Drawing room

Drawing room
Reconstructed drawing room of Sir William Burrell; part of the Burrell Collection in Glasgow, Scotland

A drawing room is a room in a house where visitors may be entertained. The name is derived from the sixteenth-century terms "withdrawing room" and "withdrawing chamber", which remained in use through the seventeenth century, and made its first written appearance in 1642 (OED). In a large sixteenth- to early eighteenth-century English house, a withdrawing room was a room to which the owner of the house, his wife, or a distinguished guest who was occupying one of the main apartments in the house could "withdraw" for more privacy. It was often off the great chamber (or the great chamber's descendant, the state room or salon) and usually led to a formal, or "state" bedroom.[1]

In eighteenth-century London, the royal morning receptions that the French called levées were called "drawing rooms", with the sense originally that the privileged members of court would gather in the drawing room outside the king's bedroom, where he would make his first formal public appearance of the day.

During the American Civil War, in the White House of the Confederacy in Richmond, Virginia, the drawing room was just off of the parlor where C.S.A. President Jefferson Davis would greet his guests. At the conclusion of these greetings, the men would remain in the parlor to talk politics and the women would withdraw to the drawing room for their own conversation. This was common practice in the affluent circles of the Southern United States.

An Indian drawing room

Until the mid-twentieth century, after a dinner the ladies of a dinner party would withdraw to the drawing room, leaving the gentlemen at table, where the cloth was removed. After an interval of conversation, the gentlemen would rejoin the ladies in the drawing room.

The term drawing room is not used as widely as it once was, and tends to be used in Britain only by those who also have other reception rooms, such as a morning room, a nineteenth-century designation for a sitting-room, often with east-facing exposure, suited for daytime calls, or the middle-class lounge, a late nineteenth-century designation for a room in which to relax; hence the drawing room is the smartest room in the house, usually used by the adults of the family when entertaining. Though this term is still widely used in India and Pakistan, probably since the colonial days, in the larger urban houses of the cities where there are many rooms.

The American equivalent was the parlor, or as many would later call it, living room. In French usage the room and the social gathering it contained are equally the salon.


Railroad usage

The term has also been applied to passenger trains, supplanting parlor car, to designate some of the most spacious and expensive private accommodations available on board a sleeping car or private railroad car. In North America, it meant a room that slept three or more, with a private washroom. While Amtrak has retired cars built with drawing rooms, they are currently still used by Via Rail Canada, although the traditional nomenclature is seen as archaic and are officially sold as "triple bedrooms".

Drawing-room plays

The drawing room, being a room in the house to entertain visitors, gave its name to drawing room plays, a genre of theatrical productions and motion pictures. Beginning with the early forms of drama, the drawing room play has evolved to encompass comedy as well as to include the forms of the dramatic monologue. The play format itself has also grown out of the traditional drawing room performance and back into main street theater and film. While the drawing room itself has fallen out of favor, the play format has continued to provide a source of entertainment.

Drawing room comedy typically features wit and verbal banter among wealthy, leisured, genteel, upper class characters. Drawing room comedy is also sometimes called the "comedy of manners." Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest and several of the plays of Noel Coward are typical works of the genre. George Bernard Shaw's Heartbreak House adds an undercurrent of social criticism to the genre. Cary Grant appeared in a number of filmed drawing-room comedies. Ernst Lubitsch was especially known as a director of drawing-room comedies.

See also


  1. ^ Nicholas Cooper, Houses of the Gentry 1480-1680 (English Heritage) 1999: "Parlours and withdrawing rooms 289-93.

External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • drawing-room — ⇒DRAWING ROOM, subst. masc. Rare. Salon de réception, en Angleterre. Lincolnshire, et ses hôtels du West End, et Hyde park, et Piccadilly, et les drawing rooms de la reine, et le club des yachts (GAUTIER, Roman momie, 1858, p. 173) : • Un maître… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Drawing-room — Draw ing room , n. [Abbrev. fr. withdraw ing room.] 1. A room appropriated for the reception of company; a room to which company withdraws from the dining room. [1913 Webster] 2. The company assembled in such a room; also, a reception of company… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • drawing room — drawing rooms N COUNT A drawing room is a room, especially a large room in a large house, where people sit and relax, or entertain guests. [FORMAL] …   English dictionary

  • drawing room — n. [< withdrawing room: orig. name for room to which guests withdrew after dinner] 1. a room where guests are received or entertained; living room or parlor 2. a formal reception ☆ 3. a private compartment on a railroad sleeping car, with… …   English World dictionary

  • drawing room — drawing room, adj. 1. a formal reception room, esp. in an apartment or private house. 2. (in a railroad car) a private room for two or three passengers. 3. Brit. a formal reception, esp. at court. [1635 45; as shortening of now obs. withdrawing… …   Universalium

  • drawing room — ► NOUN ▪ a room in a large private house in which guests can be received. ORIGIN abbreviation of withdrawing room «a room to withdraw to» …   English terms dictionary

  • Drawing-Room — (engl., spr. Draïng rum), eigentlich Bilderzimmer, das Zimmer, in welchem die großen Gallacouren am englischen Hofe, bes. im Schlosse St. James zu London, stattfinden, auch diese Gallacouren selbst. Drawing table (spr. Draing täble), Bildertisch …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • Drawing-room — (engl., spr. drao ing rūm, Abkürzung von withdrawing room, Zimmer, in das man sich zurückzieht), in England das Gemach, in dem sich die Familie versammelt und Gäste empfängt. D. heißt auch kurzweg am englischen Hofe der Empfang der hoffähigen… …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

  • drawing room — n formal a room, especially in a large house, where you can entertain guests or relax …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • drawing room — drawing ,room noun count OLD FASHIONED a LIVING ROOM …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • drawing room — 1640s, short for withdrawing room (see WITHDRAW (Cf. withdraw)), into which ladies would go after dinner …   Etymology dictionary

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