I am just back from a week of ethnographies in Toronto. Very interesting. Without betraying the interests of the client, I can offer a little more detail on the “Great Room” on which I posted several weeks ago.
The great room is fast becoming the idee fixe of the middle class home. People are opening the kitchen into a kind of family room, sometimes colonizing the dining room and/or the living room in the process.
The actual formality of speech, dress, meal time, and interaction has been going down in Western societies since the Victorian high water mark. To be sure, there have been several rear guard actions, with Martha Stewart and others fighting the good fight. But, in most households, formal living and dining rooms are archeological remainders. (They are actually sometimes roped off and removed from service, as Joan Kron demonstrated.) This means that living and dining rooms have been consumed more space and budget than they deserved. In a sense, the great room was merely an idea who’s time had come. (And for those of us inclined to marvel at how fast and responsive we have become as a dynamic culture, and I am one of these, the lag time here is something to think upon.)
But the great room is also a way of contending with our growing time poverty. Every one in the family is working harder, out of the home and in the home. We had to steal time from somewhere and we took it from the family meal. (Many families regard the Sunday, or Friday, dinner as an event long since passed.) The meant that the family was now spending less time together. Meal time was, after all, the highest quality time spend together. (Most families are not clear whether watching TV together counts.)
The great room is useful here too. It’s a “big box” that allows everyone to pursue disparate activities int the same place at the same time. They may only be in shouting distance of one another, but they are still in some sense together.
The great room is driven both by a need to recapture space for family use, and to create a “commons” for a group of people that is otherwise heterogeneous and potentially dispersive.
Does anybody know anybody who would be prepared to do a “back of the envelope” calculation of how many construction and furnishing dollars this trend has set in train?
McCracken, Grant. 2004. On Great Rooms. Here.