Asked on Jan 24, 2014

1970s sunken conversation pit

by Melissa
Our new house has a sunken conversation pit in front of the fireplace. It's about 6X6 and has three steps into the 'pit' and booth-like backs on each side. My adult kids say it is awesome feature, a couple friends think it is the first thing that should go.
I can't change out the flooring until this is decided.
Will these come back into Style?? Will I wish I kept it?
Love to hear your thoughts.
  83 answers
  • Emma Dorsey Emma Dorsey on Jan 24, 2014
    I think if it was me I would get rid of it and make the floor level again by making a storage space out of it in some way.
  • Jessie Jessie on Jan 24, 2014
    keep it decorate it love it. I just happen to remember the 70's and loved those years.
  • Ann Peters Ann Peters on Jan 24, 2014
    You didn't say if you liked it or not. That should be your answer. Your adult kids don't live w/you (I presume), so it's up to you. I saw firepits in the 70's as well, and I've never seen one like this. I personally don't like it because in my opinion, it's a failed attempt to make it something it's not. Sunken firepits were large and luxurious, didn't have those "booth-like backs", and this is certainly none of those. I would get rid of it and put a couple of comfy chairs in front of the fireplace.
  • Pam Pam on Jan 25, 2014
    I would want it gone ,I think a cute love seat or couple of chairs would look better,but Ann is right if you like it don't worry about others,I Loved the 70's clothes not decore
  • Carrie Carrie on Jan 25, 2014
    I agree with Ann Peters. If there's something about it you actually like, then keep that feature. It is unique. 6 x 6 is a pretty good size, too, for a seating arrangement. It's hard to tell from the photos but are the 'benches' made of wood? Can they and the surrounding wood frame be removed fairly easily? If so, you might want to keep the sunken feature itself and then finish/furnish with things that make that area an inviting seating area and a focal point of the great room. Would love to see the 'after' pictures once it's done. Best of luck.
  • Marie R Marie R on Jan 25, 2014
    Good you like it. Theeeennnn...if you do like it....look sunken firepits up on the internet, and let your imagination go. I'm a vintage lover...and I would love to have an architectural detail in my home like that. I wouldn't go for luxury. I'd go for warmth and comfort.
  • Is the fireplace a gas fireplace? Is there a chimney? Because it seems the fireplace is in the wrong spot. Is that that the hallway to the bedrooms? and the kitchen on the other side? It is your home and if you like it, then leave it but it sure does limit your floor layout and it keeps your attention. A fireplace is a feature that should be more of a wow than "oh my". I would not keep the fireplace at all if possible and put a fireplace in the room where it belongs where it can focal point and even useful. Do you entertain? or love to cook? I would think about more of an open concept from the kitchen into your dining/living area. Just throwing it out there...
  • Jadelynx Jadelynx on Jan 25, 2014
    Maybe keep the side against the wall, as a built in couch, but get rid of the other side?
  • Renie Thompson Renie Thompson on Jan 25, 2014
    My sister has one. It really limits how she can arrange or re-arrange her furniture. She rarely uses it.
  • Cynthia E Cynthia E on Jan 25, 2014
    If you like the pit as a whole keep it. If you dislike the wood benches remove them, do your flooring and you have opened up more space for a seating area. I really think it is a nice feature because it is different and lends itself to so many possibilities. I agree with Marie R. look up sunken pits and see the possibilities
  • Level the floor It makes the room appear smaller and limits the styles that you can decorate with.
  • Cynthia H Cynthia H on Jan 25, 2014
    Depends on what is under it. At the high school where all my daughters went, they had "conversation pits" in the lobby that were very much like these. Over time, they decided that they were a hassle to clean, etc. So when the lobby was redone, the pits were filled in with concrete, since that's what the floors were made from, and seating was arranged on the now level floors.
