Tuesday, 12 June 2012

The English Drawing Room/Sitting Room...What Do You Call Yours?

We have a game in our house called "What shall we call the 'front reception room' today?" There are days when we unselfconsciously call it the 'Drawing Room' and others days when that sounds too 'posh' and it becomes the 'sitting room' or 'the sitting room at the front of the house' or at a push 'the formal sitting room' (which sound terrible naff)...but basically, what we really mean is the nice sitting room, with the good seats where the children aren't allowed to make a mess and the dog isn't allowed to scratch and de-fluff on the antique velvet Chesterfield!

Wikipedia describes the 'drawing room' as "a room in a house where visitors may be entertained." and apparently the name is derived from the sixteenth-century terms withdrawing room and withdrawing chamber.

In a large sixteenth- to early eighteenth-century English house, a withdrawing room was a room to which the owner of the house, his wife, or a distinguished guest who was occupying one of the main apartments in the house could "withdraw" for more privacy.

Now, translate this into my home and it means 'hiding away' with a bottle of red, some Kettle Chips and the Sunday Times on a Sunday afternoon and gaining a little privacy away from the X-Box, or the Wii Just Dance, or the afore mentioned dog de-fluffing (although admittedly, Byron does have his posh bed in the 'drawing room', where he behaves impeccably and one imagines dreams of chasing pheasant and well bred grouse rather than the usual rabbits and pigeons that frequent the garden. Speaking of Byron, he thought that all of his Christmas's had come at once last week, when a deer found it's way into the garden. Of course we had to remind him that he is in fact the size of a small boot and no match for a shoulder height wild animal with antlers - despite the Disney-esque connotations of deer - and yes - Byron has indeed watched Bambi!)

Anyway - back to the drawing room...now, until the mid-twentieth century, after a dinner the ladies of a dinner party withdrew to the drawing room, leaving the gentlemen at table, where the cloth was removed. After an interval of conversation, the gentlemen rejoined the ladies in the drawing room. This is the definition that I remember from my childhood - the withdrawing of the 'gentler sex' to the 'Withdrawing room' to remove themselves from cigar smoke and smutty talk. The reality of course being that there is no talk smuttier than when a group of women get together after a glass (or five) of fine wine...or is that just me??!

The term 'drawing room' is not used as widely as it once was, and tends to be used in Britain only by those who also have other reception rooms, such as a morning room - a nineteenth-century designation for a sitting-room, often with east-facing exposure, suited for daytime calls - or the 'lounge', a late nineteenth-century designation for a room in which to relax; hence the drawing room is the smartest room in the house, usually used by the adults of the family when entertaining.

Which leads us once again back to Hill House. We have a what we call a 'family room' which encompasses a television/sitting room, computer area, breakfast table - where we eat most meals, and which leads on to the kitchen. Hence it's very handy to be able to have a more 'formal' room without a television in it, so that in the event of an adult dinner party - and by that I really do mean one that entails clothes and fine food - one can sit somewhere afterwards with coffee and mints to discuss the leading political and social issues of the day (yeah right...) rather than be forced into a late night showing of a Euro 2012 football (soccer) match - or, as is more likely in my house, a rerun of the latest Grand Prix, Formula 1 race - which, regardless of how many 'highlights' one has already been subjected to, apparently needs to be dissected in more and increasing detail every time it's shown on television...yawn.(Darling Husband did you hear that?).

Mine is still awaiting an exciting 'refurb' mainly 'lightening up' with new paint colours, a bit of re-upholstery and perhaps a painting or two - (the dining room is currently getting all of the decorating 'action') but it's still cosy and ultimately a quiet, thoughtful room - which I think is what a drawing room is all about isn't it?

So now you've 'seen' mine - do you have a special 'Grown up' room in your house, and if so - what do you call yours?



  1. I call mine the sitting room as I absolutely detest "lounge". In my book only pubs have them!

  2. Hi Paula,
    We have the 'TV' room, where usually my husband and I spend all of our time. Open fire in winter, 2 sofas, 2 humans and 3 dogs.
    When the boys are home from school, we still cram into the "TV" room.Open fire in winter 2 sofas, 4 humans, 3 dogs.
    When we have guests we add a chair or too and squeeze into the 'TV' room, open fire, still 2 sofas, any number of humans and 3 dogs!!
    That said, we have beautiful 'drawing room', used on high days and holidays-that we always say we should use more often!
    Hope you have a lovely week.

