Of all the weird old trends I’d love to see make a comeback, there’s one that clearly tops the list: the conversation pit. We explored the evolution of the “pit” into the full-blown sunken living room yesterday, but couldn’t miss the opportunity to further explore this ’70s design feature that appears to be back in a big way. There’s something that feels suddenly very “now” about the conversation pit, but also something that feels very retro about a setup that so clearly eschews the importance of the television. In a world where constant digital connection is the norm, having a spot to just sit and talk might be the ultimate luxury.
Above: This setup from Terrance Conran’s The House Book (via AnOther Mag) does still manage to work in a TV — in fact, it’s more a pit for reclining than for sitting. But reclining can be a great, relaxed way to have a conversation — these people certainly look very chill. (Worth nothing for modern readers is that this conversation pit is created with furniture, and not sunk into the floor, so it would be a lot easier to re-create than some others.)
(Image credit: Horst P. Horst/Getty Images)
The first conversation pit was designed by Bruce Goff, a wildly inventive architect who worked a sunken seating area into a home he designed in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 1927. The home pictured above, the Price house, is a later design. Note that, unlike some of the other examples, this conversation pit doesn’t have steps, so getting into it must’ve involved a bit of a clamber. (The sloped wall piled with pillows is also worth a look.)
This ’70s conversation pit (from Interiors for Today, via AnOther Mag) manages to be both flamboyant and cozy, with a giant open fireplace in the middle. There’s only one sofa (at least, only one that’s visible from this angle) but since the seat is exactly the height of the surrounding floor, people can just perch on the conversation pit’s edge.
Here’s a version of the conversation pit, via Making Nice in the Midwest, that I’ve always loved for its drama, if not its practicality. It’s hard to imagine sitting very comfortably for very long in this thing, but it does look cool.
One vintage conversation pit that does look very comfortable is the one Eero Saarinen and Alexander Girard designed for the Miller House in 1957. In this shot, spotted on Interiors Digital, it definitely looks worth curling up in — and it’s big enough for a crowd.
Is it possible that conversation pits are making a bit of a comeback? Lately, I’ve seen quite a few designs that feature this retro element, like the new Brooklyn outpost of women-only coworking space The Wing.
This Australian home from Techne has a conversation pit adjoining a pool, for a particularly dramatic effect.
Want to create a conversation pit at home? This setup from Decoratrix, via Tobi Fairley, which appeares to involve a mattress and lots of pillows, would be pretty easy to re-create, particularly if you have a little nook like this one — but a corner will also do.