What are Day-rooms?
Houses of the eighteenth and nineteenth century had a variety of different rooms that functioned in different ways. One category of rooms were known as Day-rooms. These rooms were used by families during the daytime. They included such rooms as billiard-rooms, boudoirs, breakfast or luncheon-rooms, conservatories, dining-rooms, drawing-rooms, gentlemen’s odd-rooms, gentlemen or business-rooms, libraries, parlor dining-rooms, morning-rooms, saloons, sitting-rooms, smoking-rooms, and studies.
- Billiard-room: Billiard-rooms were game rooms but were also sometimes combined with Libraries. Billiard-rooms usually held billiard tables that were placed in the center of the room. Additionally, Billiard-rooms often fell under the dominion of smokers, particularly if no Smoking-room existed.
- Boudoir: The Boudoir served as a sitting room, meaning it functioned as a private Parlor or personal retreat for the mistress of the house, such as Madame Récamier, Eliza de Feuillide, or Lady Derby. In some cases what was called the Boudoir was actually a secondary or smaller Drawing-room, and, if that was the case, the family might use the Boudoir and preserve their larger Drawing-room for more important occasions. Sometimes Boudoirs were connected to a Drawing-room with folding-doors and to enlarge the Drawing-room, the doors would be thrown open.
- Breakfast-room or Luncheon-room: Breakfast-rooms or Luncheon-rooms were rooms used to serve breakfast or lunch. Breakfast-rooms were found in smaller homes, considered inferior to Morning-rooms, and differed from a Morning-room in that they possessed the character of a Parlor/Dining-room and not a Drawing-room. The Breakfast-room could also relieve the Parlor/Dining-room. Breakfast-rooms were usually attached to Dining-rooms or in close proximity to the Service-room. In small residences, a Breakfast-room might also serve as the family’s ordinary Dining-room.
- Conservatory: Conservatories were used to house potted plants and creepers and might have vines covering a wall. Therefore, Conservatories were usually somewhat sunny in the morning, particularly during the winter months, and also warm and well ventilated. Conservatories were often attached to a house but not directly because of moisture. They formed an “intercommunication” with family rooms, such as a Drawing-room, Boudoir, or Morning-room, although it was claimed that the best rooms were Saloons, Vestibules, Galleries, or Corridors.
- Dining-room: In small houses, Dining-rooms were usually placed near a Gentleman’s-room or Study because a gentlemen used it as a waiting room for his visitors. Dining-rooms rarely contained any type of closets because even “dwarf cupboards” were considered out of character in a sophisticated Dining room and fit for nothing more than a shopkeeper’s “Back-Parlour.” In larger homes, Dining-rooms usually had lofty ceilings and focused on ventilation so food vapors easily found egress out of the house, which was also one reason why Dining-rooms were usually not placed near women’s quarters.
- Drawing-room: Women, like Jane Austen, her sister, and others, primarily used Drawing-rooms during the daytime with the room functioning primarily as a Sitting-room. Drawing-rooms also allowed women to receive and entertain guests. Before dinner the Drawing-room was the room where the family assembled, and, after dinner, ladies withdrew to the Drawing-room and gentlemen joined them. In superior homes, sometimes two Drawing-rooms existed with one preserved and rarely used except for special occasions. Drawing-rooms could also function as reception rooms for parties, and a Drawing-room might function as a Music-room in a smaller home. Interestingly, there was usually no difference in how a Drawing-room was used by a duchess versus the “simplest gentlewoman.”
- Gentlemen’s Odd-room: Young gentlemen needed some sort of informal place to do as they pleased. The Gentlemen’s odd room fulfilled this need. Such a room might contain workbenches, tool chests, and tools or it might hold botanical, entomological, or mineralogical collections. When the young gentleman was older, sometimes this room was converted into a Smoking-room.
- Gentleman’s-room or Business-room: Another of the day-rooms was a private room for a gentleman were he conducted business and where his time was spent in practical affairs. For instance, if the gentleman was a justice of the peace, the room might be used as his “justice-room,” a landlord might use the room to conduct business with his tenants, and the master of a house might use the room to receive tradespeople or talk to his domestic help.
- Library: Day-rooms also included the Library in an average house and contained the books of a family and was used for studying. However, its primary function was to serve as a Morning-room for a man, although women were not necessary excluded from using it too. It also functioned as a Sitting-room and was the spot where men completed their correspondence, read, or lounged. Sometimes a spare room, known as a Librarian’s-room was attached to the Library to receive new books, repair books, or bind books.
- Parlor or Parlour: The Parlor was another of the Day-rooms and it became a marker of social status during the eighteenth and nineteenth century. It showed that a person or family did not live in a one or two room house, and it represented the status of the person or the family as it usually contained prized possessions, such as artworks, tapestries, or furnishings. Later, as Parlors tended to afford a certain amount of privacy, business began to be conducted from them. One such well-known business was the funeral parlor.
- Parlor Dining-room Combinations: In smaller houses, combination Parlor/Dining-rooms existed. These room also sometimes served as family Sitting-rooms for both day and night.
- Morning-room: Another of the Day-rooms was a Morning-room and sometimes used as a Parlor or a “more homely Drawing-room.” Morning-rooms tended to be attached directly to Drawing-rooms and were used to relieve Drawing-rooms. In smaller residences, however, the Dining-room usually functioned as the Morning-room and in the evening that room might be superseded by a more formal Drawing-room.
- Sitting-room: These rooms were usually adjacent to a person’s private sleeping quarters and used by the person to receive guests. Sitting-rooms usually had a fireplace, and if they were a private Sitting-room, they might also contain a dressing-table, washstand, wardrobe, side-table, or chairs.
- Smoking-room: Smoking-rooms were another of the Day-rooms. These rooms were dedicated to tobacco use and rooms where gentlemen could “enjoy the pestiferous luxury of a cigar.” Smoking rooms were also usually shut off from the main house to avoid odors, and whether they were upstairs or on the main floor, access to these rooms was usually located somewhere near the Dining-room quarters.
- Study: This might be thought of as a Library, although in larger homes, it might be a separate room and attached to a Library. Similar to a Library it functioned as a room for studying, reading, and writing.
- Kerr, Robert, The Gentleman’s House, 1865.
Thank you so much for this! Very useful! We recently purchased an 1830 house and are hoping to find out what the rooms were originally used for. There are two front rooms and we know one of them was built specifically for piano lessons given by the wife. But the second front room is a mystery, and connected through a large open passage (no pocket doors) to the living room.
Anyway, you article is super helpful!