  • Leslie Peoples Leslie Peoples on Jan 25, 2014
    I think I'd get rid of it. The seats don't look comfortable to sit on and it leaves the space unusable for anything else.
  • Anna Ibarra Anna Ibarra on Jan 25, 2014
    I also agree with Ann, it's what you feel and decide. I think it's interesting and yes it may be a hassle in the flow of the layout, I don't like the color of the carpet, nor the wood seats, get new seating or storage. I would personally would update the fireplace, maybe paint it whtie, etc. I usually live with something till I'm sure what I would want, and don't do anything till you know for sure. In the end if you level it, then that wouldn't be bad either.
  • Lori J Lori J on Jan 25, 2014
    I vote for hideous....
  • Carole Carole on Jan 25, 2014
    Not a fan personally, but it is up to your personal choice as you are the one living with it.
  • Jenny@birdsandsoap Jenny@birdsandsoap on Jan 25, 2014
    I don't think it is the pit that looks bad, but the wall-to-wall green carpet. I could see swapping out the floors to wood, putting some molding/paneling detail on the benches with upholstered cushions that coordinate with the room's decor. I think that the carpet swallows up the entire room and makes the benches look like they are part of a boat deck. One surface for the floor, another for the benches, and cozy it up with cushions. How does the room work for you? Do you have enough room for dining?
  • Rita Botha Rita Botha on Jan 26, 2014
    Being a little flamboyant myself, I am a total fan of split levels. However, the total decor picture obviously urgently needs an update. If this was mine, I would get rid of the rough brick to start with so the fireplace tones in with the surrounding walls. I would rip out the existing furnishing and surrounding wood walls. I would replace the wood with a pretty wrought iron type of surround (obviously for security reasons so nobody falls in accidentally) and put my own soft furnishings in the pit, a few comfy chairs, reading lamp, small coffee tables. And the green carpet just makes my stomach turn!! (*sorry!) I hope when you rip up the carpet you will find wood floors underneath, that would absolutely make my day! Would love to see what you do with this area of your house!
  • Joan Raines Joan Raines on Jan 26, 2014
    Paint the brick white, lay down wood floors, replace seating with some cushy love seats and get rid of of the wooden surround or paint it a lovely grey. Keep your loveseats an off white and use pillows to get your color. I like it but it sure needs updating.
  • KatieAnn KatieAnn on Jan 26, 2014
    It sort of looks like a diy project that the previous owner did. The wood in the pictures appears to be plywood and is not at all attractive. If it were in my home I would get rid of it. Making the room all one level would make it appear larger and it would be more useful. If you want to keep it definitely bring in a contractor and do it right.
  • Rachel Rivard Rachel Rivard on Jan 26, 2014
    We had a round sunken pit in an addition that faced a real wood burning fireplace protruding from a curved wall, when we moved in. It had a white, yes white, custom curved sofa and white berber carpeting. It really limited what we could do with the space and while cool in concept, did not suit the rest of the house (mediterranean style). So we framed it in ourselves and brought it up to level with the rest of the room. This gave us a much better layout for furniture and we now use it as our tv/media room. It's definitely personal preference and you need to think about how you will use the space. Maybe just removing that green carpet would be a start.
  • Jean Adams Jean Adams on Jan 26, 2014
    I called in a cement contractor and had an entire sunken living room leveled. Tried wood first and could not gets the squeeks out. Cost $1500 and worth every penny for the concrete and labor.
    • Karen Karen on Jun 16, 2021

