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Old 11-04-2005, 04:42 PM
BrainGlutton BrainGlutton is online now
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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 online now
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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 online now
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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 online now
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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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