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The Parlour

Nov 30, 2019   //   by wvanbusk   //   Redwood Victorian  //  Comments Off on The Parlour

Specifications: First door on the left of entrance hall, West facing bay window (2.5 x 7 feet), room 15 x 15 feet floor, ceiling 12 feet, double pocket doors open into next room. 

the parlor before

The parlor is a Victorian room for speaking with public visitors, e.g. from the Latin parlare (speak). Originally a named room in middle English for monks to deal with the public away from their brothers at the monastery. Later a room in a larger upper class home for the purpose of receiving visitors and other formal occasions, often a showcase of lavish decoration. Sometimes a smaller version included in middle class homes as the ‘best room’ for Sundays and other special events, the proverbial money pit for status sake. The room may also be used as the ‘withdrawing’ room for formal gathering after meals and became known, in shortened parlance, as the ‘drawing’ room in the UK as called by royals and other upper classes of refined social position.

The ‘front’ room of a home became the ‘living’ room in America as society generally became more informal and space dedicated to formal occasions and etiquette performance became a bit more unnecessary. As the Arts and Crafts movement gained traction, Charles Eastlake and others began to redefine the culture of the Victorian excessive style home and the proper formalized way of life…

“House Beautiful” Clarence Cook, 1878

NOTE: The term “Living” is in contrast to the term funeral parlor as to such use that parlors were used for home funerals in the Victorian Age.

scholar and wife

Now I believe I can say that the use of the Victorian parlor room is now put to whatever use is desired at the front of the house. The first use may be for guests; such as an office for the business or a music room for the piano teacher. Or it may be that the room being closest to the yard could be an extension of the garden or used as a sun room. How should we change?

In the House Beautiful book of 1878 there is a long discussion on the merits of rugs vs carpeting. The rugs won that battle, but carpeting won the war in America. For Jerry, living in a cool temperate climate in the 1970’s, he may have chosen wall to wall carpet for its value as warmth on bare feet and the provision for the young to lounge around anywhere on the floor. The current carpet is of the ‘rental property’ quality, with low density shagginess and neutral brown color. We see this carpet as a functional floor protector. However in the early rental ‘before’ stage we are unsure what is being protected, since below the carpet and pad is a layer of thin wall paneling, well nailed down over whatever awaits us once that is removed. The sub-floor as viewed (looking up) from the crawl space is assorted width rough cut redwood planks, about an inch thick with something lighted colored over it, perhaps nice old growth fir or perhaps the wall paneling?

round tilting rotating tableBack in the 1880’s the ‘coffee’ or ‘tea’ table was never lower than the height of the arm rest of a chair, was never used a a foot stool, and did not block the view of the television cabinet, since KIEM had waited until October 25, 1953 to start the first TV broadcasts in Eureka. In the meantime, newspapers, organs and pianos were the main source of media entertainment in the parlor. The parlor was often populated with tables and chairs for ‘tea fights’, aka tea parties (not the political sort), mantles, stoves, cushions, pillows, overstuffed furniture, pictures and curious curios. Social norms of the time delegated to the parlor owner a sense of duty to perform the rituals of calling on others for tea.

old deskWe have been rummaging around charity shops, marketplaces and craigslists and have been successful at procuring much in the way of furnishings and curios for the parlor of the stylish sort popular in the period. We are heading towards some sort of period style room up front in this house, perhaps for receiving guests.

After camping in the Humboldt redwoods (an annual event) we spent time working on the home to prepare it for renting. We enjoyed the parlor at sunset with friends and neighbors, sitting near the bay window sipping wine, discussing current events and watching the evening traffic heading into downtown. I imagine that this use cannot be very far different from traditional. The nature of the front room in summer with the warmth of the sun pouring in and preceding the incoming Pacific fog of night seems to be self-defining the use of this particular parlor.

Old Wood Framing