In modern homes and apartments, the living room has replaced the old fashioned parlor. In the 19th century, the parlor was the room in the house where the recently deceased were laid out before their funeral. This became the more affirmative term "living room" in the 20th century.
The term marks the twentieth-century effort of architects and builders to strip the parlor of its burial and mourning associations. A typical western living room will be furnished with a sofa, chairs, occasional tables, a television or stereo equipment, and bookshelves, as well as other pieces of furniture. Traditionally, a sitting room in the United Kingdom would have a fireplace. In Japan, people traditionally sat on tatami instead of chairs, but Western style decor is also common these days.
In the United States, sometimes the living room is reserved for more formal and quiet entertaining while a separate recreation room or family room is used for more casual activities and drinking. In recent years, the term "great room" has come to be used to denote the family room, especially if it is open to the kitchen, and may feature a vaulted ceiling.
The term front room can also be used to describe a living room, because in many homes the front door opens into the living room.