      $1,500 or $15,000? I have this issue, but the fireplace would have to be removed as it it would cross the floor line! Sigh

  • Shari Shari on Jan 26, 2014
    I would rip that mess out faster than you could blink! Even if you like the idea of leaving it, the benches look SO uncomfortable! The sunken area does not appear to be all that big so it probably would not be too terribly involved or expensive to fill it in. What material is your subfloor? A little more than 4 years ago we bought a house built in 1978 and the formal living room was "sunken." (Contractors must have been doing a LOT of drugs back in the 70s based on some of the awful things they did to houses.) Filling in the sunken area was one of the first projects we did. My subfloor is a concrete slab and it only took about $600 worth of concrete to fill that hole. BEST $600 I EVER spent!
    comment photo
    comment photo
    comment photo
    comment photo
    comment photo
    comment photo
    comment photo
    comment photo
    • See 1 previous
    • Joan Maddax Joan Maddax on Jan 26, 2014
      @Shari that just does not appeal to me, I would rip it out and cover too.
  • Sparkles Sparkles on Jan 26, 2014
    I like the sunken room. I would get rid of the green carpet. Tear out the wood around the area and repalce with Stair type rails, or make the half walls taller. Use the backs of the walls for shelving storage. Another option would be to set that area as the dining room. You could reface the fireplace to give it an updated look. Soften the place up and give it a contrasting color to the rest of the room.
  • Sparkles Sparkles on Jan 26, 2014
    here are some ideas I have found doing a google search.
  • Annette C Annette C on Jan 26, 2014
    Do you live some where that you would need a storm shelter? You could create a false floor that could be opened for storage or shelter. They have TV's mounted onto stands that hide in the floor, prime spot for something like that. I've never seen pit's like this so it's neat to me, tho it does look ruff, may be start with finishing the wood around the sofa with some moldings or decorative paint job. Something with less sharp edges or Bookcases facing out would create a private sitting aria. I've seen fireplace face lifts with paint & others made wood caps to cover the brick instead of pulling out the original mantels & surrounds.
  • MikkiGirl MikkiGirl on Jan 26, 2014
    I vote to paint the bricks white and fill in the conversation pit. If removing the pit is not an option, then I'd take out the wooden benches and replace with your own sofa, chaise, or other comfortable seating. Plus, throw some large pillows on the floor. Maybe a reading lamp and coffee table or ottoman with storage for blankets, afghans, or quilts.
  • Kim Dagenais Kim Dagenais on Jan 26, 2014
    I would change the carpeting to hardwood or laminate flooring. Get rid of the booths, as they don't even look comfortable, and even resurface or paint the fireplace facing. Can't wait to see what you end up doing to this space.
  • Laura S. Laura S. on Jan 26, 2014
    How mad men :) I have seen convo pits that I liked a lot in its current state yours isn't one of them. The green carpet and white walls are the things I'd change first if it was me unless your going to paint the walls please don't paint the brick white if you like the brick of the fireplace leave as is if not their are some brick stains that are beautiful. I don't imagine you would regret taking out the pit, I would think about painting the wood benches and reupholstered cushions until you decide. If you did take it out you could put an area rug or. Individual rug tiles there then your own set. A cool mid century mod set would look awesome there.
  • Melissa Melissa on Jan 26, 2014
    that green carpet is definitely GONE in a few more weeks!
  • Laura S. Laura S. on Jan 26, 2014
    Also I'm not sure why everyone always wants to gut a mid century house it's still history even if recent, I agree with your kids that pit can be awesome. Draw out some sketches, google some pics of what other folks have done to bring theirs up to date
  • Cynthia E Cynthia E on Jan 26, 2014
    As a thought if you do like the pit but it's not quite big enough instead of filling in maybe you could enlarge pit. But def. would get rid of the built in oversized seating-- so many options you could have steps down into it all the way around w/ built in smaller seating and tables-- really are so many options. Let us know what you decide and be sure to show after pics here.
  • Nancy Culhane Hoag Nancy Culhane Hoag on Jan 26, 2014
    i love the pit!!!!!!!! I think you could make it look really cozy, throw a lot of nice fluffy pillows around the back of the walls to lean back on and lay back and enjoy the fire! On the out side walls around the pit, how about putting up brick or shelves, or even wood the has the up and down lines on it and put a wood harth on the top to finish it off and make it more inviting. place plants around the out side of the pit on the narrow wall and a couple on the opening that goes into our main room. Love the green carpet, it's a great color, but what ever you want, it's your home. Got to say LOVE THE PIT< SO UNUSUAL!!!! It's such a focal place!!!
  • Kate Allen Kate Allen on Jan 26, 2014
    You for sure have to change the carpeting, but do you love the pit? And will you actually use it? If you're going to keep it, consider painting the bricks on the fireplace and the wood walls for the pit and off white. Line the inside with throw pillows that actually would make it comfortable. Other side of the coin, it does date the house and would only be used when you have the fireplace going. I don't know what the open space it on the left side of the fireplace. It that could be closed in and the pit removed, the floor leveled, you could create a seating area that would blend in with the rest of the living room. Good luck!
