Conversation Pits Are Making a Comeback

Updated: Dec. 21, 2023

A retro home design trend born in the 50's is making an unexpected comeback in modern homes. Learn more here.

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Bringing back nostalgia-inducing movie franchises and retro-inspired styles is a predictable occurrence in the modern world. But there’s one vintage home trend that’s recently had a more unexpected comeback- the conversation pit.

What are Conversation Pits?

Conversation pits, which are essentially hollowed out and plushly furnished spaces in the floor made specifically for relaxing and, well, conversing, first became a major architectural trend in the early 1950s. In the decades that followed homes were designed with conversation pits of all shapes and sizes. Some were circular, others square. Some were sleek, elegant and minimal, while others were lavishly stuffed with cushions and fuzzy rugs.

What Caused Conversation Pits to Lose Popularity?

Over time, conversation pits gradually declined in popularity. There are a few likely reasons for this. For one thing, they were seen as kind of dangerous. Time Magazine published an article in 1963, still fairly early into the rise of the conversation pit trend, detailing the perils of these sunken living rooms and clearly rebelling against the fad.

“At cocktail parties, late-staying guests tended to fall in,” reads the article. “Those in the pit found themselves bombarded with bits of hors d’oeuvres from up above, looked out on a field of trouser cuffs, ankles and shoes.”

While the idea that people were frequently falling into conversation pits and getting bombarded from above by appetizers was probably exaggerated, the sentiment of the Time article was eventually echoed across the country. Throughout the late 60s and into the 70s, fewer homes with conversation pits were built and many existing pits were filled with concrete and boarded over.

The Conversation Pit Strikes Back

Now, however, they’re making a comeback. Most modern living rooms tend to double as home theaters, with the furniture in them centered around massive television sets. Conversation pits are a nice change of pace from that, as they put the emphasis on socializing with the people around you rather than on the 60-inch screen in front of you. Modern conversation pits tend to use neutral colors with bright accent pieces like pillows and cushions to create cozy and comfortable alcoves where people can go to just sit and talk.

The trend has also made its way into the great outdoors. Outdoor conversation pits make for a striking landscaping feature and have been used recently in the design of patios, pools and fire pits. Time will tell if this trend continues to increase in popularity, or if it will fade back to obscurity after people get hit in the head with one too many hors d’oeuvres.