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Parlour Vs. Living Room: The Similarities And Differences


Parlour Vs. Living Room..

It’s easy to note that house rooms have several labels such as parlor, living room, sitting room, drawing, etc. However, it’s usually hard to tell the differences because all rooms have almost the same functions. 

The term parlor was quite common in the 18th and 19th centuries. Parlour is from the French word “Parle,” and it means to converse/speak. The parlor was a space for sitting, relaxing, and conversing, and different people could use it, i.e., friends, family, etc. 

Several names have referred to the parlor in years. It was in the mid-19th century that the term living room became popular. Different people have different definitions of a living room and parlor. 

Here is a comparison between the two standard terms, parlor vs. living room. From the article, you will learn more about their history, characteristics, and how they relate. 

Parlour Vs. Living Room 

The parlor was a formal room in most houses built before World War 1. The primary role of the room was to receive guests. In most house designs, there was a formal dining room adjacent to the parlor. 

The two rooms had high-quality fittings and finishes than other rooms in the house. However, after some time, the room known as the parlor became the living room, and its formal and daily use persisted. 

You should know that the room names such as parlor and living room change according to the style and fashions. In the coming centuries, the term living might also not be as common as it is today. 

The History Of Parlor And Living (Origin Of Term Living Room)

In the 19th century, the parlor was known as the death room. It was a crucial part of the funerary rituals. Families laid their deceased members in this room for final respects. 

After World War I, death cases were few. People started getting treatments from hospitals, and most funerals took place at funeral homes. 

The funeral homes gained popularity, and the home parlor or death room now became the living room. 

As mentioned, the term parlor originates from the French verb Parle, which means to speak. The room was known as a parlor because people could sit and converse about different matters. 

Plus, the space was for various informal and formal family functions. However, during World War I, the deaths changed the primary role of the parlor. 

The number of deaths decreased after world war I, and people suggested the room no longer be known as a death room. 

Once again, it had become livelier because there was no mourning. The room became known as the living room, and today the term is so common. 

The Parlor 

A parlor was a unique and wide-open room in most ancient houses. Its primary role was for entertaining guests. 

Typically the room has a sitting area, tables, and a fireplace. Today, in modern homes, the living room has replaced the traditional parlor. 

Historical Style 

In the days, the parlor was a symbol of a household’s financial status. Therefore parlors were exquisitely decorated. The decoration included the finest artworks, expensive and quality furniture, etc. 

In addition, the room had floral schemes and light colors with accentuated light tones and dark hues. Most parlor room floors and walls had rugs since wall-to-wall carpeting wasn’t typical. 


In modern culture, the living room has replaced what was known as a parlor. Still, the living room has the same unique features as the parlor, such as paintings, a fireplace, sitting areas, and other items. The living room came to fruition in the 1900s and is quite popular today. 

The Living Room

The term living room has been around since the mid-19th century. It refers to the space where general living activities take place. However, the term wasn’t so popular until the early 20th century.

Typically a living room has furnished chairs, sofas, tables, electric lamps, televisions, and bookshelves. Others have a fireplace, but this mainly depends on the climate. 

Historical Style 

According to the ancient architects, the living design should fit the wants and needs of the owner. In the days, the living room had two primary functions. 

It was a formal room for discussion about business matters. The living room was a place where homeowners could lounge in and relax. The architects strived to create spaces that intentionally combine formality and top-level comfort. 

In 1728, the prominent Louis Quinze style introduced comfort and had unique furnishing and materiality. Its influence started from France but quickly spread to other parts of Europe and later to America. 

The rise of the industrial revolution in 1700 in America had a massive impact on the advancement of the living room. It was possible to mass-produce decorative items, and they became more available to middle-class households. 

Other Common Terms

Some other popular English terms are associated with the naming of similar spaces. However, they do have some notable differences because of their functions.

Drawing Room

People synonymously use the term drawing room for the parlor. Like the parlor, the space is for entertaining visitors. 

The name comes from the 16th-century terms withdrawing chamber and withdrawing room. The withdrawing room is where the owner of the house or guests could draw to for extra privacy.

Recreation Room 

The recreation room has many functions such as hosting games, parties, etc.  The term recreation room is quite popular in the United States and Canada. 

It’s common to see teenagers and children entertaining their friends in the recreational room. The room is primarily located in the house basement and not close to the house’s main living areas. 

The space is usually larger than the living room to serve multiple functions and hold moderately large groups.

Family Room

The term family room is informal, and like the living room, it’s an all-purpose room. The family room is where guests and family meet for group recreation such as watching TV, reading, talking, and other family activities.

Sitting Room

People often use this term in place of the living room. However, the sitting room is standard in most public buildings such as libraries, hotels, etc., where people ideally sit and wait. Typical, the term sitting room is associated with homes/residences.

Great Room 

The great room is typically a bigger-sized family room. The design and decoration of the room can be either formal or informal. 

However, its decoration is usually more casual than the living room, but it’s nicer than family rooms. The great room is a recent phrase, common among the realtors, but it will be popular with time. 

The Difference Between Parlor And Drawing Room 

Some people hear the mention of the term drawing room and think it’s a drawing studio. The drawing room is a place where individuals withdraw to for more privacy. 

Honorable visitors can withdraw to the drawing-room for exceptional service. Women would go to the drawing-room in the Victorian era while men chatted and lingered in the dining room. 

In other instances, the men would leave to the drawing-room as women attended to dishes in the dining room. 

The term parlor means a reception room. In tiny houses, the parlor also acts as the drawing-room. 

However, it’s usually the first room beyond the foyer or the entry hall in a big house. If a visitor enters a room, they will wait in the parlor till the house owner comes. 

The high-status individual had both parlor and living room in the same house. 

The Difference Between A Living Room And Family Room

The living room is an all-purpose room in the house. You can receive visitors and even relax in this space. In today’s homes living rooms are well furnished, with comfortable sofas, tables, lamps, shelves, etc. 

The room also has a television for entertaining visitors, friends, and family members. Many living room designs shout comfort and quality. 

The family room has the same functions as the living room but is more informal. It’s a place where visitors or family members meet to play games, talk, read or watch television. Therefore you will always find board games, computers, etc., in many family rooms. 

In most houses, the family rooms are next to kitchens or dining rooms. The design and nature of the family room make its furnishing a bit different. The room is usually simple, well arranged, and has comfortable chairs, sofas, and a table. 

The fabric used to make furniture such as sofas should be easy to clean because of children. The room has cabinets and drawers for storing children’s play items such as dolls, toys, etc. Overall, the family room has a less formal look than the living room.  


The terms parlor and living room have been used for years. Typical both are a place where visitors, family or friends gather in your home. You then relax, socialize, entertain, etc. 

People decorate their living rooms by their taste. The furnishing of both parlor and the living room was similar. 

They have chairs, tables, sofas, television, electric lamps, etc. The main difference between the two terms was popular in different times and styles. 

Jacob Lindsey

Jacob is a home remodeling guru having worked over 15 years in construction in Reno, NV, mainly focused on home renovations. He likes taking ideas from his clients and making them a reality.

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