  • Katie Lloyd Mansfield Katie Lloyd Mansfield on Jan 26, 2014
    Fill it in. It looks uncomfortable and too small. You would gain so much floor space. Now is the time if you are replacing carpet.
  • Melissa Gutilla Melissa Gutilla on Jan 26, 2014
    I think I would update it with something besides the green and wood. New carpet with some kind of couch like cushions etc. I kinda like it just because it's something you don't see anymore plus a good place to set and read, etc.
  • Jill Jill on Jan 26, 2014
    Sunken pits are passe, but it all depends on how YOU feel about it. If you don't like it, fill it in, It will give you more floor space to walk around unencumbered. I don't think you would be able to increase the size, especially if you have a cement foundation. Frankly, I would hate to be walking around at night in the dark and fall into it, walls or not. The fireplace brick is just fine, but that dark green carpet needs to go. Also get rid of the all white walls and do something with that mantel!
  • Margie*Lee Margie*Lee on Jan 27, 2014
    Whether to get rid of the pit or not depends on whether you like it or not. If it were my house, I'd get rid of it as well as the green carpeting. It's your house and doesn't matter what anyone else says about the pit. Keeping it or changing it is up to you.
  • Joan Raines Joan Raines on Jan 27, 2014
    Let us know what you ended up doing please
  • Sheryl Duden Sheryl Duden on Jan 27, 2014
    If this were in my house I would keep it but change it. I would probably bring the walls up and make the back side into shelves open or with doors depending on the use. Depending on the type of wood it is I would add some decorative trim and stain it. I would leave the fireplace and paint the room to coordinate with it along with new carpet and fabric on the cushions of the seating area. Optimize the unique feature. But ultimately the decision is yours and should be based on if you like it or not. If you are undecided then I say embrace it and put your style into it.
  • Laura S. Laura S. on Jan 28, 2014
    It's really to bad it meets the brick If not it coulda been cool repurposed into dining benches with a rough hewn plank table
  • Patty Patty on Jan 28, 2014
    I had a really good friend that had a pit and benches similar to yours, she bought really good foam and made bench cushions for the seats and the backs then put through pillows on it and it was beautiful, everyone wanted to lay around in the pit. Her husband built tables to fit in the space for lamps and books.
  • Sabren Sabren on Jan 29, 2014
    I see a nice couch facing the fireplace with a trunk or coffee table in front of it. Table behind the couch on the upper floor with lamps or books on it. if there is room in the pit a few chairs facing the couch where you can get warm by the fire on a cold nnight with a good book. Yes I would have the fireplace refaced. maybe a area rug in the pit that will go with the new carpet in the rest of the house. I really think it would be fun to keep it and play it up.
  • Melissa Melissa on Jan 29, 2014
    Sending thanks each of you for your thoughts and input on the 'Pit'! After reading and thinking about your replies, I have decided to fill it in. The walls are a soft lite fawn. I'll put down a neutral (safe) carpet and do a lite color wash on the brick. My intent is to use a distressed white, gray and neutral theme with darker woods. Thanks again!!
    • Shari Shari on Jan 29, 2014
      @Melissa Your plans sound lovely. I don't think you will ever regret filling it in. Enjoy your new home!
  • Anna Carillo Anna Carillo on Jan 29, 2014
    Fill it with water and make it a jacuzzi, hang a disco ball above it and call it a day. (Just joking)
  • KatieAnn KatieAnn on Jan 29, 2014
    Please post before and after photos so we can see the results. Your plans sound great and I don't think you will be sorry.
  • Anna G Anna G on Jan 29, 2014
    Very interesting feature. I say keep it and decorate it...
  • Robin James Robin James on Jan 29, 2014
    ugh it over takes the entire room. Do you really want to sit and look at people that close up?
  • What you have there is an Inglenook. Personally, I think it is very cool. Your home is probably influenced by what is known in architecture as the "Prairie School". Frank Lloyd Wright often used this design feature, as did Greene and Greene in Craftsman style homes. Here is a brief explanation of their history: and a photo I took of one in FLWs' home in Oak Park, IL His was smaller than yours.
    comment photo
    • See 2 previous
    • Melissa Melissa on Feb 04, 2014
      @Brian Campbell, Basswood Artisan Carpentry Very interesting! An Inglenook. I've always enjoyed FLW's built ins. Prairie School. Thanks so much for all this information! The debate continues....keep, cover up, keep cover, I am keeping it and hope to find old porch railing to enclose the booths. Then have good cushions and backing made for it. I love scraped, whitewashed woods, a sort of Prairie Chic 'style'
  • Lex263207 Lex263207 on Jan 29, 2014
    I understand your dilemma. On one hand, you realize it's an eyesore as is. On the other, it's kind of a funky feature. Personally, I think there's so much more you could do with that space if it were gone. Chops the room up a little, as it looks like it interferes with a natural traffic pattern from the other room. I say take some photos & let it go. Use the parts for another project! Say bye to the green carpet.
  • Here is an example of a FLW Prairie Style Inglenook. If you made the couches look similar to these pieces, you would have something distinctive and fitting the design of your home:
    • Shari Shari on Jan 31, 2014
      @Brian Campbell, Basswood Artisan Carpentry Doesn't look comfortable for relaxing by the fire at all. :(
  • Becky Childers Becky Childers on Jan 31, 2014
