and it resonated with the modern, forward-thinking homemakers of the time. Publications like these had a profound impact on society, helping to shift the perception and nomenclature of the room.

Culture and Popularity: How TV Took It Mainstream

Fast forward to the mid-20th century, and enter the world of television. As TV sets became a staple in American households, the living room further solidified its role as the center for family gatherings. TV shows started depicting idyllic versions of family life, all centered around the living room, perpetuating its importance and popularity.

It wasn’t just a room anymore; it was a stage for family dynamics, shared experiences, and daily interactions. These visual narratives made the term ‘living room’ firmly entrenched in popular culture, both linguistically and functionally.

The Living Room Around the World: A Global Perspective

If you think the term ‘living room’ is solely an American phenomenon, think again. Different cultures have their own unique names and purposes for this communal space. In the UK, for instance, it’s often referred to as a ‘lounge.’ In many Asian cultures, the concept of a ‘living room’ didn’t even exist until Western influence seeped in.

However, no matter what it’s called, the essence of this room remains the same worldwide: a space for communal interaction, relaxation, and, of course, living.

Modern Evolution: How It’s Changing Yet Again

With the advent of open-concept homes and versatile spaces, the role of the living room is once again evolving. The boundaries between kitchen, dining, and living areas are blurring, making way for a more fluid living experience. The name may remain the same, but the functionality and layout are ever-changing, thanks to modern architectural advancements.

So, the next time you’re redesigning your home or moving into a new space, consider how your own ‘living room’ fits into this broader historical and cultural narrative.


While the term ‘living room’ may appear straightforward, the history behind it is anything but. It’s a room that has undergone a series of evolutions, influenced by historical events, societal shifts, and even literature. From a room focused on death and formalities, it has transformed into a vibrant space symbolizing life and togetherness.

And who knows? Maybe a few decades down the line, it’ll earn itself a new title reflecting a new cultural sentiment. But for now, it stands as a testament to our continual adaptation and optimism—truly a room for living.


Why is the living room called?

The term “living room” became popular in the early 20th century, replacing the earlier term “parlor.” This shift was encouraged to symbolize life and vitality in a space that was previously associated with death and formalities.

What was the living room originally called?

Before becoming known as the “living room,” this space was often called the “parlor.” The parlor was a formal room primarily used for entertaining guests and, interestingly, for laying out deceased family members before funerals.

What is it called a living room?

It’s called a “living room” because the name reflects the room’s modern role as a space for living and daily activities, contrasting with its earlier association with death. Magazines like the Ladies’ Home Journal popularized this term in the early 1900s.

Did the living room used to be the death room?

Yes, the space we now call the “living room” was often referred to as the “death room” or “parlor,” where deceased family members were displayed before burial. The name changed to distance the room from its somber past and focus on living activities.

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