The Origin of Various Room Names

When we think of a home, there are several rooms we always expect to find present. The kitchen, bathroom and bedrooms are all necessary components of any home. Since they are such common rooms, with common names, the purpose of each is immediately clear. However, several more specialized rooms have names with more opaque origins. Here are a few rooms that you might include in your timber frame home, and the interesting history behind them.

Home above built by Timberpeg Independent Rep, Old Hampshire Designs.



While it may seem very similar to a sunroom, a conservatory is actually a much more specialized affair. The main purpose of a conservatory is growing and displaying plants that would otherwise perish in the cold outdoors climate. Conservatories really took off when citrus fruits were imported to England from the Mediterranean and wealthy households wished to grow them year round. In the UK, a conservatory needs at least half of its walls and 75% of the roof space to be glazed (either glass or clear polycarbonate) to meet the legal definition.

A timber-framed conservatory

A great place for a conservatory or greenhouse is immediately adjacent to the kitchen. The fresh herbs and fruits growing year-round are then perfectly placed for harvest and immediate preparation, while the room can do double duty as a buffer to the outside.

Drawing Room

While the name of this room may suggest a room for writing or other work, it is actually a shortened form of withdrawing room. These rooms were very popular in the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries in Europe. As the name suggests, they provided a place to withdraw to after dinner. In some cultures, the women withdrew to the drawing room while the men remained in the dining room or moved to the parlor. In others, the women and men both retired to the drawing room after dinner.

A grand piano is fit for a grand drawing room. Home built by Timberpeg Independent Rep, Smith & Robertson, Inc.

Drawing rooms were once common in affluent homes in the Southern United States, but the term has since fallen out of favor domestically. In England, it is now typically only used in large homes when distinguishing between multiple sitting rooms for guests. In that case, it is usually the most lavishly appointed sitting room.


The word parlor (or parlour) entered English around the year 1200, from a French word meaning to speak. It was first used in monasteries, to denote a room where monks could converse without disturbing fellow clergy, or conduct business with outsiders. Later, it was used in homes to refer to a primary room in the front of the home for entertaining guests. Since it was the most seen room by guests, this room was routinely the best decorated in the home. In the 20th century, the living room grew to take over most of the parlor’s functions.

A parlor should be richly furnished.

If you’re looking to incorporate a conservatory, drawing room or parlor into a new post and beam home, please contact us today. Our team of designers will work with you to make sure your home contributes to the rich and evolving history of these rooms.