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Old 11-04-2005, 04:42 PM
BrainGlutton BrainGlutton is offline
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What is the difference between a salon, parlor, drawing room, sitting room, boudoir?

This week I was in Chicago for a job interview and I visited the Art Institute of Chicago. Among other things, I saw the "Thorne Miniature Rooms" -- http://www.artic.edu/aic/collections/thorne/index.php -- a set of miniature interiors of rooms in (presumably) upper-class home in Europe and the U.S. (plus a couple from China and Japan) from the Tudor period to the 1930s. I noted that some rooms were labeled "salons," some "parlors," some "sitting rooms," some "drawing rooms" -- and I couldn't really tell any difference, any defining characteristics that would seem to warrant the application of these different names. I also saw a couple of "boudoirs." I thought "boudoir" was another word for a bedroom, but in these rooms there were no beds. (There were also several "libraries," which appeared indistinguishable from the other rooms except for the presence of a couple of bookcases and writing-desks.) What exactly is the difference between a "drawing room," "parlor," etc.?
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Old 11-04-2005, 04:55 PM
Sal Ammoniac Sal Ammoniac is offline
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I think the answer is "social class." Only the upper class had drawing rooms, to which one would "withdraw" after dinner. Salons and parlors would seem to me to be indistinguishable, except it's my impression that in the past, either "salon" or "parlor" would be held by somebody to be a vulgar term (though I think maybe a "salon" would be a public receiving room in a high-class household). "Sitting room" again is an upper-class term for a room where the ladies would sit during the day, doing their needlework, I guess.

"Boudoir" is a room off a bedroom, where an upper-class woman might have a couch and maybe a toilet table. "Boudoir" comes from the French "bouder," to sulk. So I guess it's where ladies went to sulk when they didn't feel like going all the way to bed.
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Old 11-04-2005, 05:07 PM
Sattua Sattua is offline
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I do not know the precise differences between many of these rooms, but I did once read that Jane Austen was the master of knowing which was which and implying lots of things about the characters that owned them, just by the names. Incidentally, in her books, the very large sitting rooms of very grand houses are sometimes called "saloons."

I think that a drawing room is a sitting room especially for ladies, and usually on the second floor. Its name does come from "withdrawing room," originally a sitting room separate from the main Hall in Elizabethan houses.

A sitting room did not have to be upper-class; it is simply the word for "living room" or "family room"--the room where people did everything.

A salon meaning a group of intellectuals who have nothing better to do than drink coffee and argue, and a salon meaning a kind of room, are different things. I suspect that a salon and a saloon are the same thing... but I will have to research it.

Finally, a parlor is, I believe, a low-class "gussied up" term for a sitting room. In Emma, Harriet says that her farmer friends have "two parlors... two very good parlors."

All of this is stated with reservation and without research--though I am DEFINITELY going to look into this!
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Old 11-04-2005, 05:07 PM
Sattua Sattua is offline
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I do not know the precise differences between many of these rooms, but I did once read that Jane Austen was the master of knowing which was which and implying lots of things about the characters that owned them, just by the names. Incidentally, in her books, the very large sitting rooms of very grand houses are sometimes called "saloons."

I think that a drawing room is a sitting room especially for ladies, and usually not on the ground floor. Its name does come from "withdrawing room," originally a sitting room separate from the main Hall in Elizabethan houses.

A sitting room did not have to be upper-class; it is simply the word for "living room" or "family room"--the room where people did everything.

A salon meaning a group of intellectuals who have nothing better to do than drink coffee and argue, and a salon meaning a kind of room, are different things. I suspect that a salon and a saloon are the same thing... but I will have to research it.

Finally, a parlor is, I believe, a low-class "gussied up" term for a sitting room. In Emma, Harriet says that her farmer friends have "two parlors... two very good parlors."

