midcentury conversation pit
This step-down living area makes for a great conversation area, but the real key behind the success of this space is down to the furnishings.

Think of an entertainment room—but go deeper. The conversation pit was oftentimes a literal sunken hole in the living room in which the sofa sat, and they populated homes across America from the late 1950s to the ’70s. As the designated spot for after-dinner storytime, a well-structured conversation pit created an intimate opportunity for people to catch up and relax. The sunken-in areas were a true design oddity, and the way in which they were styled proves it. Here is how you can style your own living room (sunken or not) into a midcentury modern retreat for gossip.


Seating is a crucial aspect for a functional conversation pit. No one is going to stick around for chit chat if the cushions are making their backs stiff. Since midcentury modern sofas tend to be more bare bones, opt for one that curves in a long sweeping motion from one arm to the next—an indication that it’s fine to break from an upright sitting position. Pick armchairs that discourage such positions as well, like a chair attached to steel rockers or one with a matching foot rest. Diversify the seating options with bold colors and kitschy prints to keep the room from getting too sleepy.


A coffee table anchors the room. It therefore also sets the tone of the space. Keep the mood light with a glass table and wood base. The abstract shape of the stand and counter makes the coffee table appear more like a sculpture reminiscent of such art forms popular to the 1960s—maintaining the area as a fun area to kick back.


Give guests a reason to wander over and descend the steps into your sunken living room. Set up cabinet displays on top of a series of credenzas and fill them with eye-catching white ceramic sculptures or funky Eames birds. Plant a few wildcards made of wood and stone to make the collection especially pop, which it will need to do when positioned side-by-side to eye-catching wall art.


Add a large rug to the center of your conversation pit that touches bases with all of the chairs and sofas. The rug brings the seating together into a cozy, cohesive unit, just like how the original conversation pits featured one sofa that enclosed the entire groove. Patterned rugs especially ring true to the original MCM era.

Unique Art.

Art pieces are like the cherry on top to the already funky sunken living room. Add surprising decor like an exploding star ceiling light or mosaic tile painting to keep true to the spirit of the original conversation pits.


Atomic Ranch Winter 2016The Must-Have Conversation Pit Companion

Want to see the rest of this stunning home, from the sunken living room to the funky fresh dining room? Pick up a copy of the winter issue of Atomic Ranch today and get the rest of this colorful Carolina story!