Sunken Treasure

The conversation pit is primed for a comeback

By The Editors
September 3, 2015 9:00 am

Mid-20th-century architects designed the first conversation pits with good intentions. On paper, they’re a centerpiece: an efficient use of a large living space that creates a separate den area for relaxing and entertaining.

A few years and one too many fondue parties later, the conversation pit lost its way. Garish furniture. Flammable fabrics. Too many shaggy things. Blame the ‘70s.

But as we all know, style — like history — repeats itself. And with Don Draper as our witness, we’ve got the conversation pit tabbed for a big comeback (so too the Woody Wagon).

Below: nine examples — some old, some new, all exquisite — that’ll have you wagging your head in agreement.

The Miller Residence
Designed by Eero Saarinen, this iconic conversation pit is now in the capable hands of the Indianapolis Museum of Art. The whole home is a modern masterpiece, which you can tour thanks to the museum.

Cohen House
Along with the Miller House, a conversation about sunken living rooms is not complete without a mention of architect Paul Rudolph. His beach home for David and Elene Cohen was constructed in 1955, and is located on a private plot on Siesta Key Island in Florida. Minimalism at its best.

YO! Convertible Home
In this convertible apartment concept, a space-saving solution: a sunken living area that’s actually underneath the bed.

The Lake House
Sunken living areas: not always an indoor thing. Some of the most beautiful displays live outside, like this shallow number in Sweden designed by John Robert Nilsson.

Hanazona House
A righteous steel hideaway in Northern Japan that plays with low and vertical lines to emphasize the home’s pastoral surroundings.

Brazilian Villa
A 1960s-inspired beach home in Brazil designed by architect Isay Weinfeld. The sunken area adds depth and dimension by positioning sitters with a front-row window view.

Strimling House
From American architect Ray Kappe, a drool-worthy mid-century modern home posted up in Los Angeles.

Brighton Escape House
A modern mansion in Australia designed by G.A.B.B.E. Studio. The conversation pit makes for a cozy corner nook in an otherwise large, free-flowing space.

Oz House
From Swat Miers Architects, a minimalist playground in Silicon Valley that features a whole lotta glass and wood, and one gorgeous sunken living area.

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