Just as we discovered when exploring the nuances between modern and contemporary design, there's a lot in a label.
While plenty of people use the terms "living room" and "family room" more or less interchangeably, they actually aren't the same thing — larger homes sometimes even have both — and it all comes down to how you use the space.
Along with the kitchen, the living room is the main common space in most family homes, but the exact nature of how to use it has been mysterious for a long time.
According to Joan DeJean, writing for the New York Times, living rooms started out as formal display spaces for welcoming guests in the 17th century, but slowly morphed into the more casual gathering spaces that we know today.
In some contemporary homes, the living room is totally relaxed, but in others, especially larger homes with multiple common areas, the living room retains its more formal underpinnings.