What exactly is a living room? Is it a formal room for special occasions, or a casual space for everyday life? The meaning has been unclear ever since the late 17th century, when architects first considered what “living” in the home meant. In 1691, in the first edition of what was to become a hugely influential architectural manual, “Lessons of Architecture,” Charles Augustin d’Aviler drew a distinction between formal display spaces and a new kind of room, spaces that were “less grand.” D’Aviler used an unusual phrase to describe these new rooms: “le plus habité” — literally the most lived in. This marked the first time that an architect discussed the notion of living rooms, rooms intended for everyday life. Before this, anyone who could afford an architect-designed residence wanted it to serve as proof of status and wealth; almost all rooms were display spaces. But once d’Aviler opened the door, French architects began making rooms for specific activities of daily life integral to the design of the home: initially the bedroom, then dressing rooms and bathrooms. These “less grand” rooms were the original living rooms.
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