All of this is stated with reservation and without research--though I am DEFINITELY going to look into this!
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Old 11-04-2005, 05:17 PM
Sattua Sattua is offline
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Cursory investigation at dictionary.com indicates:

A sitting room is an informal place for the family to spend their time.
A drawing room is a formal place to meet visitors.
A salo(o)n is a very large room capable of handling public exhibitions, balls, etc.
A parlo(u)r is a small private room where people can have some privacy.
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Old 11-04-2005, 06:46 PM
Backwater Under_Duck Backwater Under_Duck is offline
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[Catherwood] You may sit here it the waiting room...
or wait here in the sitting room... [/Catherwood]
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Old 11-04-2005, 07:48 PM
Polycarp Polycarp is offline
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Following dinner, upper-class ladies withdrew to the (with)drawing room, while the gentlemen went for cigars and conversation to the parlor (from parler). A salon was specifically for entertaining company; use of the other rooms might suggest a more intimate relationship than invited guest. (In a mansion with a salon, an invitation to join the host/-ess in the parlor implied a closer friendship than those invited to a soirée held in the salon.)
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Old 11-02-2017, 10:04 PM
Peter Morris Peter Morris is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sattua View Post
Cursory investigation at dictionary.com indicates:

A sitting room is an informal place for the family to spend their time.
A drawing room is a formal place to meet visitors.
A salo(o)n is a very large room capable of handling public exhibitions, balls, etc.
A parlo(u)r is a small private room where people can have some privacy.

And the Grand Hall is where his lordship holds his balls and dances.
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Old 02-07-2016, 06:32 PM
LSLGuy LSLGuy is online now
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It took 10 years to come up with that WAG?
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Old 02-08-2016, 05:39 AM
duncs duncs is offline
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I guess that this has been answered by now. I call the main room in the house the living room and my wife calls it the sitting room. My young son, who can't decide between the two, has now started calling it the sieving room
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Old 02-08-2016, 06:01 AM
epbrown01 epbrown01 is offline
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On HGTV I was stunned to see a home resto that had a boudoir. They defined a boudoir as a sitting room connected to a bedroom, typically getting to the bedroom was only do-able by passing thru the boudoir. Considered part of the bedroom in terms of private space, so not just anyone would be welcome in there. The surprise was that, the way the explained it, the term made sense in how I've heard it used. Could be wrong though.
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Old 02-08-2016, 10:30 AM
Leo Bloom Leo Bloom is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by epbrown01 View Post
On HGTV I was stunned to see a home resto that had a boudoir. ...
"Home resto"?

"HGTV"? Home&Garden TV (cable network)?
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Old 02-08-2016, 11:19 AM
May 20 May 20 is offline
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Originally Posted by Leo Bloom View Post
"Home resto"?
Home restoration

Quote:
"HGTV"? Home&Garden TV (cable network)?
Yes

  #14  
Old 02-08-2016, 11:46 AM
Really Not All That Bright Really Not All That Bright is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by epbrown01 View Post
On HGTV I was stunned to see a home resto that had a boudoir. They defined a boudoir as a sitting room connected to a bedroom, typically getting to the bedroom was only do-able by passing thru the boudoir. Considered part of the bedroom in terms of private space, so not just anyone would be welcome in there. The surprise was that, the way the explained it, the term made sense in how I've heard it used. Could be wrong though.
Well, bedrooms themselves were associated with sex in Victorian times, and couches were initially seen as a titillating furniture piece because they were a bit like beds. Before they came along everyone sat on wooden chairs.
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Old 02-08-2016, 12:44 PM
Diceman Diceman is offline
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It seems to me that the modern equivalents to sitting room, drawing room, and parlor (in broad strokes) would be family room, living room, and den. The living room is usually more formal than the family room. If you have company over, you take them to the living room; if you're going to sit on the couch and watch TV while eating last night's cold pizza, you're gonna do it in the family room. A den, like a parlor, usually comes with the expectation of a small degree of privacy.
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Old 02-08-2016, 01:02 PM
Hilarity N. Suze Hilarity N. Suze is offline
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I wonder if you could tell what kind of room you were in by what you were sitting on. I.e. davenport, settee, couch, sofa, divan. chaise longue (that's be the boudoir I'll bet). I think the settee is in the parlor, the davenport is in the salon, the sofa's in the sitting room, and the couch is in the drawing room, but that's just a guess.
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Old 11-02-2017, 08:32 AM
SanVito SanVito is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hilarity N. Suze View Post
I wonder if you could tell what kind of room you were in by what you were sitting on. I.e. davenport, settee, couch, sofa, divan. chaise longue (that's be the boudoir I'll bet). I think the settee is in the parlor, the davenport is in the salon, the sofa's in the sitting room, and the couch is in the drawing room, but that's just a guess.
Now, here's can of worms. I use Sofa/Settee pretty interchangeably, but lean towards sofa. Is that a sign of my being a middle-class Brit? Are big squashy long chairs class conscious? I suspect they might be.

