What are State-Rooms?

State-rooms of Blenheim Palace Marked "C" and "D", Courtesy of Wikipedia

State-rooms of Blenheim Palace Marked “C” and “D”, Courtesy of Wikipedia

In the 1700s, State-rooms were generally found in large European mansions or palaces. Admittance into these rooms was considered a privilege, and the further a person penetrated, the greater the honor. State-rooms also implied one of a suite of very grand rooms that were designed to impress guests, but at the same time State-rooms did not necessarily sacrifice family comfort, even if the mansion that contained them was to be maintained in palatial style. Moreover, State-rooms tended to be specialized rooms with specific purposes. State-rooms included such rooms as Ball-rooms, Domestic Chapels, Great Libraries or Museums, Music-rooms, State Dining-rooms, State Drawing-rooms, and State-Galleries.

  • Ball-rooms: Ball-rooms sometimes served as supplementary Drawing-rooms but not in palatial houses. In palatial houses, Ball-rooms where specifically designed for dancing and ballroom activities. Proper Ball-rooms were spacious, entirely unfurnished, except for seats, overhead chandeliers, and decorations. Ball-room floors were given special attention and carefully constructed with a view to “rigidity.” Most Ball-rooms were usually placed near Drawing-rooms, and Ante-rooms were used to quiet the noise and avoid disturbing people in nearby rooms. Ball-rooms usually contained wide folding doors at either end, although sometimes doors were placed on one side. Ball-rooms also frequently allowed spectators and participants to watch the dancers, which was why raised windows were often a feature for spectators as those who sat under them were then not inconvenienced by hitting their heads on window frames. To provide seating, special sections might also be built. These special sections included balconies, galleries—also known as orchestras—and platforms, sometimes called banquettes. Platforms were accessed by two or three steps and had seats that ran along the length of the wall. Sometimes in place of galleries, balconies, or platforms, there might be a dais constructed and placed at one end of the Ball-room for royal or princely watchers.
  • Domestic Chapels: These chapels were generally seen as decadent and rarely built in homes by the late 1700s. When they were built, however, one of the main considerations was whether the chapel needed to display an ecclesiastical or domestic aspect. Some people felt that it should be strictly ecclesiastical, contain a private entrance, and be separate from the main dwelling. Others believed Domestic Chapels should be non-ecclesiastical, incorporated into a house, and have the appearance of something like a Library. Therefore, depending on the person’s view these were constructed in several different ways. These chapels might also have different entrances for family and servants or they might have balconies where family’s sat apart from others. In general, however, most Domestic Chapels were lofty, usually two stories, and moderately imposing or elaborate. Benches were common, pulpits seen as unnecessary, and the communion table placed at the east end if possible.
  • Great Library or Museums: Sometimes extensive book collections or other types of collections needed to be housed. This required either a Museum or a large Library or a suite of Libraries. For books, a suite of Libraries was said to be more practical and utilitarian than one large Library. In general, whether a Library or a Museum, the room needed to accommodate tables and allow for appropriate room around them so that patrons could access bookcases or displays. Library walls were also usually surrounded by books and for this reason Library lighting was usually obtained either at a high level or from some sort of overhead ceiling lighting.
  • Music-rooms, Concert-rooms or Theatres: Music-rooms involved more than placing an organ or a piano in a room. Music-rooms and Concert-rooms were special apartments constructed for acoustical purposes. Theatre’s were constructed with the same considerations as Music-rooms or Concert-rooms. These special considerations included reverberation, architecture of the room (such as its recesses, angles, and breadth), along with the room’s height, length, and width. One main difference between Music-rooms and theatre’s, was theatre patrons did not sit level, rather their seats tended to rise upwards from the stage backwards. Additionally, on either side of the stage, dressing-rooms were usually placed to allow actors rooms for costume changes.
  • State Dining-rooms: Similar to the ordinary Dining-room, the State Dining-room was a room used for eating. One of the main differences between a Dining-room and a State Dining-room was a State Dining-room was an enlarged room. The State Dining-room also did not necessarily focus on an increase in the number of guests but rather on a superior style of dining, indicative of the character of the state. State Dining-room also focused on tasteful artistic treatments and usually had some sort of luxurious approach to the room.
  • State Drawing-rooms: These rooms were used to hold receptions for the highest classes and sovereigns. Sometimes they occupied the whole floor and sometimes just a majority of a floor, with any remainder being deemed private. Sometimes private family rooms—Drawing-room, Library, and Saloon—might be used in connection and make up part of the State Drawing-room suite.
  • State-Galleries: State-Galleries were similar to Galleries but on a much grander scale. They also sometimes functioned as State Reception-rooms. State-Galleries tended to contain pictures or statuary and sometimes an organ. Lighting was usually a consideration in these rooms so that statuary or artworks could be displayed properly. In particular, artworks needed to be viewed without reflections and without patrons seeing varnished or glazed surfaces. As with Galleries, the length of State-Galleries was usually twice its width.

References:

  • Kerr, Robert, The Gentleman’s House, 1865

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