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The Keeping Room Returns to Home Design

We offer many types of house plans that we’re sure you’ll love. We work hard to provide you with a mix of classic and modern designs.

Among the trends in contemporary home design, specifically, is a return to “the Old Ways”, and families are once again including a keeping room in their modern house plans.

For Colonial houses, architecture was highly focused on function over aesthetics. Life was hard, seasonal weather changes caused major shifts in lifestyle, and the demands on early American settlers were high. Houses at that time were highly influenced by English and European trends, but materials were limited to what could be found nearby and luxury was a thing of imagination. These sturdy folk built homes to withstand intense weather; exteriors favored stone and brick, and the floor plans only included what was absolutely necessary- usually small homes designed around a central keeping room. Excess in design would not come until many decades later, when affluence begins to gain footing American culture.

Colonial Architecture

An early Colonial-style home in Pennsylvania.

But in these early years homes were sparse and industrial, providing shelter and warmth and working space for families who toiled relentlessly, often in conditions unimaginable to us now. Modern house plans have evolved in countless ways and show the influence of the wide world we now live in. Creativity has taken hold in architecture, and our homes reflect the freedom to imagine and to design spaces with aesthetics in mind, instead of mere function.

Learning From the Past

In many parts of the country those old Colonial homes still stand, and we can look to them for inspiration. As modern life gets more and more hectic and divided, we see a hearkening back to the way people lived before all this distraction started affecting our families. Among the many trends in contemporary home design is a return to “the Old Ways”, and families are favoring a nod toward simpler times and natural architectural features. We see this demonstrated strongly in the return of the keeping room to modern house plans.

 

The keeping room serves a gathering place for busy families.

The keeping room served as a gathering place for busy families in early American colonies.

The keeping room originated in the late 1700’s. Located just off the kitchen the keeping room, or hearth room, featured a large fireplace and was often the only room in the house to be heated. It served as a gathering place for inside work and food preparation. During cold winter months, inside chores would be done here, and often families would all sleep together by the hearth for warmth. In larger Colonial homes, older children would often sleep in an upstairs attic, located above the keeping room, where the heat from the fire would warm the room upstairs.

Modern Keeping Rooms

While design ideas are infinite, the one element that traditionally makes this space a keeping room is a fireplace. In contemporary homes, the keeping room serves still as a gathering place for families often divided and multitasking. Also useful for those who have a tendency to entertain, the keeping room acts as a spill-over space for guests who naturally gather in the kitchen while final meal preparations are being seen to. For families with school age children, this room can be a place where homework is finished and school projects are completed. With its close proximity to the kitchen and, often, to other rooms in an open floor plan, this space is well connected to the rest of the house, providing a feeling of inclusion and comfort.

socks around a firelace

Design Features

This is typically a space of coziness and simple decoration. Many families choose to have this room be (relatively) technology free; the flat screen, media equipment, gaming consoles, and other screen activities are often placed in other rooms, like a family or game room. Instead, the keeping room will typically be focused on conversation or relaxation. A subtle docking station for music players might be the only tech gear present. Overstuffed arm chairs and a wide, low coffee table encourage a coffee break hangout; simple slip-covered parson’s chairs, bookshelves, and occasional tables make a perfect after-dinner gathering space.

Even a small space can provide comfort and relaxation.

Even a small space can provide comfort and relaxation.

The key to the keeping room is that it is a flexible space intended for people to move through and about the room as comfort indicates. Avoid clutter and complex décor, and opt instead for comfy, casual, easily approachable embellishments. This is a room that can be designed entirely based upon how you use it, so feel free to break the so-called rules. Do what feels comfortable to your family. This is a place that should draw people towards it, so go with comfort over exhibition.

Include A Keeping Room in your Custom Home

A keeping room often becomes the center of a household, anchoring family members to a core gathering space. To get started, use the Advanced Search option to filter house plans with keeping room or hearth rooms already included. Don’t see one you like? Talk to the architect about the plans you like; many bonus rooms and flex spaces can be adjusted to easily adapt into a keeping room to give your modern dream home a touch of the Old Ways.

A contemporary keeping room uses natural stone and exposed beams to balance the light from big windows.

A contemporary keeping room uses natural stone and exposed beams to balance the light from big windows.

House-Plans-With-Keeping-Hearth-Rooms

Nine Breath-Taking Ideas for a Summer Fireplace

For most folks, the summer months are too hot to justify using the fireplace, and for others these traditional built ins are not functional during any time of the year. Either way, a fireplace is included in many house plans because it draws your eye and creates a central focal point in the room. Even when not in use, resist the temptation to ignore your fireplace in warmer months. These nine suggestions will get you ready for a summer fireplace that stands out in a crowd.

  1. Plants

    summer fireplace

    Plants add a pop of color and vibrancy to a space that can be dark and cool.

During the summer months, go big and green with vibrant indoor plants like ferns, ZZs, and ivy; or build a succulent garden with jade plants, cacti, and hens and chicks. Choose funky pots and layer them in the firebox where they will stay cool during the hot months while bringing a pop of bright summer color to your great room.

 

 

summer fireplace

The fireplace can showcase items of special importance.

2. Artwork Display

For large sculptures or statues, use the natural eye-catching design of the fireplace for displaying these large pieces. Opt for a simple design so as not to detract from the artwork itself and the space transforms into a stunning shadowbox.

 

  1. Light up the logs!

    summer fireplace

    Use string lights to illuminate wood logs.

