Familyhouse, the article

A short story which may change your life…

Room without a name, the family room.
This short story I want to tell, is to inspire you for your own family room. This way you will understand what ‘we’ are looking for in life and how we can create, organize and furnish our own family room…

If I make the perfect and most effective floorplan for ahouse I start with the living-room. But this room is not really a living-room. It’s too small. Guess you might call it a study or parlor, or a retiring room. Parents might use it to get away from the kids. Next to this room is the kitchen.


The plan
Then there is a third room. This third room is big. The biggest room in the house. ‘What happens there?’ Everything, practically. Ping-pong, bridge, movies, dancing. The children can play there. Or you can cook in the fireplace. Good place for a diner party, too. I was going to call it the dirty room, because the materials are practically indestructible, and the kids could make a mess without doing any damage. But that’s not a good name. You should understand that this room is not a plan, it is a diagram.

This way you have one room where you can shut the door and have a little privacy once in a while. And there is this big room for parties and the kids, the ‘room without a name’.

living cooking

the big room

A flaw in the house, a history of contemporary houses
Contemporary houses have been planned to provide an acceptable minimum of living facilities within an absolute minimum of space. Architects and builders took the living room, bedrooms, kitchen, and bath, and worked them oven an over until the last ‘wasted’ square inch had been squeezed out. Livingroom, dining room, kitchen, and bedroom became a set formula which was supposed to provide all the living space the average family needed. The only trouble with the formula was that it ignored living. But people don’t forget about living, no matter what smart speculative builders and the routine minded architects say. People are neither animals nor machines, they end up by demanding space for activities that don’t fit into the pigeonholes. The purposes and potentialities of the space (the big room) are too indefinite to label this room, but they are none the less real.

The ‘room without a name’ is not entirely new. Some houses of the seventies and eighties had such rooms, which were not always for children alone. In some Mother kept her sewing things and odd assortments of household paraphernalia. In others, Father created his private den, where the happy disorder of papers, books, pipes, guns and the rest was never disturbed by the intrusion of a dust cloth or broom. Old houses had basements, where electric trains could be set up and the messier hobbies carried on. In our days these activities where extended with gaming, dancing, movies and so on. The greenhouse idea suggests any number of other hobbies which might be served by such a room. Anyway. You’ll get the massage.

Closer examinationall
This ‘room without a name’ shows a number of definite characteristics. An important one is that it is totally lacking in privacy. Any member of the family may use it, and for practically any purpose. This room insists on its ‘public’ nature.

There’s another interesting point about this room: it marks the first time a room for the whole family has appeared in the home since the days of the farmhouse kitchen. The room is intentionally set up to cover the family’s social and recreational needs, and that the usual adult-versus-children distinction has been abandoned.

A third idea also presents itself. By frankly developing a room which is entirely ‘public’ as far as the family and its guests are concerned, privacy is made possible. Because there is an ‘extra room,’ the other living space can really be enjoyed in peace and quiet. The children’s room, too, are no longer under the same pressure to double as playrooms and sleeping-study spaces.

These three ideas combine to produce a picture of a need and a trend. The need is clear enough: a house must be planned to meet adequately a normal family’s requirements of both privacy and joint activity. This all, the requirements, are by no means standardized. Some are with lots of noise an energy, others are more quietly. The room without a name, therefor, cannot follow any stock design or stereotyped arrangement. In spite of this, the room does seem to have certain standard features. Its furnishings and materials are definitely on the ‘tough’ side. In all probability it will not include anything that might be damaged by dirt or dust, and it should be easy to clean. Since it will serve for entertainment (occasionally), it will have to have lots of storage for toys, games and tools that can be kept out of sight. What furniture there is tend to be built-in, or light in weight and highly mobile.

The present-day living room is something of a ‘front’. Here we have the best furniture, the most expensive carpet, and the least evidence of normal family disorder, this in contrast with the big room. Could this big room be evidence of a growing desire to provide a framework within which the members of a family will be better equipped to enjoy each other on the basis of mutual respect and affection? Yes!! From now on we shall call this big room, the room without a name; ‘The family-room’.

We suggest that the family room is a place for you to find out how you would want to use it. We make a proposal by means of sending you some references and elements that are present. This room is bold, tough and flexible. It’s materials can manage dust and dirt and it’s furniture is flexible and does not mind to be damaged. Therefor we suggest second hand furniture, which can be replaced easily. None of these characteristic prevent the room from being a very handsome one. We do believe, especially because of it’s personal nature, this room must grow in and with the family’s personal desires and needs.

– from Nelson Wright, Tomorrows’ house, edited by Rick Eijsbouts