  3. I must admit I use the term sitting room too. It just sounds cosier somehow. BUT it has the TV in it and I am also pestered by Formula 1 and Euro 2012. So I retreat the the conservatory, my space. I would so love a formal room to waft about in and play at being grown up. Yours looks heavenly. I want somewhere that smells of beeswax polish and old roses. It adds to the atmosphere.

    Ps The 'Keep Calm' cards are from www.bluebell33.com

  4. We too have a family room which flows into the kitchen and a posher sitting room which I call "The Adults' Lounge". This always makes me chuckle as I think it sounds as if I need to install a pole in there for a spot of dancing?? Your drawing room is very lovely.
    Hen x

  5. I called it my sitting room until a recent coup d'état of the feline kind. Now we share it with Sophie, Chanel and CoCo, who have decided they like being there ALL the time. Your room is lovely!

  6. Dear Paula ,
    Here we have one sitting room with TV ,two sofas one buffet and coffee table . Next the dining table and next the kitchen. At sitting room we watch TV ,talking ,fun ! I like your room .It is so cosy !

  7. I call my room the Front room although it faces the garden at the back!! It is where we have people over to sit and chat. It is next to the dining room which has large interconnecting doors that slide back if we wish to make it one big room, like at christmas.. but my best room is the front room.. there the dogs are not allowed to sit on the furniture and it shines and sparkles all the time hahah... your room looks delightful too... all the best J

  8. Hi Paula, what a beautiful home you have! We just call ours The Front Room ... Might start calling it the Drawing Room now, sounds much nicer! Xxx

  9. Dear Paula,

    You have some interesting books on your table! I recognised the book from your giveaway. The Lanvin & Dior book look good too.

    We have a room 'en suite', a large dining/sitting room with glass doors in between. This is just perfect. When you want peace and quiet when having a dinner party, you can just close the doors. With three 'chatty' girls in the house this is just perfect :-)!

    Enjoy your evening!

    Madelief x

  10. We call it the living room and I am in the process of making it less formal so the family will actually use it.

    I absolutely love your red and white checked chair!

    All best,

  11. Paula, We have both a formal living room and a family room. I've really never understood calling a parlor the living room as it actually has the least amount of living happening in there. I have dreams of making it or my formal dining room into a library. I host book groups and various teas and showers in the "living room/parlor". Willie is allowed to lay on the rug, but not the furniture in the formal area. He has free rein in the family room. Your drawing room is lovely. Thanks for sharing it with us. Bonnie

  12. Mine is either the living room or sitting room depending on the mood but sometimes revert to Front room as this is what it was called at home as a child. Don't like the word Lounge. Patricia

  13. Hi Paula, our home is a very open design with a large kitchen, dining & family room all rolled into one. We have a 'rumpus' room off this area that is our main evening TV space... I am afraid that what was supposed to be our front 'sitting room' I have acquired as my studio
    which is also a great reading room when I want to escape!
    Loved reading your post, best wishes Kerry

    1. How wonderful - I think that every household should have a 'Rumpus' room - it sounds like great fun!!

  14. Dear Paula - I thought the drawing room was for drawing? Huh? Just kidding :-) I actually knew the origin of the term....Ta Da!

    I love the tall, long windows in your drawing room. So stately. And, yes, so posh! Love all your books, chairs, and cushions.

    We just call ours living room. I guess the other rooms are for non living :)

    ciao ciao!

  15. What a great post! I learned a few things and laughed even more...you are definitely fun to be around:) Love that red gingham chair; o'k the whole room looks amazing. I bet it looks fabulous at night too. We have the same problem...what to call rooms...our front room, is the living room, which we tend to go to after dinner, lay around and finish our wine:)

  16. Hallo Paula, wij hebben geen groot huis wij hebben een woonkamer en een grote woonkeuken meestal zijn we overdag in de keuken en 's avonds in de woonkamer waar we met zijn allen tv kijken.
    Ik vindt je laatste foto erg mooi!

