What Is a Parlor Room?

When we hear the term “parlor,” we think of dated and stuffy spaces filled with overly decorative furniture. Yet, during its heyday, the Parlor was the place to be seen and be seen. Its welcoming ideals, designed with lively conversation in mind, established a genial standard that is still flourishing in modern living rooms today.

Wood flooring in basement rec room area with a lot of space

In contrast to your modern sitting or lounge rooms, the Parlor was only used on Sundays to entertain guests and celebrate family events such as weddings, births, and deaths. The rest of the time, the room was kept closed, and a large, heavy pair of curtains were drawn across the windows to keep your finest furniture and ornaments from fading in the sunlight.

The Parlor was not replaced by the less formal setting, living, and drawing rooms until the twentieth century. These rooms all provided the opportunity for a more relaxed environment with less formality, a space that the entire family, not just guests, could enjoy.[toc]

What Is The Purpose Of A Parlor Room?

Elegant parlor interior

Through the Victorian times, the Parlor was the front room of every middle and upper-class home, for some, it was used solely to receive and entertain guests, while for others, it was used to foster family intimacy.

The Parlor was a reflection of the family’s personality. So much money and thought went into the furnishings and designs.

Today, the parlor room has been replaced in modern homes by the living room, sitting room, or den, which can be formal or casual. But you still have a parlor room in your home as it is the perfect place to entertain guests while showcasing works of art, display items, and the family’s best furnishings or the perfect room to place a grand piano. 

Why Is It Called A Parlor?

The term “parlor room” originates in medieval times, when monasteries were prevalent. The outer Parlor served as a place for monks to conduct business, while the inner Parlor served as a focal point of conversation. Having a reception room like this was a sign of social status in the 18th and Gregorian eras.

The term “parlor” comes from the French word “parler,” which means “to speak.” As with the monastery, it was originally intended to be used to converse with people, almost as an audience in the reception room

The term “double parlor” refers to two adjacent living rooms, usually separated by a pocket door.

Parlor Or Parlour? 

There is an American and UK variation in spelling to parlo(u)r room. The French room was adapted to English and the French spell it either parlour or Parlor.

This being said, you should use “parlor” for an American text while “parlour” for UK English. 

Parlor Decorating Ideas

Comfortable sofa with cushions located on carpet near table in light living room with window and door in modern flat

Your parlor room is one of the most important parts of your home because it is where you will entertain the majority of your guests and where you will spend the majority of your day relaxing.

As a result, you must incorporate two elements into the design: comfort and style. These are decorative ideas that you can achieve through interior décor planning and execution.

Start with One Focal Point. Whatever style you choose, having an inspiring piece of art can help spark ideas. Choose the main center wall or, if you have a fireplace mantle, the space above it to display a favorite piece of art. These will serve as the starting point for bringing the room together.

Add a Modern Wall Paneling. You don’t need heavy wallpaper patterns to add character to your interior, as you can have a modern architectural trim-work to add richness to your walls without being overbearing.  These are perfect as focal points or to fill in the void between your walls. 

Tip: Use a molding profile 9/16″ x 1 9/16″ fingers jointed pine panel molding.

Add Pieces from the Traditional English Parlor. Traditional parlors included sumptuous materials, antique details, and classic silhouettes. It’s difficult to top the effortless grace of traditional English parlors.

Traditional tables and settees set the tone for sophisticated gatherings, while worldly accents and rugs complete the look you are going for. 

Comfortable couch and tables located near stylish lamp in spacious room with piano and tv at home

Add a Statement Lighting Fixture. Lighting is a favorite design element because, when used correctly, it can be so dynamic, and it anchors together so many design elements in one feature.

A statement lighting fixture can be eye-catching with a bold, design-forward appearance, but a traditional shape can have that classic character and charm. An impressive light fixture such as a chandelier can draw the eye.

You can also go for a mix of modern and regency vibes; this is ideal for a traditional design in a home with a modern design flow. Don’t forget other lighting as well, like a floor lamp in the corners or positioned next to an end table or sofa.

Go for the Maximalist Millennial. An update from your traditional English Parlors while having that richness and character is going for the maximalist style.

This includes eclectic artwork, modern wallpaper prints, a mix of Mid-century furniture, and unusual color palettes such as a combination of indigo, emerald green, and blue. If you have a tile or hardwood floor, bring in a rug to frame the space and enhance the style.

