Living Room vs Family Room

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Have you ever walked into a house and thought, what room did I just walk into? Identifying and analyzing rooms will make a big difference for your customers and for your ultimate appraisal of a home. As you analyze and compare characteristics of different homes, you probably have a good idea of what room you are walking into. If it’s got an oven and a dishwasher, there’s a pretty safe bet you’re in the kitchen. If you’re staring into a mirror with a tub a few steps away, you’re probably in the bathroom. But what about when there’s a couch and a coffee table? Is it the living room or the family room? And this begs the question, is there a difference? Does it really matter which is which? Some people use these room descriptors interchangeably, but knowing the difference is important as an appraiser.

Dating back to the 1700’s, the living room is characterized as a formal welcoming display space. It might hint at more formality from the furniture used to the decor hanging on the wall. It could be the room off to the side of the front of the home, used as a visiting room or a place to entertain guests. It even has been known as a parlor. Think about the decorative pillows your mom didn’t want you to use as hopscotch targets on the floor–they probably belonged on the living room furniture. A place in the home that is as frequent to the residents as it is to guests gives the living room permission to hold the formality it captures. These more formal underpinnings set this room apart from a family room, which is more casual in appearance and use. 

Although the family room has a similar function, it is the ultimate gathering place; the place to go to convene and relax at the end of the day. It’s the place to kick up your feet and turn on classic movies through the weekend. It is a place where teenage tennis shoes and children’s toys don’t pay enough rent for the time they sometimes spend there. The cushions on the couch are a little softer, the pillows are more forgiving, and the atmosphere caters to the everyday family crowd. Although this type of less formal space is a newer concept in our modern era, it is common to most households and often found toward the back of the home. 

At the end of the day, the homeowner creates the spaces in their home to fit their individual or family lifestyle. For some, that is a formal living room, while for others, it is a friendly family room. Because most homes have both a living room and a family room, it is your charge to know the difference and adequately identify them. When it comes to the two main living spaces in a home, check the formality of each, the frequency of use, the types of gatherings facilitated by both and the location of the room in the home. If there’s only one gathering place of this sort, it is usually considered the living room, but again, it is up to the individual to call it what they want. So, maybe you are reading this on a lazy Saturday morning from the comfort of your cozy family room couch, or maybe you popped into your front room for a couple minutes just before heading out the door to inspect another house. This time, however, you will know the difference between the living room and the family room. 

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3 Comments on “Living Room vs Family Room”

  1. There’s also the situations where home owners “switch” uses to fit their individual needs. Just because a room has a dining room table in it does not automatically make it a dining room. It is helpful sometimes to imagine the house empty of all personal contents and ask what is the most likely use of the room based on its size and location to other rooms.

  2. I agree with all just adding to conversation. We do a lot of measuring for customers and drawing floor plans in my company. Rooms names are a common discussion and often disagreement with different real estate agents. If a home only has one living space, I automatically make that the Living Room. If there are two living, then typically it is the one that is closer to the front door and more formal, as you said, can be the Living Room. The second living becomes the Family by default or it could be a Great Room to some agents if it’s open and next to Kitchen and Dining. If there is a third living type room, then it would likely be considered a Bonus in our market and would often be the one that is above a garage or in a basement rather than near the kitchen.

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