Stack real firewood in the firebox and use either tea light candles or thin strings of white lights to illuminate the space. For candles, use a drill to create “holders” in the wood for the tea lights and make certain that the logs are stacked in a completely stable fashion to minimize any risk of tipping while the candles are lit. Alternatively, wind wire-strand lights around the logs for a fairy-light look on a nearly invisible strand.

  1. Photo Display

Organize framed photographs of various sizes and heights in the fireplace to draw attention to the things that matter most to your family. Use mix-match frames and color photos of people and places for a funky, casual look, or use matching frames with black-and-white images for a classy, minimalist feel.

  1. Occasional Tables

If you have a small side table or console table not is use this could be the perfect place for it this summer! Setting an occasional table in front of the fireplace bring the space forward and provides a display space for lovely items or an additional resting spot for drinks and plates during a summertime gathering.

6. Wood Storage

summer fireplace

Artistically stacked wood makes a lovely display and doubles as wood storage.

Consider stacking firewood in the fireplace over the summer in a decorative way, using up the entire space for a fitted wooden panel. The play of stone or brick with natural wood is both interesting and functional. For a funky feel, paint the ends of some or all of the wood logs in bright colors to accent other statement pieces in the room.

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Shelves

    summer fireplace

    Book shelves in the fireplace make for a compelling conversation piece.

Simple shelves installed into the fireplace can be either temporary for a summer display or permanent for a non-functional fireplace. Fill the shelves with books for an unusual library or display books of special import for a bookshelf that is both functional and aesthetically compelling.

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Cover it up!

If you’re not inclined to use the firebox for a display case this summer, or just didn’t get around to cleaning it out, you can always cover it up with a solid screen. Find something made with natural materials such as wicker or woven grass for a summertime feel.

  1. Mirrors

    summer fireplace

    Mirrors expand the space and maximize light.

Mirrors might be the single best way to help a small space feel larger. Like with the shelf suggestion above, you can either go permanent or temporary with this idea. A mirror the same size as the fireplace can be mounted against the back wall to visually expand the floor space and reflect the room back to the viewer. Alternatively, mirrors in frames can be layered in the firebox to reflect light at different angles and brighten the space.

 

Click here to see all of our favorites ideas on Pinterest.

Craftsman Homes Continue to Captivate

We offer a wide variety of house plans to choose from; the Craftsman house plans, in particular, are still capturing the American imagination. The progeny of two distinct parents, the craftsman can be seen as the quintessentially adaptable American child.

Paternal influence comes from Englishman William Morris’ rebellion against the Industrial Revolution. He perceived a profound discounting of the individual worker and a subsequent dehumanization of labor. In response, artisans gained prominence as a way to showcase the quality of individual craftsmanship. The mother of this style is the every-woman of the day, caught in the shifting tides of changing social structures and familial obligations. The woman of the house no longer typically had live-in servants and was mostly responsible for the housework along with the raising of the children.  Out of this grew the need for a functional aesthetic, simple yet beautiful; a home for the modern family.

Through this lens, we can trace the genealogy of the American family structure. And while the Arts and Crafts Movement increased in popularity, the Craftsman home gained prominence as the architectural embodiment of these shifting social elements.

The typical craftsman home can easily be identified by a few consistent features. Externally, we see steep hipped roofs and visible gables which are often used to protect front porches under deep eaves. Exposed rafters or supporting brackets on the exterior showcase the workmanship that is so important to this style, while also adding an aesthetic flair. Double-hung windows are also common features, historically boasting a four-over-one or six-over-one design for decorative enhancement. But perhaps the most easily recognizable exterior element is the visible mixed materials both local and natural to the area. Stone, handcrafted wood works, and glass are major players in this style of home, paying homage to the handcrafted workmanship out of which this style originally gained footing in the American imagination.

Interiors also reflected changes to the American family unit. Perhaps the most significant element to this design is the kitchen. As housekeeping needs changed, the modern family needed a way to interact in those spaces traditionally reserved for servants.  In response, the kitchen was integrated into the main floor plan and provided open sight lines to other common areas of the home, including the back yard. As an amendment to the open kitchen, the breakfast nook was introduced as a place for the family to gather around meal times. Space that would historically have been used as a butler’s pantry were replaced with built-in cabinetry more functional for the modern family. This was also a space in which to showcase handcrafted wood and glass work so indicative of the Arts and Crafts style.

Craftsman homes declined in popularity in the 1920’s or so, but came to the forefront again some 60 years later when many large cities in the United States experienced housing booms. In particular, California and Washington State saw large increases in population and growing local economies; the demand for homes for single family units was high. Even now, sales for Craftsman floor plans are up from previous years.

Partly because of the simplicity and functionality inherent to the design of a Craftsman house plan, we are seeing another push for these classic designs for modern families. Perhaps it is a quieter cousin to the rebellion from which we first gained footing, but in this world of mass-produced everything and internet commerce, a return to the importance of hand-crafted features is growing in prominence.  Moving away from some of the earlier interior elements like low ceilings, this archetypal design offers much room for adjustment. This is a plan inherently designed for adaptation. The foundational clean lines and connected spaces are a short step away from becoming the open floor plans so high in demand right now. With the addition of higher ceilings and larger windows, the cozy feeling of the traditional design easily transforms into the bright, open, adaptable space of the Contemporary Craftsman.

Contemporary craftsman

A contemporary Craftsman house plan for the modern family.

In either the classic or the contemporary incarnation, this design has been integral to the American concept of home for over 100 years. And, in true American fashion, its easily adaptable structure allows plenty of room for reinvention and creativity, and continues to showcase all that is best about individual workmanship.