Add Potted Plants. Make the space more inviting by using potted plants. Plant them in decorative or plain-colored pots on either side of the fireplace, or hang a hanging basket in a room corner.

Choose plants that complement the size of the floor plan; for example, if the room is large, use large plants; if thespace is small, use smaller, more compact plants. 

Beautiful open concept interior with panel wall

Add a Mini Coffee or Tea Bar. Your coffee or tea stations need not be in a fixed area. Choose to have a mobile coffee or tea bar station where you can easily move it around your parlor area.

It is best to have it custom-made if you can’t find your parlor room’s correct size and function. Read more home bar ideas on a budget here.

Add a Place for Cups and Crumpets. You’ll want to make sure there’s a place for snacks and drinks. A tufted ottoman is perfect for servings, but it lacks a hard surface for drinks or snack plates. In this case, simply adding a serving tray will suffice. 

Epoxy Resin Coffee Table. If you are still a little short on budget but need an exquisite table, then you can get an epoxy coffee table. These tables are your best bet to add an appealing and alluring look to the room and can complement the other furniture as well.

Go for Geometric Shelves. Hexagon shelves have been the craze lately, which is perfect for holding books, wine bottles, décor, and many more. However, there are a plethora of geometric shelves that you can showcase on your parlor wall.

They look good in any modern floor plan while being highly functional in the space. These shelves are in themselves works of art and can be paired with wall decals or paintings. 

Add a Crystal Décor. From Gwyneth Paltrow to David Beckham, crystals are taking over the interior décor. If you’re looking for a standout and conversational piece in your design, crystals are the perfect investment décor in lieu of fine art. They bring positivity to a space while adding texture and color to the layer of elements. 

Spacious room designed in showy way with chandelier

Chubby Sofas. Layered seats or having different chairs and sofas from different eras is a trend in parlor rooms.

While Mid-century aesthetics is popular, you might want to add the modern chubby sofa to your ensemble. These chubby sofas are extremely comfortable and add a fresh and relaxed visual to your layout

What Is The Difference Between A Parlor And A Sitting Room?

Modern interior design with stairs grey colours white walls

A sitting area is often smaller and a lot cozier and is devoted mainly to comfort and conversation without the distractions from a television or other electronic equipment.

It is usually a mix of two or four armchairs facing each other and often overstuffed. In addition, it can either be formal or informal. 

While a sitting room typically has a sofa, a couch, club chairs, or armchairs, a living space meanwhile is more complex. The living room usually includes a small area for sitting, but it also has an entertainment or multimedia center and storage cupboards. 

The decor also plays a vital role in the living room. These can be in the form of paintings or sculptures, for instance. You can also have a fireplace, a piano, and other architectural accent features.

Living rooms can be a part of an open plan and are generally the most prominent entertainment area of a home, while a parlor is more private and smaller in area compared to the living room

Parlor vs. Living Room

Room interior with colorful area rug large couch and abundant natural light

Nowadays, the formal and primary space where guests are received and entertained is the living room. Living rooms can also be part of an open plan and are typically the home’s largest entertainment area. See our living room design ideas gallery here.

On the other hand, parlor rooms are spaces where guests can be received but primarily display the family’s collection of artworks, books, décor, furniture, and other items. It is usually located in a private and enclosed area where family and guests gather. 

Drawing Room vs. Parlor

Colorful and cozy room with a designer armchair and sofa along with a round decorative mirror and glass wall

Parlor is derived from the French word parlor, which means “to speak.” It was frequently used as a formal sitting room where people could gather on Sundays or special occasions. It was where families kept their best furniture and works of art.

A Drawing Room, meanwhile, is a space where visitors could be entertained, and it was derived from the term “Withdrawing Room”, which was a room where people could withdraw for more privacy.

The term first appeared in the 18th century and refers to a space that is primarily used for entertaining guests. It is not a room where the homeowners spend their leisure time, but rather a space where guests are accommodated before and after dinner.

Check our beautiful living room decorating ideas for more related content to help you create your own stunning interior designs.

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One Comment

  1. Loved this article! The concept of a parlor room is so interesting, especially the evolution of its purpose over time. I’m fascinated by the idea of creating a cozy and inviting space for relaxation and entertainment. Definitely looking forward to implementing some of these design ideas in my own home!

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