What Is a Keeping Room?

Updated: Jan. 31, 2023

Historical keeping rooms, a cozy little room off the kitchen, are making a modern-day comeback.

No matter your home’s size or location, who wouldn’t love to sit in a cozy little room, placed right off the kitchen, illuminated by a crackling fireplace and welcomed by a petite sofa with plush pillows for extra comfort?

There’s a name for such a room, if you can believe it. They’re called keeping rooms, and they’re making a modern-day comeback recently.

What Is a Keeping Room?

A keeping room is a small room, generally adjacent to the kitchen, where folks can gather while the host prepares a meal. Back in the day, the hearth or fireplace in the kitchen was the only source of heat in the house—which is why it was called the “hearth room” as well—and guests often flocked there to keep warm and spend some time with their host.

These days, you’re more likely to see comfortable seating in this space to kick back and relax while keeping the cook company. While these rooms may feature a fireplace as an homage to the original purpose, it’s not necessary.

What Is the History of Keeping Rooms?

Keeping rooms off the kitchen were often seen in Colonial-style homes as far back as the 1770s. Much like how our modern breakfast nooks or kitchen island are the go-to hub for family conversations, homework and leisure time, keeping rooms served the same purpose.

It was common for keeping rooms to have a fireplace with either a small-scale sofa or a set of plush chairs for folks to stay warm and converse. Keeping rooms right off the kitchen was ideal as the hostess could meal prep while her guests were warmly entertained nearby.

What’s the Difference Between a Keeping Room and a Family Room?

Kitchen with Built in Boothchuckcollier/Getty Images

A keeping room is a smaller-scale room with little to no distractions (think televisions and electronics). Instead, keeping rooms are a quiet place to talk, read or do a little office work while keeping warm next to the kitchen.

A family room is a larger space to entertain, watch the big game or have a family movie night. They are also not necessarily adjacent to the kitchen. Family rooms can get a little more lively as opposed to the quieter space of a keeping room.

How to Use a Keeping Room Today

Today’s keeping room can quickly become your little retreat while dinner is finishing in the oven. While generally seen in older homes, modern-day builders are beginning to incorporate these rooms into the design of newer houses, where they are most often called a “flex room” or “free room.” Think of these rooms as an overflow room of sorts—they can be a comfortable cozy nook or a larger area to gather off the kitchen.

The possibilities of how to use a present-day keeping room are endless. If your keeping room has a lot of natural lighting, it can be a tranquil place to decorate with a few house plants while setting up a little area to play chess or a friendly afternoon game of scrabble. There are no hard and fast rules these days for incorporating a keeping room into your kitchen design!