When you buy a new home (or one built within the last 30–50 years), you’ll expect it to have a living room, dining room, kitchen, and bedrooms. Depending on the size and style of the house, it might also have a separate family room and a finished basement.
Back in the day, though, many houses were designed with drawing rooms, as well. You’ve no doubt heard the phrase, but what is a drawing room, really? It’s not a place where family members and guests go to draw pictures, so what exactly is it? The name comes from a term used in the 1500s, when these rooms were described as “withdrawing chambers” or “withdrawing rooms.”
So, basically, a drawing room is a separate room for entertaining guests where you could “withdraw” for more privacy or just for special occasions when you had important guests visiting. Today, a lot of homes have absorbed the drawing room into the living room, but a lot of the old homes that we renovate still have them.
This presents a little bit of a challenge when it’s time to start renovating. Should you design a drawing room to be used as it was originally meant when the house was first built? Should you knock out some walls and create a bigger common living room area or a larger dining room? Should you repurpose it?
I’m pretty passionate about restoring homes to their original style and grace while updating them to be comfortable and livable in the 21st century. However, even though I tend to lean toward restoration over updates, I still struggled with this one for a while. Here are a few tips and lessons I’ve learned along the way.
Don’t Try to Reinvent the House
There are times and places for redoing the floor plan and completely changing the layout of a house. In my opinion, renovating and restoring an old home is not the time or the place. In other words, don’t try to turn the drawing room into anything that it’s not. Trying to make it a spare bedroom, or trying to completely absorb it into the living room or dining room is a good way to spend a lot of time and money on a big mistake.
Open or Close With Caution
That said, there’s nothing wrong with opening up a drawing room a bit to make it more accessible from the living room or dining room. That way, if your buyers decide to turn it into a sitting area for entertaining guests, they’ll have an easy, breezy way to move the party from one room to another.
On the other hand, if your drawing room is off to the side, rather than between the living room and dining room, you might want to close it off a bit to make it feel more like a separate room and space. That way, buyers can envision it as an entertaining room, a home office, an artist’s studio, or anything else they please.
In general, I prefer to leave the architecture of my old home renovations as close to original as possible. Unless the current layout just doesn’t make sense, I try not to mess with it too much. This saves time and money on renovations, and it preserves the home’s style better, too.
Though a lot of new homes don’t have drawing rooms, they’re still an excellent feature for any old home renovation. They can become offices, reading nooks, family rooms, and more, and you really don’t have to make any changes to the way you renovate the property to make all of those options possible.