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Great room vs. Living room: What’s the difference?

What is the difference between a great room vs. a living room? They have a lot of similarities, but they are still significantly different. A great room is just an open concept floor plan that leads to multiple other spaces such as the kitchen or dining room.

On the other hand, living rooms are more private and contain one central area. Therefore, great rooms can entertain guests, while living rooms may be better suited for family relaxation time. But, which one is better: a great room or a living room?


What is a Great Room? 

Great Room

A great room is a central space that connects to several other rooms in the house, and it often has cathedral ceilings. This room usually takes up a majority of the center of your home, with the kitchen, dining space, tv room, and an informal sitting area all combined into one large space.

Essentially, great rooms are large spaces that family members can use for multiple purposes such as relaxing, entertaining, cooking, and dining. They are typically characterized by high ceilings, natural light, and lack spatial boundaries that you find in older homes.


What is an open floor plan?

An open floor plan is when there are no walls that separate different rooms from each other, so they can all flow into one another. It is excellent for open concept homes and great rooms since it allows them to have a lot of space to be used in multiple ways. Open floor plans often have features like built-in cabinetry or fireplaces, which great rooms usually have as well.


What is a Living Room?

living room

A living room is an area in your house where you can relax and entertain guests. It can be used for formal or informal entertaining, and it is typically located on the first floor of your home near the entry hall, great room, foyer, or kitchen. Although great rooms can also be great for entertaining people in your home, living rooms are usually more private than great rooms.

Another thing is that a casual living room tends to be more isolated from other areas in the house. For this reason, great rooms are ideal spaces for large families to enjoy time together, while living rooms are great for more intimate gatherings of family and friends.


What is a Formal Living Room?

A formal living room is usually the first room you see when entering a home. It is meant to be an inviting space where guests are greeted. It may have a portrait hanging on the wall, furniture, and lighting of some sort. The formal living room has few distractions for visitors to focus on since its primary purpose is to create an amiable atmosphere. 


Great Room vs. Living Room

The great room is an all-inclusive space that connects to other living spaces like the living room, kitchen, dining room, and entrance. At the same time, the living room is a standalone space that is much smaller and defined. 

It’s perfect for entertaining because you can work in the kitchen while still being a part of the conversation in the room. This is unlike a living room, which is walled off. If you are hosting guests and working in the kitchen, you miss out on all the conversation in the living room.


Great Room Pros & Cons



  • These are perfect for entertaining guests while you cook in the kitchen since everyone can come to one place instead of taking turns walking into another room.
  • Furthermore, you get everything done in one room instead of having multiple different rooms for different purposes.
  • Typically they also have beautiful views with their natural light from large picture windows or sliding French doors that lead to the open backyard.
  • Finally, these rooms feel more modern as they eliminate rooms and do away with things like a formal dining room, creating a more open and inviting area.



  • Great rooms are harder to clean since you can’t close any doors in order to contain the mess. They can feel less intimate since the space is more significant and so open. It can be tricky to divide great rooms into different spaces, other than having multiple different furniture arrangements.
  • With vaulted ceilings, it can be harder to replace light bulbs, and cabinetry can be a challenge since the dust accumulates on top of them.
  • Another drawback is because of the high ceiling, they can be more costly to heat in the winter as all of the heat rises to the raised ceilings. However, heating and cooling systems have improved dramatically over the past decade, making this less of an issue.


Why You Might Need a Great Room

If you live in a house with an open floor plan and cathedral ceilings, you might want to consider a great room. If your home is often used for hosting family functions or having big groups of people over, great rooms can make things easier, and they also offer more space than traditional living rooms.

As a parent, this room is ideal for young families because we can all be together in the same space while doing different things.


Living Room Pros & Cons

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  • These are the primary living space of most families and provide a gathering space for familiar guests and are cozier of a setting.
  • They tend to provide great comfort and great space to relax, read a book or watch TV.
  • They can feel more intimate due to great rooms feeling too open once all the furniture is put in place giving off minimal privacy.



  • The size of a living room is often smaller than a great room.
  • These are more formal rooms, and living rooms tend to be separate from the adjacent kitchen leaving the cookout of the conversation while getting the meals ready.
  • Another con of a living room is the inability to separate the space. In great rooms, it’s easier to divide a great room into different areas with furniture arrangements and entertainment centers, but this isn’t possible in smaller spaces.


What’s the difference between a great room and a family room?

The primary difference between these two rooms is size and purpose. The family room size has a much smaller square footage than its great room counterpart. A family room is a standalone room whereas the other incorporates several rooms into one large and open space.

A family room is one room that serves as a primary gathering area for families to gather and spend time. This distinction will help you choose what kind of space to create in your homes, so you don’t confuse guests who come over to your place. This room is usually smaller and a more defined space.


Great Room FAQ

How big is a great room?

A great room is larger than a family room; its average square footage can range from 600 square feet and higher. They can occupy up to 50% or more of a floor of a home.


What is considered a great room in a house?

The great room is when you have an open floor concept that combines elements of living rooms, family rooms, dining rooms, and kitchens all into one larger space.


What is a great room in a house?

A room is a great room in a house when it has an open floor plan. With an open floor plan, there are no walls that separate different spaces within the great room.


What is a living room in a house?

living room

A living room can also be called a front parlor or formal sitting area of the home. 


Which is better: Great Room or Living Room?

Having lived in homes with both, I would have to say I prefer the great room much more to the living room. Hosting guests is nice because you can prepare meals and still be a part of the conversation whereas the living room removes anyone in the kitchen from enjoying their company.

As a parent of a young family, the great room has been ideal for staying together and enjoying time together. If I had to build our house all over again the first thing I would start with is a great room.

Learn more about the different rooms in a house
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