For many years the front room used to be reserved for only the most important visitors or formal family occasions. Many who grew up in the post-war years will remember being strictly kept out of the sacred front room, or parlour, lest they disrupted the carefully arranged cushions on the chintz sofa and plethora of intricate ornaments.
The traditional focal point of the lounge had been the open fireplace, a hangover from Victorian times when it would often have been the only source of heat in the room. The focal point of the living room slowly changed to focus upon the wireless, and then of the course the television, which was first introduced into most UK homes from the 1950s onwards, started to hog the limelight. Rather than a pair of sofas facing each other, most lounge furniture then became arranged for viewing pleasure facing the TV rather than social intercourse.
In the sixties and seventies, as British society started to relax and loosen its post war strictures, so the lounge took on a more relaxed and open feel as well. Furnishings changed to ethnic styles and fashions, and new types of furniture emerged such as the beanbag, wicker furniture and the futon sofa bed. Furnishing stores such as Terence Conran’s Habitat chain also had an influence on British lounges, as plainer, less fussy, and more contemporary styles of furniture became more commonplace.
The advent of convenience food, takeaways and the microwave saw yet another change in use for the lounge. As the traditional family meal taken at a dining table in a separate dining room started to become a thing of the past, so dining on the lounge sofa in front of the TV became the norm. Dinner trays and the coffee table became the place to eat in the home.
In more recent times, the lounge has had to adapt once again to the advent of new technology. As TVs have increased in width and shrunk in girth, they have moved from purpose built TV cabinets to wall mounted plasma screens remarkable quickly. The orientation of the sofa has often moved once again from the corner cabinet to a wall mounted screen ironically often placed above a redundant fireplace. Lounges have also become decluttered to accommodate more modern technology in the form of Blu Ray players, digital hard drives, satellite receivers, surround sound speakers and gaming consoles. These days time spent in the lounge is most likely going to involve engagement with numerous of these devices, all with a laptop in use as well. The boom in popularity of wooden and laminate flooring have added to the cleaner, emptier looking lounge of today.
Therefore, as more and more time is being spent in the lounge engaging with new technoglogy, comfort has become the watchword for lounge furniture. One or more larger, generously proportioned sofas with plenty of reclining space have taken the place of a more modestly sized sofa and a pair of armchairs perhaps.
Thanks to the home makeover shows of the 90s, the growth in affordable furniture such as leather sofas, and a plethora of interior and style magazines, lounge furniture styles now encompass a far wider range of tastes than ever before to suit the most extravagant of interior design schemes. From slick modern contemporary to retro shabby chic, or themed styles inspired by destinations as diverse as Manhattan loft spaces to the Moroccan casbah.
It remains to be seen how the humble lounge will change further to meet the changing trends of society in the 21st century.