Where the dining room of the Victorian and Edwardian eras was much the domain of the gentleman, so the drawing room was where the ladies would congregate. Here’s a little bit about the charming history of the drawing room, and how to create the effect in your period home.
The drawing room would sometimes be called the ‘front parlour’ or ‘sitting room’. ‘Parlour’ comes from the French ‘parler’ which means ‘to talk’. But in fact the term ‘drawing’ came from ‘withdrawing’, which denoted how the ladies of the household would retire to their dedicated quarters after a meal.
With its feminine focus, the drawing room would generally have a lighter feel both décor and furnishings wise than the dining room. In the early Victorian era, the drawing room found itself on the move down from its first floor Georgian location, and to the front of the house. Later it relocated to the rear of the property, so that the dining room could take up the front space as a reception area for the men of the house to receive their guests.
The Use of the Drawing Room
A rear drawing room would usually have French doors leading out into the garden, and would generally only be used on Sundays or when special dinners were held. The middle classes would often use them outside these times to hold musical events or for similar special occasions.
Because the drawing room was very much a space for public gatherings, it would be a place where flamboyance would reign when it came to furniture. Highly decorative pieces would feature, although they would usually be crafted from lighter timbers and the overall decorative scheme would be floral.
The drawing room would very much be one of the grandest rooms of the home, and if there was to be an upgrade to coincide with the latest fashions, this would be the place it would happen first. Overall it would hold a jovial feel, and it would demonstrate the family’s standing in society.
The key feature of the drawing room was by far the fireplace, which was an incredibly opulent adornment, although generally lighter than its dining room counterpart. There would be a fender; irons; a coal box and a fire screen. Above the fireplace you would see an ornamental mantelpiece bedecked with candlesticks and ornamental vases, wax flowers and glass-domed stuffed birds, with a mirror hung above. 18th century mirrors were very costly and so would be framed in the same way as glass, which would demonstrate the household’s wealth.
Drawing Room Furniture
Drawing room furniture would comprise a comfortable settee where the ladies would sit back and relax in their chatter. There would be leather arm chairs; occasional tables; footstools; sideboards; bookcases; reading stands and a display cabinet to show off the household china. Often there would be an upright piano and a writing bureau and sometimes a needlework table.
Much of the furniture during Victorian times would be crafted from mahogany and oak and some of the wealthier homes would opt for the likes of cherry or rosewood. As the Edwardian era dawned, so furniture became lighter and welcomed worldwide influences such as those from Japan.
Windows would be adorned with satin and lace curtains and punctuated with lush green plants.
If you are looking to replicate the period drawing room in your home, take a look at our living space furniture collections for inspiration! check out our Fine English Furniture