Simple Elements of a Keeping Room

Once upon a time, homes were built with warmth being the most important thing in mind. Many old homes have small rooms adjacent to the kitchen that house a fireplace. Modern homes are, once again, adding these spaces. Back in the 18th-century people coined the term “Keeping Room” and these spaces served a specific purpose. Let’s talk about simple elements of these spaces.

green velvet sofa in a keeping room with a red brick fireplace

Have you ever had a room, or space, in your home that you had no idea what it was for? That is exactly how I felt when we moved into our current home, built in the late 90’s, and we had an awkward extension off of the kitchen.

Our kitchen is set up with a typical cooking area, eat in kitchen area, and an island. Off of this area, we have a small open area in front of our kitchen fireplace.

I love our kitchen and have ever since I looked at this home, but there was this random space in our kitchen that I didn’t know what to do with when we first moved in.

To be honest, the extra space annoyed me because it seemed out of place and like it didn’t have a purpose. I don’t like spaces without a purpose. Maybe it’s my minimalist mindset that makes me feel that way.

The awkward area was situated in front of our kitchen fireplace and it was large enough to have some seating, but not large enough to be considered a family room.

Basically, it was an awkward space that was an awkward size.

green velvet sofa in a keeping room with a brick fireplace

How did I learn about this type of room?

I struggled to decorate and make sense of the area until I saw another decor instagrammer mention that she had a “keeping room” in her kitchen.

A keeping room? What is this room?

I noticed that her keeping room looked an awful lot like the weird area in our kitchen, so I began to research them and discovered that that is what we have in our kitchen!

It’s amazing how simply defining a space and knowing the purpose of it can help immensely with the decorating of it.

And, with that, let me share a few key details of a traditional keeping room.

green velvet sofa in a keeping room in a cottage kitchen

What is a Keeping Room?

A keeping room is a space off of the main kitchen area, but it is still included in the kitchen.

They were a staple in the 18th-century homes in America. They commonly had fireplaces or heating stoves in them and were a small extension in the kitchen.

Back then, most of the cooking happened over the fire in this space connected to the kitchen. People would gather around the fire to keep warm as the lady of the house cooked.

More recently, they are outfitted with a fireplace and are used as a small seating area for people to enjoy as the cook works in the kitchen.

green velvet sofa in a keeping room with an antique buffet

Keeping Room versus Hearth Room

While some will call their hearth room a keeping room, that’s not necessarily true.

Keeping Rooms are small and the purpose is for people to enjoy the fire while someone cooks. They are also not large enough to be a stand alone room.

A modern day hearth room is usually used for entertainment and they are larger spaces that could, easily, be considered an entirely separate room.

Hearth rooms are typically sectioned off by a wide doorway or are sunken in, creating the feel of a different space. Keeping rooms are, clearly, part of the kitchen area and have no doorway or wide opening leading into it. It is, simply speaking, part of the kitchen.

green velvet sofa in a keeping room with a side table and glass of ice water

Simple Elements of a Keeping Room

Keeping rooms have a specific purpose, so what are some of the key elements of a these rooms? What should all, or most, of them include to be considered an actual keeping room?

  • Fireplace– All of these spaces should have a heat source, such as a fireplace. This is the key element for all of these rooms. Without it, the purpose of the space is lost.
  • Sitting area– In order to enjoy the fire and keep warm, the space must have some form of seating. Many times, things are arranged to make conversation easy in the space.
  • Bookshelves– Not all of them have bookshelves, but many modern keeping rooms do. The shelving will either flank the fireplace or completely surround it- going from one side, up over the top of the fireplace, and down the other side.
  • Desk– Some keeping rooms are small and offer only a limited area. For these rooms, a desk and chair is a perfect element to add.
  • Pillows and Blankets– People used these rooms to stay warm, so having blankets to throw over a lap is a great item to have for the space.

How to decorate a Keeping Room

Now that you know what a this room is, let’s talk about the best way to decorate it.

Decorating this room can feel tricky because the space isn’t huge, which means you must pick your furniture wisely.

It is also part of the kitchen, so it needs to have a seamless and cohesive flow from the kitchen to the keeping room.

Anchor the Space

The best and quickest way to anchor the space is with a rug. I have used both a jute rug and a vintage rug in our keeping room. It instantly creates a defined area for the keeping room and gives parameters to work within.

Cozy the Space

These rooms are intended to be cozy and inviting. Create a cozy feel by adding in some comfy chairs or a small loveseat. I have had both chairs and a loveseat in our keeping room. Right now, I’m preferring the loveseat, but if I found the perfect chairs, I think I would switch things up!

Use the Fireplace

Keeping rooms all have fireplaces. This is a staple element of a keeping room, so light that fire during the chilly months and enjoy the soft glow while you’re cooking.

antique wooden buffet with dishes

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green velvet sofa in a keeping room

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4 Comments

  1. So I thought that our awkward space might be this until I read farther into your post! Darn! We have everything in a keeping room—minus a fireplace / bookshelves. Seven years here and still cannot find a way to decorate it and feel content!

    1. I think you should just call it a Keeping Room anyway. 😉 It is hard when you have a space and don’t know what to do with it. Maybe get a small, electric fireplace and set it in your area.

  2. I’d love to have one of those! My kitchen is separated from my living room and I truly wish we had a place for my kids or guest to be comfy while I cook for them.

    1. I love having this space, now that I know what it is. It’s also nice for when kiddos are feeling sick and want to be “with me” but I have meals to prepare. 🙂

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