The mid-century modern ‘conversation pit’ has made a comeback in design interiors.

The ‘conversation pit’ is built into interiors as a ‘sunken’ area or focal space within a room or a larger living area. They became popular in the mid-20th century as a trendy, social feature in homes, providing a cosy, intimate setting for people to relax, talk, and entertain.

Traditionally, a conversation pit is a design element recessed below the level of the rest of the room, but can be at ground level – the key is in the layout of the space. The pit is often surrounded by built-in seating or sofas, modular pieces, scatter cushions, a cozy rug, and perhaps even a textured throw or two.

They can vary in design, from simple sunken seating areas to more elaborate setups with cushioned benches or sofas arranged around a central lowered space.

The conversation pit makes a comeback

Now, many design elements from the mid-20th century have experienced a resurgence as people seek out the ‘retro vibe’ in their homes.

People are also often drawn to distinctive features that create a focal point and conversation starter within their living spaces – this is exactly the effect that a conversation pit achieves.

A long way from the mid-century modern ’70s palette that conversation pits would often don, contemporary interior designers and architects are reimagining conversation pits with modern twists, making use of different materials, shapes, and configurations to suit 2024’s design trends.

Tips to set up your own conversation pit at home

Thinking of incorporating a conversation pit in your home? Building a sunken area isn’t necessary – you can achieve the same effect by following these tips:

First, tackle seating

Choose low-seating furniture like sofas, poufs, loveseats, or modular sectionals that create a cozy, enclosed space. Arrange your seating in a circular or U-shape to foster interaction and conversation. This forms the foundation for your cosy focal point.

Layer up on the flooring 

Conversation pits often make use of cosy rugs or carpets to define the conversation area and create a sense of separation from the rest of the room. Look for circular rugs that fit the hollow of your conversation pit, or go for a gorgeous Persian rug – the key is to layer onto your focal point with flooring.

Ditch overhead lighting

Incorporate soft, warm lighting with floor lamps, string lights, or table lamps to create an inviting ambiance. Overhead lights can often be quite harsh and clinical to the eye, which takes away from the ambiance of a conversation pit. Instead, opt for wall sconces or floor-lamp torchieres that wash the walls with warm light.

Scatter cushions

Possibly one of the easiest ways to jazz up any space and offer a sense of comfort is to go wild with the scatter cushions! They can be chosen according to a colour palette, or if you’re going for a more ‘boho’ vibe, opt for bold colours and prints that draw the eye toward the area.

Add floor cushions, oversized pillows, or pouf cushions around the seating to create a relaxed and cosy vibe.

Add a touch of functionality 

Place a low coffee table or ottoman in the center of your conversation put for functionality and to anchor the seating area. Your choice of coffee table (or ottoman) depends on the colour palette you’re working with. Wooden coffee tables are always a great option, but a glass table might suit the atmosphere you’re creating better – this you’ll need to gauge by eye.

Don’t forget the decor

Introduce indoor plants, sculptures, trinkets, and other decorative elements around the seating area to add visual interest and personality to your conversation pit. Objects such as room dividers, tall plants, or shelving units strategically placed around the seating area will help create a sense of privacy and enclosure.


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This article was written and published by Savanna Douglas for Woman&Home.

Feature image: Curbed