    This is the exact pit that's in so many houses in my neighborhood. A lot of people have filled there's in and it really opens up the room and looks great. A lot of thirty somethings think its cool, cause that was the style they grew up with. Not so cool to others. If you like it, update it , if not lose it. I have a step down into my family room and I'm going to lose it. I don't want steps as I get older." Help I have fallen and cant get up" Must be same builder I'm in Bedford Tx.. Good luck..
  • Stop calling it a "pit" people. It is an Inglenook!
  • Melissa Melissa on Feb 01, 2014
    This Pit is just too small for that....would have been nice to style it like you suggested. Thanks for the input Everyone!!
  • Sparkles Sparkles on Feb 02, 2014
    Would still make for a intamate small dinning area or a cute place to play canasta or bridge.
  • Diane Slater Diane Slater on Feb 02, 2014
    If it were larger, I would say keep it! But, it's not. Right now, it's a non functional eyesore. I think it messes up with the whole decor plan with the rest of the area.
  • Janis Hill Janis Hill on Feb 02, 2014
    I say keep it. When the overwhelming green carpet is gone it will look entirely different. Have cushions made to fit and add throw pillows for a completely different feel. It will be the perfect place to curl up with a good book or to stretch out for a nap. Please post 'after' pictures.
  • Connie Connie on Feb 03, 2014
    I like it and I agree with Janis..Once the green carpet is gone you can make it a quaint little area.
  • Linda Jung Linda Jung on Feb 03, 2014
    WOW! That's a first for me...use area rugs over the green to soften it up with a natural color. The one thing that really give it that WOW factor is that paneling around the "pit". Those two "70's Like Squaresville Man" corners need to be rounded so it's more inviting down into your "lounge". The WHITE walls also make the fireplace stand out; I'd maybe go with a cream color from the brick for the walls. And paint the walls around the "lounge" the same color as the walls to have it blend in more. That mantel is...y'all have a store called :Woodcraft" there in Dallas; they have nice slices of wood NOT lumber that would go great up there. Or; you say the green is going to come up, if you don't like your "pit" you can have it filled in. Good Luck and show your after photos when you finished.
  • I'd say it's messing up the traffic pattern and as others said, eats up a lot of room ... for what? It is cool but is it worth it to be sentimental? It's not "valuable" - if it were it might make sense to keep it despite disadvantages. I don't read Prairie Style anywhere else in the space we can see here, unless you start adding architectural elements to make the pit work with a prairie style. That doesn't make sense unless you love it so much to decorate around it. There's far more comfortable furniture for people that could be put in that spot!
  • Melissa Melissa on Feb 05, 2014
    Today, I'm done with the Inglenook...LOL...I will cover over it and keep it so my kids (who LOVE IT!) can do with it what they want when I'm gone. No Prairie Style anywhere as of yet...we are in the planning stages. Lots of vacillating and dreaming to get to the picture of what Form and Function will do to the room.
  • Jean Adams Jean Adams on Feb 06, 2014
    Well, you did not need us after all. It was there all the time as the line in the movie went. Good decision for YOUR family.
  • I would build Prairie Style FLW inspired couches that would fold into the recessed area and form a floor system flush with the rest of the floor. Invisible and out of the way when you want the floor space and would fold out to form an inglenook when entertaining around the fire. I could build automation into it too. With the flip of a switch--your living room becomes a convertible!
  • Melissa Melissa on Feb 07, 2014
    Be nice if you lived a little further South, Brian...LOVE your idea!
  • Kate Allen Kate Allen on Feb 08, 2014
    If you do decide to paint the "pit", use Amy Sloan chalk paint. Go to Amy Sloan Home and you will find a retailer in your area. I use it in my business every week and it's fantastic. Just be sure to turn the can upside down for 5 minutes and then stir well! An old wooden spoon works great. It's water based. A quart will be enough. If you want a lovely glow, wax it afterwards with their wax. Very durable and unbelievable east to use. Her paint is high quality and $10 less expensive a quart than others. No primer needed. Good luck, Kate
  • Kate Allen Kate Allen on Feb 08, 2014
    OOPS! It's AMY HOWARD, not Amy Sloan!! Sloan is the last name of a competing paint. They're the same exact quality, but I like the colors and other products available at Amy Howard. Price is great!
  • Bethar Bethar on Jun 03, 2014
    If it is something you are really not sure you want to get rid of then just do some cosmetic changes. As some have suggested, paint the walls so they are not stark white, paint the wood on the backside of the seating, new cushions, area rugs to soften the space.
  • Jenny@birdsandsoap Jenny@birdsandsoap on Jan 06, 2015
    Did you ever do anything with the pit?
  • Melissa Melissa on Jan 06, 2015
    Craziest adult kids felt the floor plan was perfect for two brothers living different lives. So they bought the house and we lived with them on an off while our house was given a total make-over. 2014 was a year of unexpected changes turning out mother moved in upstairs and has the equivalent of a small apartment right next to my husband's office. My sons are happy, we are happy, my mom is happy. The PIT is still the PIT awaiting someone else's!
  • Traci Smith Traci Smith on Sep 04, 2016
    Upholster and/or paint the benches and redo the floor in the pit the same as the rest of the floors. The kids like it, and it looks like it could be a nice cozy spot to enjoy a fire.
  • Pupka Pupka on Dec 05, 2018

