Perhaps you’ve heard of them, and perhaps you haven’t. Regardless, you’ll find plenty of value in this article on what is a hearth room in a house? There is a lot to learn about these cool and cozy rooms, so I’ll be doing more than providing a quick definition here.

In the article, you’ll learn about a hearth room and how it came to be. We’ll also look at interesting features of hearth rooms, design ideas you can take with you, and alternative options you may want to consider!


What is a hearth room in a house?

Also known as a keeping room, the word hearth inspired the hearth room. If you don’t know, hearth refers to the area and surrounding floor around a fireplace. It’s a fairly old concept. In fact, for some time, it was quite outdated among modern homes. However, it has now re-emerged as a popular home architectural interior design trend.

The main components of a hearth room include a central heating source (typically a fireplace) and a nearby kitchen island that can be seen from the room.

Related: What is a Keeping Room?


History of hearth rooms

How you would describe a hearth room today compared to when it first came about in the 18th Century has hardly changed. Since their beginnings in Colonial America several hundred years ago, hearth rooms typically described the living room near the kitchen with a fireplace and a nice cozy sitting area (1).

They were often considered the warmest rooms in the house, with the fireplace as the central focal point. Hearth rooms encourage get-togethers with loved ones and promote the vibe of a family room where people can sit and relax.

Other names for these rooms include a flex room, free room, or keeping room. These terms have only grown in popularity in recent times by modern-day construction workers. While they resemble a living room, this comfortable and versatile space is usually the second living room in a house, like a den.

Of course, your living room can be your hearth room, provided a fireplace is featured and is situated adjacent to the kitchen. Still, nowadays, many living rooms are far from the kitchen and cannot be considered a keeping room.

Related: What is a den in a house? Den Room vs. Family Room vs. Living Room


Features of hearth rooms

Modern rooms have many optional features, but some have typically remained unchanged over the centuries. Of course, the central fireplace and the proximity to the kitchen are still the two prerequisites of the hearth room. However, a few more features have also stood the test of time.

Decorative furniture such as comfortable chairs and sofas and one or more wooden coffee tables have also remained as staple features.

While not a specific feature, it remains an unspoken rule that these rooms encourage a warm, cozy, and comfortable vibe. 

However, there has been a growing demand for tiled houses with a neutral color scheme and modern design layout. This style promotes design aesthetics and sustainability over comfort and “homey” vibes.

Nevertheless, what goes around comes around. There is also a growing demand for old-school coziness combined with a modern twist. Homeowners are striving to find the best of both worlds.

Another common feature in a hearth room is a mini library consisting of bookshelves and reading lamps for a relaxing reading time. Alternatively, many homeowners make their hearth room a crafting room for making goods such as sewing, knitting, or building model kits.

Of course, some of these activities may sound outdated to the modern family. However, using your hearth room for modern-day activities like playing mobile games or designing a piece of art on a tablet or iPad is no issue.

Other modern-day hearth rooms ideas include a game room featuring gaming consoles, pool tables, dart boards, board games, and/or ping pong tables.

Related: Living Room Essentials Checklist: 50+ Essential For A Living Room Items You Need


Hearth room design ideas

There are many design ideas and decoration options for modern-day hearth rooms.

First, many feature a television above the fireplace attached to the wall. Some homeowners even choose a wood-burning fireplace to capture the vintage vibes of the 18th Century.

In contrast, others paint burning fireplace hearths with a modern gradient pattern that looks more contemporary. Of course, many homeowners also honor the original interior design by featuring overstuffed furniture and comfy sofas in a country-style accent (2).

Other decorative ideas include hanging a large painting above or near the fireplace mantel. This amplifies rather than diminishes the focal point of the central fireplace. If you wish to promote safety or have children in the area, it could be a good idea to have a log-burning stove instead of an open fireplace to prevent direct contact with the flames.

Ultimately, a hearth room is only as good as its furniture and decorative designs. So, you want to take extra care with your house plans to ensure that each room feature is thoughtfully placed.

For example, you want to keep the coffee table close to the fireplace and situate the comfortable couches close to these tables. It may also be wise to have a window in these rooms with nice curtains to contribute to the cozy atmosphere.

During the Christmas season, a hearth room can offer the perfect environment to set up your Christmas tree and Santa stockings. In addition, it is an extra cozy place in the cold winter of the holiday season.

Indeed, around the year’s end is a great time to experiment with different lighting decorations around the hearth room. For example, you can install Christmas lights along the natural fireplace sill and choose the perfect location for the tree and presents.


Alternatives to hearth rooms

In truth, having a fireplace in the home is a rather outdated concept, albeit still a great idea for a warm and cozy vibe. If you are reading this, the chance of you not having a fireplace is likely higher than the chance you have one.

For that reason, I would like to offer a couple of alternatives to hearth rooms that can still give you a similar vibe. These won’t require a fireplace or to be adjacent to the kitchen.


Open floor plans

As its name suggests, the open floor plan is a concept that promotes a “doorless” home design. This is where little to no doors separate the various living spaces in the home. So, for example, you could have the dining room, kitchen, and living space all inter-connected and viewable from each location.

The open floor plan grew in popularity for its multi-functional capabilities. These include cooking in the kitchen while maintaining communication with people in the dining or living room.


Great room

A great room is a large living space often part of an open floor plan, promoting openness and a cozy area as an alternative to a keeping room. As its name suggests, they are usually fairly large rooms that fit big seating arrangements, coffee tables, and televisions. Depending on the homeowner’s taste, they may or may not feature a fireplace.

These rooms are typically more casual than standard living rooms. They can be found in convenient locations near a staircase or a kitchen, offering a more playful family space for the household.

Related: What is a flex room in a house? Should you have one?


Final thoughts on hearth rooms

Hearth rooms are an old classic idea that has recently seen a fiery resurgence, offering comfort and coziness with a modern twist.

Whether you double it up as an entertainment room, a library room, or a combination. A hearth room could be exactly what you need to spice things up and even increase the home value of your property.

I hope this guide will help those looking to install a hearth room in their house or redesign an existing hearth room. At the least, learn more about the concept of hearth rooms to stimulate the imagination!


What is a hearth room in a house FAQ


What is the difference between a hearth and a fireplace?

A hearth refers to the area around the fireplace instead of the fireplace itself. It often refers to the grounds upon which the firewood rests and the surrounding walls.


What is the sitting room off the kitchen called?

The sitting room adjacent to the kitchen is commonly referred to as a hearth room, provided a fireplace is featured in the vicinity. Otherwise, depending on their features, they are often referred to as living rooms, great rooms, or even family rooms.


What is a hearth used for?

A hearth is used to contain a fire safely, traditionally made of hearthstone that surrounds the fireplace and contains the open flames. A hearth room is essentially a room with a central fireplace or hearth area as its central focal point. It often encompasses a country-style interior design, comfortable furniture, and soft carpets and rugs to promote a cozy vibe.


What does hearth area mean?

The hearth area is the area around a fireplace and the floor surrounding it. It derives from the traditional material called hearthstone that was originally used to build this confinement.

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