    Lieve groet, marjonel

  17. I love seeing your home Paula it's so beautiful. Love your red and white ccheked chair. We have a sitting room and living room but the living room doesn't get used so trying to think of another use for it.

    Enjoy your day!

  18. Oh Paula, I actually have a "drawing room" that I call my STUDIO, for it is in this room that there is a little closet where I hide my laptop and a chair and I write! But when I am not writing, it is a lovely space with a fireplace where I can sit and read, ENTERTAIN my girlfriends while my husband is chatting it up with the men in the far off living room! So for me, it is my studio where dreams are confabulated!!! Anita

  19. "Sitting Room" here. Not big or grand enough for "Drawing Room". In fact, mine is usually an extension of my gardening shed with lots of gardening books, a trowel or two, trugs and twine. Perhaps I should use "Gardening Room"?

  20. We call it the drawing room, but its the only room! And it has a tv in it, and my piano. In france the piano is in a separate room, which we call the music room, but also has a tv in it. So, basically, give me a room, call it what you like, and I'll stuff a piano and a tv in it LOL!

    Your room is v. elegant, and those windows are so, so pretty - I love them. Who is the chess player? xxx

  21. oh my goodness, what a beautiful home you have and a wonderful blog.
    We have a 'sitting room'
    thank you for your lovely comment and i am so happy that it has led me here :o)
    love jooles x

  22. Oh! You have such a lovely home :)

    As for the term, we have a room that we like to call the library, for its large armoire brimming with books, and side tables, overflowing with additional books. There, we curl up with tea and read. It's such a nice spot to escape to.

    Wishing you a lovely day...


  23. p.s I am adding you to my "favorites" section on my blog...

  24. We call the room where we hang out daily 'the den' and the more formal place where we entertain guests 'the living room'. Perhaps I will give it a big fancier name ;o)

  25. Dear Paula
    thank you so much for visiting my blog and for your kind words! About your house and garden, woooow I am speechless, it's just gorgeous! I love all the character! Unfortunately I live in a modern house so I am trying to make it look more "cottagey" through decoration and accessories.. but it's nothing like real period features!

  26. Hello there!
    I don't know how many times I tried to understand the difference between drawing room and sitting room, really.
    In my case the lack of rooms decides. We have all in one and I tend to call it "sitting room" mainly because everything I do in it (except cleaning) is sitting down ;)
    Beautiful blog!
    Garden Chair

  27. Hi Paula,

    I am your newest follower of this wonderful site! I love it! I love the idea of a spot to go and (hopefully be undisturbed!!

    During Spring and Summer, even into the Autumn I love my terrace. It is a place to have my morning coffee, an evening glass of wine, relax to red!

    Art by Karena

  28. Love your drawing/sitting room. I have one too on the front of my house. It is rarely used, but it filled with things I love. I love your gingham chair. So glad you popped in. I love finding a good new blog.

  29. Your home is absolutely delightful Paula - I love your style & the gorgeous large windows.

    I think, by & large, it is all a manner of semantics because different words mean different things to different people.

    A Drawing room is usually a very elegant space,however, for most of us, our lounge (a quite acceptable word in Southern Africa where there are fewer pubs) is our family space with its large inglenook, grandfather clock & French doors onto the conservatory & the garden ....

    Interesting comments & always a lovely blog
    Dee at the Carlton

  30. Hey Paula, I LOVE your Drawing/Sitting room, so elegant yet comfy. Those windows are just fabulous with the view of the garden. I only have one room with sofas, fireplace and TV which we call the living room. One day I would like to add on a family room so we could use this living room as the good room with a library feel! Loved this post and SO good to see more photos of your beautiful home. Your furniture is gorgeous - so my style.


  31. I have always loved the word 'drawing' room that you use in the UK. We just call it sitting room here in Belgium. Drawing room is so much more than only a sitting room!
    Your drawing room is so charming and so very English!!Love it!
    I am always inspired by the English style, that is why I brought so many English inspired things in our house. My dining room is really English styled, I used all the books from Caroline Clifton-Mogg and Jane Churchill to inspire me!

  32. Wonderful post. Thank you! I am just trying to figure out these terms, so this was very helpful and a fun read...

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