Learning the names that families use for their sitting room has offered plenty of amusement over the past couple of weeks.
Much seems to depend on the part of the country and the social aspiration of the household. Her Majesty the Queen, at Buckingham Palace, has a White Drawing Room , so clearly “drawing room” is an upmarket description of what we referred to as “the front room” when I was growing up in a terrace house in Yorkshire.
I confess to using the term on occasion in our current house, convincing myself that I can do so because we live in a Georgian farmhouse, and that would have been the term back then. I call it “the sitting room” when I forget to put on airs.
My daughters bring me down to earth by calling it “the posh room”; to distinguish it from the room with the telly, where we sit on the floppy sofa when we have supper on our laps.
In 1965, when I was 16, we moved from the terrace house with “the front room and the back kitchen” to a pebble-dashed semi. It, too, had a front room, but it was then known as “the lounge”, and we even had a ceramic tile on its door to indicate as much. “Living room” is, I suppose, devoid of any class associations and is, at least, honest in its description.
In Yorkshire, rooms are given names that clearly describe their function and content. I vividly remember, when growing up, hearing a conversation between two of my grandmother’s neighbours. “We’ve just decorated our cloakroom,” said one; to which the other, with an identical house, replied: “Oh, aye? Well, we’ve just distempered the junk ’ole.”
Nowadays there is little talk of sculleries and kitchenettes; attics are “lofts” and cellars are basements, unless they contain wine. Half of London, it seems, is due to suffer subsidence any time now, thanks to the demand for gyms and cinemas or, rather more upmarket, “screening rooms” underneath houses that were built without a lower ground floor.
Sheds are “studios” or “garden rooms” and toilets are “loos” in middle-class houses or “lavatories” in stately homes. Only in the US are they “rest rooms’, and it makes me smile when a visitor to our house asks for “the bathroom”, as though they were intent on having a good soak.
Anyway, must dash. I’m on my way through the loggia to take tea on the terrace. Patio? No, thanks.