Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Name That Room

This is only very loosely related to the blog's new ecofrugal focus, but it's something that's been on my mind:

Last night, after a long session of working on the basement floor (which is progressing slowly, but surely), Brian remarked that the new floor had really transformed the room. It now looked, he observed, "like a room." This might seem like a non-statement, but it's actually a pretty striking observation. When we first laid eyes on that basement, it looked like a basement—a semi-finished, walk-out basement, but a basement nonetheless. From the fake wood paneling to the cruddy vinyl floor to the bare light bulbs, everything about it said that no one was really taking it seriously as a room. But the work we've put into it has transformed it into a real room—bright and well-lit and decidedly finished.

The problem is, we're still in the habit of referring to this room as "the basement." That makes it sound like a dark, musty area that's used only for storage, or perhaps for the occasional woodworking project. If we're going to start thinking of this room as a proper room, it needs a proper name. But what?

My mom has occasionally referred to this room-in-progress as our "family room," but that doesn't sound right to me. A "family room" is the room where you spend time as a family—as opposed to a formal living room, which isn't really for "living" at all, but only for looking at. If it gets used at all, it's only when company comes, and only when the company is someone you don't feel comfortable enough with to treat them as family and sit in the family room. But in our house, the living room is actually used as a living room; it's the place where we sit and watch TV and generally hang out. So the basement room definitely won't be a "family room"; if anything, it will be just the opposite, a big space that we use mainly for entertaining. I've heard of finished basements being referred to as rec rooms (for "recreation"), but to me that term suggests a space whose main feature is a pool table, or a foosball table, or perhaps a big TV set. Definitely not the kind of recreation we have in mind for our room, which will more likely involve board games and perhaps the occasional music party.

I suppose we could call the room the dining room, as our house doesn't currently have one, and this large basement room is the only one in the house big enough to accommodate a full-sized dining table. But this won't be the main room that we use for eating, and eating won't be the main function of the room. If we ever have dinner parties, we'll certainly have them downstairs, as it's the only room big enough, but the big dining table will be used for board games more often than for meals, and the room will also have a sitting area that doesn't fit in with the "dining" function. "Living room/dining room" is a term that might cover both functions, but our house already has a living room, and we're not planning to switch our main living area from upstairs to downstairs.

On the decorating shows, they often refer to a finished attic or basement as a "bonus room," but this term seems to imply that it's an extra space that you get thrown in for free—not really part of the main house. I want the name we give to this room to make it clear that it's a real part of our house, even if it's one we don't use every day. The names of most rooms come from their functions (living room, dining room, bedroom), but this room will be used for a variety of functions—dining, gaming, music, entertaining, and occasionally putting up overnight guests. So what do we call it? The game room? The party room? The great room (because it's large)? The gathering room? Or should we name it for its location, rather than its function, and just call it "downstairs"?

Any suggestions?
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