Blog by Beebe Cline

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8 Victorian Drawing Rooms for Modern Living

The drawing room, essentially the lady's "withdrawing room," was usually the main public room of a Victorian home. These rooms were feminine, comfortable and hospitable. Places for receiving guests, they were platforms to show off one's wealth, culture and taste. Items, pictures and decorative items from the Victorians' newfound love of travel were constantly added to the space, resulting in the busy or cluttered style we associate with the era. Colors were strong and blended, with graduated tints from walls to ceiling creating a dominant effect.

In modest middle-class homes the drawing room may have been the only reception room, and therefore doubled as the adults' sitting room, directly off the hall next to the dining room. While size would have been commensurate with affluence, for most ordinary folk it was not a room of great proportions.

The use of the drawing room in your Victorian home will depend on your needs, but here are a few tips for modern adaption.
Here we can see how a traditional middle-class Victorian layout has been adapted for modern living. A long, thin entrance hall would have opened to the drawing room on the right, then a separate dining room would have followed by the kitchen at the end. This conversion really opens up the space while still having clear sitting, dining and hall areas. The drawing room would have had a fireplace, but this has been removed and replaced with practical wall units; the dining room fireplace has been kept.
While modern homeowners often prefer open plan living, there is a lot to be said for separate rooms for separate activities. This lovely room has the proportions of a modest Victorian drawing room and is being used as a sitting room. Modern, pale, neutral colors and a large light-reflecting mirror promote a feeling of space.
Large sash windows were common in Victorian drawing rooms. Please don't replace them with modern casement windows — only hardwood replicas will do! If you are keeping your drawing room separate, consider blending drapes with walls, as the Victorians would have done. The lack of contrasts enhances the feeling of space in a small room.
Some Victorian homes had bay windows, typically three sided. As the drawing room was often at the front of the house, it had the benefit of the extra space provided by the bay. As drawing and dining rooms are being opened into much more usable modern spaces, the bay can be put to great use with a circular dining table placed to follow its contours. Or, as you can see here, a desk from which you can see the world pass by works beautifully too.
French doors were not a feature of a modest Victorian drawing room, but introducing them where there is access to a terrace or conservatory can give you additional living space and get more light into your small room.
We should cover the more affluent homes too, where the drawing room was bigger and probably not the only reception room. This size gives you more scope to have a family room with comfy sofas, a TV and books while keeping the traditional use of the drawing room as a more formal adult space too.
Here we have another grand home, where it looks like the morning room has been opened up into the drawing room. The morning room would have been the larger of the two and traditionally faced east to make the most of the daylight. Opening the rooms up here has created a wonderful light, dual-purpose space — very practical for modern living.
In homes with two or more reception rooms, the drawing room is usually a spare, since it's often the smallest. Without the major upheaval of conversion or removing walls, it is the perfect size for a really comfortable study. I love the use of the library wallpaper in the recess here — it creates a great feeling of depth.
Dark wood trims with blue

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