If you've been curious about keeping rooms, you're not alone, as they're on the rise. "Keeping rooms are common in Colonial style homes and are making a comeback in both renovations and new builds," Karen Wolf, of k+co LIVING, says. One key fact to keep top of mind is that these spaces are located adjacent to the kitchen—as Noel Gatts of beam & bloom interiors states, "A feeling of flow between the kitchen and keeping room is imperative." Looking to learn more about keeping rooms and possibly design your own? Below, designers chime in with the historical background, furniture suggestions, and more.
History and Purpose
Keeping rooms have existed for centuries. Traditionally, keeping rooms allowed friends and family members to gather together while enjoying access to the nearby fireplace or hearth in the kitchen, the only heat source in a home, Caroline Moore, a designer and interiors specialist at Case Architects & Remodelers, explains. "In modern times, the invention of HVAC systems eliminates the need to be close to the kitchen as a source of heat, though a fireplace is still a desired feature that complements the coziness of a keeping room," Moore adds. "What remains most consistent is the desire for guests and family members to be near the chef, which is why we all congregate as close to the kitchen as we can at dinner parties!"
Fortunate enough to have space for a keeping room in your home? Moore weighs in with some tips on how to best furnish this area. "Typically, a keeping room has softer, more comfortable furniture (think sofas or cushioned chairs) and often a table that can be used for multiple purposes aside from strictly dining," she says. Today's keeping rooms can be designed to reflect a modern family's multitude of needs. "You might find your family using this space for playing card games or tackling homework and bills, all while under the watchful eye of the chef," Moore notes. "Either way, the key to this space is making it a cozy place to sit and still be in direct contact with the kitchen."
Alternatives to Keeping Rooms
If your home doesn't boast a distinct keeping room, this is quite common. "We tend to see breakfast areas as our unofficial keeping rooms," Moore says of today's houses. "Here, we merge homework and casual meals and scramble to relocate the non-meal items come meal time!" However, if you're finding yourself getting overwhelmed by clutter in this space, you may wish to purchase some type of storage solution. "Consider a nearby hutch that might be big enough to store both dishware and those puzzles and coloring books, so that you can more easily switch between meal time and other activities," Moore advises. Building a home from scratch? "Seriously consider fitting in a modern keeping room, where you don’t have to constantly juggle what goes on the table," Moore suggests.
Another common alternative to a keeping room that we see in today's homes is the use of the kitchen island as a gathering space, Moore notes. She provides a few suggestions for making the most of this setup without distracting the individual cooking dinner. "Consider under-counter cubbies where you can safely tuck away laptops and homework when it’s time to eat breakfast or appetizers on top of the island," Moore offers. "Also consider an island configuration where some of the stools face each other from adjacent corners to the chef, so the guests can also converse easily with one another, and the host doesn’t feel like a short-order cook at a diner!"
Keeping Rooms vs. Family Rooms vs. Living Rooms
If you're noticing similarities between keeping rooms and family rooms and are wondering how exactly these two spaces differ, Moore weighs in with some key distinctions. Keeping rooms are always adjacent to the kitchen and feature seating areas that can be utilized for a range of activities, while family rooms are in the back of the home and are more casual in nature, being a place to curl up for movie nights, she says. However, some keeping rooms certainly do contain TVs. Living rooms or sitting rooms generally lean formal and are positioned in the front of the home. "This is the room where guests can sit and have conversations without the distractions and presence of a TV or the chaos of kids’ toys," Moore clarifies.
Of course, you can opt to turn your formal living room into a keeping room if you feel as though you'd use the latter space more. "Don’t overlook the idea of removing that wall between the kitchen and that often neglected front living room," Moore suggests. Those planning to tackle larger revamps may wish to move the kitchen so that it's located closer to the living room—perhaps placing it where the dining room was initially built. "Then, perhaps, you can merge your less used formal dining table with your overworked breakfast table, throw in an additional island with bar stools, and re-purpose your formal front living room as the bonus keeping room, making it a more cozy, more versatile space for guests, homework, and game night," Moore concludes.