Couch to me seems quite the American word, but a Brit will be along in a moment to tell me that's precisely what they say in Welsh mining towns or some such.
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Old 11-03-2017, 01:05 PM
DrCube DrCube is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Diceman View Post
It seems to me that the modern equivalents to sitting room, drawing room, and parlor (in broad strokes) would be family room, living room, and den. The living room is usually more formal than the family room. If you have company over, you take them to the living room; if you're going to sit on the couch and watch TV while eating last night's cold pizza, you're gonna do it in the family room. A den, like a parlor, usually comes with the expectation of a small degree of privacy.
In my family it was the opposite. The family room was for family gatherings, and conversation. Not formal exactly, but more formal than the living room, where it wouldn't be uncommon to eat cereal in your underwear and watch Three Stooges on TV. Our family room had no TV.

Quote:
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I was once watching CSPAN in the 90s when someone came on talking about teaching African American children and said that it's easier to teach when you choose vocabulary your audience would be more likely to understand, and one of the examples was "in one group of students you'd say 'sofa', the other 'couch'", and for the life of my I can't tell which item was supposedly more in use by the white or black students! I can't imagine anyone in America not knowing both terms, if not using both. I tend to use "couch" more although I think I say sofa from time to time.
To this Midwesterner, "couch" is the longer, three cushion variety, "sofa" is the shorter, two cushion version, though I'd recognize them as roughly synonymous when other people use the terms. I use "couch" as the more generic term to refer to both, or even anything bearing a resemblance, like a sectional or chaise.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Hilarity N. Suze View Post
I wonder if you could tell what kind of room you were in by what you were sitting on. I.e. davenport, settee, couch, sofa, divan. chaise longue (that's be the boudoir I'll bet). I think the settee is in the parlor, the davenport is in the salon, the sofa's in the sitting room, and the couch is in the drawing room, but that's just a guess.
And the Chesterfield is in the den!
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Old 02-08-2016, 07:27 AM
LSLGuy LSLGuy is online now
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For what little it's worth, my aged MIL refers to what the rest of us call the living room or great room as the parlor. Hers or anyone else's, be it grand or humble.

For awhile I had a McMansion with 3 similar rooms: formal living room, converted basement TV/rec room & converted basement bar room. Only the first of these rated "parlor" in her terminology.

She now fancies herself a middle-upper crust proper New Englander from the very early 20th century. With pretensions to be Edwardian; IOW ~20 years before she was born, much less raised. She is actually a New Englander, but born here to peasant immigrants (non-British) who worked hard with their hands.

So I'm not sure if parlor is authentic usage from her childhood, or an affectation she's nurtured for 80 years since first reading Jane Austen. She has quite a few of those. She's so cute in her idiosyncrasies.

Last edited by LSLGuy; 02-08-2016 at 07:30 AM.
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Old 11-01-2017, 07:34 PM
madsircool madsircool is offline
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I couldn't find the thread from the last week or two but it seems there are many opinions; from Stephen Kings It:

"The sound of the piano came from what his father called the living room and what his mother called the parlor."

Author and characters from Maine.
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Old 11-01-2017, 08:11 PM
Beckdawrek Beckdawrek is offline
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There's was a zombie in the boudoir!
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Old 11-02-2017, 10:28 PM
Beckdawrek Beckdawrek is offline
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My mother always called the sofa the divan, maybe shortened from davenport, IDK. And the living room was always the Front room. She was wild!
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Old 11-03-2017, 11:41 AM
DSYoungEsq DSYoungEsq is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Beckdawrek View Post
My mother always called the sofa the divan, maybe shortened from davenport, IDK. And the living room was always the Front room. She was wild!
No, divan is not a shortened form of davenport. It's a word from Persian, via Turkish, then French/Italian. The original word is dīwān, meaning "bench", usually created by raising a portion of the floor next to the wall.
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Old 11-04-2017, 02:14 AM
jtur88 jtur88 is offline
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It might be worth mentioning "saloon", as distinct from "salon". In American usage, it has come to simply mean a place where drunk cowboys shoot each other and glass objects. But originally, it meant a quiet place attached to a drinking establishment, or any other such peaceful place for the general public, such as on a ship. Nowadays, in British usage, it is synonymous with "sedan" to distinguish higher priced automobiles. I once owned a Jaguar MK Saloon.

Last edited by jtur88; 11-04-2017 at 02:17 AM.
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