    Aesthetics aside, I haven't seen anyone mention yet that the sunken pit is pretty bad for enjoying warmth from the fireplace. The heat goes up and away from your poor cold toesies which are on the cold concrete floor.

    We have one in our house and we are working on filling it in. If the floor is level it's much easier to warm your feet by the fire.

  • Pat Pat on Dec 05, 2018

    I would definitely take it out and level the floor....Do you have a living room on the back of where you are standing to take a picture? Or is this it?

  • Oliva Oliva on Dec 05, 2018

    I'd remove it and replace it with another furniture grouping.

  • Yvette Jones Yvette Jones on Apr 16, 2020

    I'm probably to late but I have thee unpopular opinion and luv it lol. I would revamp it cause it definitely looks uncomfortable as it. I would make it cozier with some custom and comfortable seating and just bright up the whole place. Its not meant to be a serious place in the house somewhere you can spread out read a book, snuggle in front of the fireplace or do some teleworking away from everyone. What did you end up doing?

  • Nickie Miller Nickie Miller on Apr 17, 2020

    I am definitely into more retro things, and I think this is awesome! Maybe just change out the carpet and maybe paint the railing thing... but I love the idea of having that sunken area. BUT it’s your house and you’re the one who has to live with it... so go with what you feel best about.

  • Debbie Debbie on Jun 18, 2020

    hi! you asked in 2014 so I’m curious....what did you decide to do? I actually LOVE it. But I love all things retro so I’m never the best person to ask a question like this LOL

  • Betty Betty on Apr 12, 2021

    Get rid of this ugly space wasting 'elevated floor'. Keep the really nice raised hearth fireplace where you can add some nice cushy sofa/chairs around it to make this a truly usable space. The raised hearth will be a great seating area or table for parties. I would also update the mantle to something longer and more modern. Do yourself a huge favor and level out the floor. If you want to keep the green carpeting, you will have enough to patch in where needed.

  • Johnavallance82 Johnavallance82 on Mar 16, 2023

    Since it exists - do something about the colour of the surround, BUT leave it for ay Couple of years to see how much it is used. Do the rest of the house first, then make your decision!

  • Mogie Mogie on Apr 03, 2023

    If you took that out and raised all flooring to the same height the room would seem MUCH bigger and you would be getting rid of future tip hazards also.

  • Mogie Mogie on Sep 25, 2023

    Plus the sunken look is very dated. It didn't look good in the 70's and it still doesn't. I would think this could be a problem area for kids and older folks.

  • Deb K Deb K on Oct 05, 2023

    Hi Melissa, I would get rid of it, I don't think that will ever come back in lol! And even if it did, I would not fall for it lol!