It’s 1976. You kick off your platform clogs, pour a brandy, and snuggle up with your moustached companion in the cutting edge of groovy hangouts: the conversation pit. Arguably one of the most divisive home design features of our time, the conversation pit holds a very special place in our kitsch little hearts. If you’re not familiar, these sunken (often shag-carpeted) social spaces flourished in living rooms around the world from the 1950s-1980s, reaching their peak during the Peace & Love Era. They weren’t just part of a living room – they were part of a cultural phenomenon; a social call for everybody to get together casually at home and make the most of each others company. Sound familiar right now?
Truth is, these babies held a mirror up to a generation that was sick of buttoned-up social decorum. They wanted something different. Unabashedly warm – sexy, even. In Sensuous Spaces: The Sensory Guide to Erotic Interiors, we learn that the humble little conversation pit was an ally to, and product of, the Sexual Revolution busting up the pleasure taboo. There were even some wonderfully outrageous conversation-pit-tubs.
One of the greatest masters of “the pit” was Frank Lloyd Wright’s protege, Bruce Goff. The unconventional architect made some truly wild homes from the midcentury on, and they helped transform Oklahoma into a secret capital of kitsch:
Another iconic pit can still be found in the great state of Indiana, at “The Miller House” – a real gem for Modernist nerds. Completed in 1957, it brought together the talents of architect Eero Saarinen (who also did New York City’s iconic TWA terminal) and decorator Alexander Girard. These days, it’s owned by the Indianapolis Museum of Art. It’s fun to see how the pit changes the mood of the house over the hours of the day (and years of re-upholstery):
You can actually book a tour of the Miller House here. In the meantime, let’s hunker down into a few more pits…
How to Create your own DIY Conversation Pit?
Without digging a hole in your living room floor – how can we create a similar effect? Well, not unlike building a “Netflix Nest” (as seen in our list of 20 Things to Do at Home instead of banging your head against a wall), it’s time to gather your pillows friends, and get creative!
- First, make some space in your living room area, you may need to find a new spot for the coffee table.
- Lay your largest couch cushions in the centre of the living room floor
- Build an outer wall around them with stacks of towels or folded bed covers/ sheets (find anything with a semi-soft but firm consistency).
- Drape blankets and shag rugs over your “walls” for that seventies look and add a few smaller decorative cushions in the middle area.
- Let us know how you get on!
And on that note, we’ll leave you with that iconic “Zou Bisou Bisou” scene in Mad Men, which takes place in Don Draper’s groovy conversation pit, of course: