Though the parlor has evolved into the living room in the modern house, there are still homes that have parlors. Indeed, some homes have two, a back parlor and a front parlor. Whether it’s in the front or the back, the parlor is an elegant room where the household receives and entertains guests. Here are five essentials for a timeless parlor room:
These are armless chairs or side chairs. They evolved in the 17th century to replace the stools and benches ordinary people had to sit on when they had an audience with the head of a family or a member of the nobility. Parlor chairs can be of just about any style, but really classy ones fit for a traditional parlor might include an English, high-backed chair with turned legs and carved stretchers; a Queen Anne chair with a solid back splat and cabriole legs; a set of Chippendale chairs with mahogany frames and ornately carved open splats or a set of chairs with plain, solid backs, tapered legs and seat cushions upholstered in colorful striped fabric.
Parlor chairs are often placed against the wall and are brought out as seating for overflow guests.
Armchairs can also be classical and feminine, with lovely embroidered upholstery, manchettes on the arms and beautifully carved frames, or they can be big and overstuffed and waiting for someone to sink into them. Chairs perfect for the parlor are tub chairs, French bergeres, wing chairs and club chairs.
Sofas should be beautiful and roomy. Ideally, a parlor should be big enough for two of them. Styles can range from lovely French canapés to Chesterfield sofas with tufted seatbacks and scrolled arms to elaborate Victorian Belter sofas to modern sectionals whose different parts can be rearranged.
Ottomans are there to rest the feet, but they also make good seating for children. Like the other seating options, they can be simple or ornate.
Few things say “front parlor,” like a borne. It is a round or oval sofa with a separating rail or pillar in the center that serves as a back. Bornes were the rage during the Victorian era, and many were made of sumptuous materials such as velvet, fringe and rare woods. It’s traditionally put in the center of the room, and the guests sit on it in a circle and gossip.
A parlor simply has to have a chandelier though a modern parlor can get away with a noteworthy hanging lamp, perhaps with a shade made of alabaster, capiz shells or stained or etched glass. Though a chandelier is a hanging lamp, not all hanging lamps are chandeliers. Chandeliers have arms that hold candles or lightbulbs. They can range from magnificent creations with many arms and dozens of lights festooned and dripping with crystals to space-aged objects made of chrome tubes and bare Edison lightbulbs or globes. Matching wall sconces are a plus.
3. High-quality Flooring
Whether the homeowner covers the floor wall to wall with a hand-dyed carpet woven of a blend of silk and wool, has the subfloor reinforced so that it can withstand tiles of natural stone or installs parquetry made out of exotic but sustainable woods, a parlor must have high-quality flooring. A homeowner who’s understandably worried about damage might request that their guests take off their shoes before entering the parlor, lay down less expensive area rugs to protect the good stuff, and place pads under the feet of heavy furniture to avoid dents.
Every parlor must have some type of artwork. These can be a few paintings or prints on the wall and statuettes and figurines on the occasional or lamp tables or the mantlepiece. Life-sized statues of Greek gods, goddesses and nymphs tucked in a corner with parlor palms preserving their modesty are a good idea.
5. Attractive Window Treatments
The parlor isn’t really the place for cheap, celluloid Venetian blinds. If there are blinds on the windows, they should be made of quality wood. Other window treatments include drapes in deluxe fabrics adorned with fringe, swags, pelmets and tiebacks, sheer curtains and roll-up shades.