This week instead of detailed house plans I thought I'd share a detail description of the Parlor. I'll be taking a room over the next few weeks and filling in some of the details that floor plans leave out.
The parlor maybe merely a reception-room, — a room where a lady may receive her callers in the afternoon, or the more formal calls of ladies and gentlemen in the evening, or it may be one room in addition to the others in the lower part of the house. It may be the room which adds capacity to the lower floor during times of general entertaining. In some cases, particularly where the parlor is merely used as a reception-room, it need not be large. In such a case it is merely a place separated from the sitting-room, and in which to go for the purpose of receiving friends in a room somewhat removed from the slight confusion which may legitimately belong to a sitting-room. The parlor is made distinctive in its appearance from the sitting-room by its furnishings. It is not usual to have any great difference in the design of the woodwork in the different rooms of the lower floor. Generally speaking, the doors are of the same design, and likewise the casings, base, etc. The parlor belongs particularly to the society life of the occupants of the house. It is not generally a family room. It is removed from the ordinary home life except in so far as the general social conditions draw all together. The parlor, in its connection with the living-rooms of the house, and the house itself, is entirely legitimate. There is a good deal of sneering at the old parlor idea. This feeling has its origin in the memory of the parlors of a few years ago, — those which contained the one Brussels carpet, covered with red and green flowers, furnished with black hair-cloth furniture, chairs arranged around the wall in military style, a sofa — stiff of back and commanding an attitude — in a most conspicuous position; walls covered with coarse-figured, gilt paper, and rendered more offensive by cheap, family portraits in oil, and elaborately framed chromos.
The parlor of to-day is still a formal room; it does not greatly differ from the older one in idea; it is the execution of tjhe idea which has changed. There is a greater refinement in all the details; there is an artistic spirit which pervades everything. There is harmony of color, quietness in tone. The pictures are of a different character. The furniture is graceful and comfortable. It is rarely separated from the other part of the house. The doors leading into it are nearly always open. Oftentimes there are only portieres of tapestry or lace to separate this room from the others which lead to it. It is a room which is made necessary by the social life of the time.
The ideal parlor is a long room. — a large room. It is long in proportion to its width. Sometimes there is an archway near the middle, which suggests the division of the room into two parts. There is a mirror at the end, and, lending dignity to the room, there is the hall or library at one side. By its size, its arrangement, its dignity, it is inspiring to a congenial company. This is the ideal parlor, and the one of which the vulgarly furnished parlor of a few years ago was a corruption. The ideal parlor is shown in its completest original form in seme of the old mansions of the East and South. Some of the old Virginia and Maryland houses carry out this idea in the completest way. In Natchez, Miss., are houses built long before the war, and designed by the French architects, which contain parlors of splendid proportions and most artistic details. These were designed in the purest classic architecture. The ceilings were high, the paintings rich. All this is somewhat removed from the common idea of a parlor as carried out at this time. However, it is a pleasant thing to look back upon, or, when the opportunity and means are at hand, a proper thing to enjoy in the reality. The library, as now understood, is, in the ordinary house, a room for books, papers, and magazines, in which the members of the family may gather, who have use for that which it contains. It should be a room which may be isolated from the other parts of the house; a room in which one may study or read or write, and have the quiet which belongs to such occupations. A room which may be used as a passage from one part of the house to another cannot be dignified by the name of library. In such a room there must be quiet. There are very few homes to which such a room would not be a material and practical addition. There are times when nearly every one desires the quiet and freedom from interruption which a room of this kind affords.
It need not be a large room, but should contain all of the paraphernalia of work: a desk, conveniently arranged, bookshelves which are readily accessible, possibly portfolios arranged along the walls, drawers with proper compartments, cases for circulars and catalogues, and other " places for things." The nicest thing about book-cases is the books. Ornamental glass doors and rich trappings add nothing to the beauty of the library. People who make large use of books do not care to have them protected by glass cases. The other furnishings and fittings of a library should be quiet in tone, the chairs easy but not rich, the carpet of a neutral color, the wall decorations preferably without figured outlines, the pictures small and quiet. Sliding doors between the library and any other room of the house are not to be considered. Close-fitting doors on hinges are proper. They exclude the sound. Sliding doors permit the ready passage of sound, for the reason that they are more or less open at top, bottom, middle, and sides. A low ceiling in a library adds to the quiet and restful effect. One may have a low ceiling in a library, even if they are higher in other rooms, by studding down from above, — that is, putting in a false ceiling. The expense is light indeed, and by such means additional protection from the sounds above may be afforded.
Source: Convenient Houses ©1889