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Designing Your Dream Space: The Ultimate Guide to Great Rooms and Their Key Features

Great Rooms: Where Comfort Meets Wow Factor — Your Design Inspiration Masterclass

What is a Great Room?

A Great Room is a versatile and multifunctional space in a home that typically combines the functions of a living room, a family room, and sometimes even a formal dining area. It's essentially the heart of the house, designed to bring families and guests together, fostering a sense of togetherness and relaxation. As the kitchen increasingly became the hub of social activities, the walls separating it from the dining and living rooms were dismantled. Tearing down the walls created a warm, inviting, and comfortable open floor space that metamorphosed into the great room.


Great room of charming country home (161-1139)

The view of the great room of Plan # 161-1139 illustrates high ceilings and a free-flowing space with the living room, dining area, and kitchen island/breakfast nook.

Features of the Great Room

Most images of Great Rooms depict an open space that combines two or more rooms — usually, the living and dining rooms or the triangle of living/dining rooms and kitchen.

The key features you should look for when designing a house plan with a Great Room or evaluating a Great Room in one of today's homes:

1. Open Concept Design

  •    - An open floor plan connects your kitchen, dining area, and living space, creating a versatile and communal hub.
  •    - Say goodbye to kitchen isolation; now you can entertain guests while whipping up culinary delights.
  •    - After all, who wants to be stuck alone in the kitchen when the party's in full swing?

2. Ample Natural Light. 

  • Large windows, sliding doors, and skylights illuminate the room, reducing the need for artificial lighting during the day.
  • Enjoy the mood-boosting benefits of natural light and a more inviting living space.
  • Plus, it's the perfect backdrop for your indoor plant jungle.

3. High Ceilings. 

  • High or vaulted ceilings add a sense of grandeur and spaciousness to the room.
  • Channel your inner artist and use those taller walls for impressive artwork or statement lighting fixtures.
  • Remember, there is no need for a trampoline to reach the ceiling.

Exterior view of Great Room plus two interior views

This Great Room basks in amazing views through the large, arched windows. Inside, the warm fireplace, vaulted ceilings, and flexible seating creates a comforting and festive atmosphere. (Plan # 161-1145)

4. Versatile Seating Arrangements.

  • From cozy sofa nooks to formal dining setups, your Great Room adapts to your every need.
  • It's your space, your rules – perfect for hosting book club meetings, family game nights, or epic movie marathons.
  • Go ahead, have a comfy chair for reading and a big table for that puzzle you'll finish someday.

5. Entertainment Features.

  • Incorporating built-in entertainment centers or media walls transforms your space into a hub for family movie nights and gaming.
  • Your Great Room will be the go-to destination for friends and family.
  • Popcorn and game controllers are not included.

6. Fireplace.

  • While not mandatory, many Great Rooms feature a fireplace as a focal point.
  • Adds warmth and coziness to an otherwise large space.

7. Architectural Details.

  • Elements like exposed beams, crown molding, and wainscoting can add character and style to the room.
  • These details provide a touch of elegance and a sense of history, even in a modern space.
  • It's the equivalent of giving your Great Room a personality upgrade, making it a conversation starter for guests and a place that feels uniquely yours.

8. Quality Flooring.

  • Durable and attractive flooring options like hardwood or tile provide the foundation for your Great Room.
  • Enjoy flooring that looks fabulous and can handle life's little mishaps. Just in case someone decides to do a spontaneous victory dance.

9. Storage.

  • Keep your space organized and clutter-free with ample storage options.
  • No more shoving everything in closets before guests arrive.
  • Now you can proudly display your cherished collection of antique teapots.

10. Personalization.

  • Inject your unique style into the room with artwork and decor that reflects your personality.
  • Transform your Great Room into a canvas for your creativity.
  • Finally, a place where your mismatched collection of coffee mugs feels right at home.


  Great room with exposed beams.       

Embrace the following Great Rooms with vaulted ceilings (Plan # 161-1145) and Plan # 161-107. These great rooms provide plenty of warmth for the entire family.


A Look Back at the First Great Rooms

The idea of a Great Room may be traced to the Great Hall in medieval castles. The tallest room in the castle, the Great Hall, was supported by arches, warmed by several fireplaces, and lit by torches. It was the center of activity: the place for meals, entertainment, dancing, celebrations such as holiday feasts and weddings. It was also the room where the manor lord received visiting royalty and conducted his business meetings.

In the U.S., the Great Room may have inspired the multi-purpose room featured in the house plans designed by architect Joseph Eichler. During the 1950s, Eichler started building suburban ranch homes in Northern California with open floor plans, large floor-to-ceiling windows, exposed ceiling beams, and a multi-purpose room.

By the ‘70s and ‘80s, architects designed and constructed huge homes with matching Great Rooms. The trend continued through the 1990s, especially during the economic boom when homeowners sought to build mansions and estates.

A typical Eichler house plan with an open floor space – showing one huge room combining the living and dining rooms. The floor-to-ceiling windows “invite the outside in” with a wonderful view of the courtyard – and easy access to it.


The Great Room Evolves

By mid-2000, the demand for homes with Great Rooms began to decline. In fact, an article in The Wall Street Journal (May 23, 2008) noted that people who initially loved their Great Room were experiencing a change of heart. Several homeowners with two-story rooms were looking for ways to fill in the top space… and some built lofts, office space, and extra bedrooms.  

The Great Room may not be as popular or as grand as it was in the ‘70s and ‘80s. However, its original concept of a free-flowing open space in a home – no matter how large or small - where a family gathers comfortably and easily remains a significant part of the American lifestyle.  The high ceilings and ornate light fixtures may be gone – but the room is still around.


Great room space with open floor plan to dining and kitchen (house plan #126-1287)     

Free-flowing open floor plan with a lovely Great Room. Enjoy spending time with family and friends as you navigate from room to room with ease (Plan # 193-1125).


So, take heart! You can design your Great Room as simply or as impressively as you wish. Just remember to make it cozy, homey, comfortable, warm, and welcoming. 


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