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What Is a Drawing Room?

When you hear the phrase “drawing room“, do you picture fancy draperies, formal sofas and fine collectibles? What distinguishes the drawing room from the other rooms of the house? When I was growing up, my best friend had a drawing room in her home. It was near the front door, it was beautifully decorated with botanical art and embroidered pillows, and it featured plenty of seating (as well as a piano). In short, a drawing room is a room where you can visit with guests or spend some quiet time alone. Continue reading to learn more about the history and function of this relaxing yet thoughtfully appointed space…

Drawing room by Graham Atkins-Hughes

Drawing Room Basics

The name “drawing room” comes from the phrase “withdrawing room”, which was used from the 16th-18th century in England (after which, “drawing room” became more popular). In fact, this room was where a person could “withdraw” for a bit of peace and quiet. Homeowners and their guests appreciated having a private space for reflection and relaxation. [photo from Lonny]

Beautifully appointed drawing room

In fact, after dinner, the ladies would often withdraw to the drawing room, to be followed by the gentlemen. This practice continued into the 20th century. The drawing room was also a place to entertain guests, as well as visit with them. [photo from Lonny]

Traditional drawing room with high ceilings

The term “parlor” became more popular than “drawing room” as time went on, and today “drawing room” isn’t a widely used term. If a home has more than one living room, the drawing room would be the more formal space, sometimes called the “sitting room” or the “formal living room”. [first photo below from Lonny]

Red drawing room with a chandelier
Drawing room by WN Interiors

The drawing room is often closer to the front door, a bit out of the way. Whereas the typical family living area may see its healthy share of traffic, a drawing room is more likely to have the more expensive furniture. Or at least, the furnishings that are meant to be a bit more protected from pets and children!

Drawing room by Lally Walford Interiors

Rather than involving the term “drawing room,” some people use the words “den” and “living room” to distinguish between two living areas in the same home. The den is the comfier room (often with a television), while the living room may refer to the more formal space. [photo by Ron Blunt Architectural Photography for Reader & Swartz Architects, PC]

Contemporary drawing room with modern bookshelves

Drawing Room Design

Now it’s time to enjoy some design inspiration…the stunning drawing rooms below are sure to spark your creativity! First up: make sure your drawing room includes plenty of comfy seating. While accommodating guests is important, carve out a special space where you can enjoy a quiet moment or two! [photo from Lonny]

Comfy drawing room with ample light

Button tufting can add a formal feel that’s perfect for drawing room style, and many of today’s tufted seating options are also super comfy! Maximize seating options with a sectional sofa:

Petrie Sectional Sofa from Crate & Barrel

Throw pillows are a great way to add color, pattern and comfort to your drawing room:

Patterned pillows from Crate & Barrel

Choose a color palette that you truly enjoy. For some, soothing neutrals are the answer. For others, brighter colors are uplifting and rejuvenating.

Drawing room from HD Wallpapers

Don’t be afraid to combine a variety of styles and pieces, from antiques to more modern furnishings. This strategy will give your drawing room an eclectic feel that also channels the past. We’re loving the crisp feel of the space below, as well as the interesting arrangement of books on the shelves. [photo from Lonny]

Unique drawing room style

Don’t be afraid to incorporate interesting artwork, cherished family pieces, and an array of objets d’art. More is more in this next featured drawing room! [photo by James McDonald for Alilad]

Drawing room with eclectic style

Also note that reflective surfaces and metallic touches can add retro-modern elegance to today’s drawing room:

Furniture and decor from CB2

For instant glamour and ornate style, go with patterned wallpaper. You can channel the past with the right wall treatment, adding a chic backdrop to your drawing room! [photo from Lonny]

Drawing room style

Last but not least, a pendant light or chandelier can be the perfect finishing touch to a formal living area, serving as a bright spot and an unforgettable focal point:

Elegant drawing room by London Basement
Pendant lighting and tufted seating from CB2

[photo below by Paul Craig Photography for Cochrane Design]

Drawing room with a chandelier

Whether you call this room of the house a drawing room, parlor, formal living room, or just plain “living room”, enjoy putting your personal stamp on the space that will welcome your family (and guests) through the years.

Colorful living room photographed by Colin Cadle

Kate Simmons

Kate Simmons is a freelance writer and design blogger with a love of all things decor. She spent her childhood writing stories and working on interior design-themed DIY projects. Kate’s published writing reflects her special interest in how design has changed through the decades. Her blog Mirror80 ( http://mirror80.com/) explores the fashion and [...]

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