The Conversation Pit Is Making a Comeback

These sunken treasures of the ’60s and ’70s have been unearthed and modernized for the postpandemic era

Earlier this year, Noel Fedosh and his team at Luno Design Studio in Beverlywood presented a client with renderings of his new house. Fedosh had included a sunken outdoor seating area with a fire pit dramatically surrounded by water. The client loved it. “It’s the feature that grabbed him the most,” Fedosh recalls.

After everyone spent more than a year mostly isolated, the home design trend du jour is one that makes human connection its chief objective: the conversation pit.

Examples of lowered, terraced areas in the home can be traced as far back as ancient China. In the 1950s, modernist architects began incorporating sunken seating into living rooms, and the feature exploded with popularity in the 1960s and ’70s, when it often involved shag carpeting and garishly colored pillows. Now the conversation pit has come back in vogue, an architectural antidote to our solitary, screen-centric times.

“There seems to be a desire for more intimate spaces,” says Lars Hypko, cofounder of the high-end showroom Mass Beverly in West Hollywood.

For those not doing a fresh build, adding a conversation pit to an existing home can be challenging. “It’s not a simple tack-on feature for a renovation,” cautions Fedosh. A house’s foundation must be considered, as both the subfloor and the floor need to be lowered. Such an undertaking can cost into the six figures.

Kristin Korven and Jeff Kaplan of architecture/design studio Part Office in Atwater Village included a conversation pit in a recent Mar Vista home renovation, and they say the cost—roughly $20,000­—was absolutely worth it. Given that the house was on a fairly flat lot and had a raised foundation, it wasn’t too involved.

“It was critical to eliminate visual clutter,” says Kaplan. “Rather than looking at the back of a couch from the dining space, there are now unbroken views to the exterior.”

A simpler, less expensive option is modular furniture. Mass Beverly sells a modular sofa from Switzerland’s
De Sede that mimics the feeling of enclosed seating.

No matter how it’s achieved, a conversation pit creates a wonderful cocoon. “It gives a protected feeling,” Fedosh says, and “creates an experiential moment together.”

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