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What’s a reception room / parlor / parlour / drawing room?

Please consider the following room:

The house is a late Victorian townhouse. The room (A) has a size of about 40 sqm, or 400 sq ft., a nice but not elaborate chimneypiece with sofas in front of it, a plastered ceiling, grand piano, a few mahogany pieces. A door (regular, not double or sliding) leads to the dining room, another to the hall.

No television set, which is in another, smaller room (B) upstairs, used for watching television and as a spare guest room. But it's in room (A) that the family sit and read or play board games, in other words, room (A) isn't just for formal entertaining of guests once in a while.

For this sort of room, would upper and upper-middle class Brits say "drawing room", "sitting room" or something else?

Would it be different if the room were used in the same way, but had a desk and lots of bookshelves along the walls?

(I know that there are regional differences and the like, that especially in America, that would be a living room, that many Brits wouldn't fuss and call any lounge a lounge, and that Mrs Bucket would call any sort of "main room" a drawing room, that's why I specifically ask about uppers and upper-middles.)

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    drawing room - A shortening of withdrawing room, the room to which the ladies withdrew, leaving the men to smoking and drinking. This is general reference. – Robusto Dec 10 '12 at 14:46
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    @Robusto: Nobody but nobody uses "drawing room" any more. Ordinary people use day room, family room, lounge, sitting room, etc., and estate agents call them reception rooms, but you only really find drawing rooms (along with parlours) in Victorian fiction, not actual houses. – FumbleFingers Dec 10 '12 at 15:02
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    @Rudi: There aren't enough actual "upper class" people left in Britain to be anything other than a dated stereotype. So the way this virtually non-existent group of people are portrayed in fiction tells you little about actual usage. But I think most "upper middle class" people would probably call your room the "sitting room". – FumbleFingers Dec 10 '12 at 15:07
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    @Robusto: I actually had a house like OP's a decade or so ago - but being "lower middle class", we usually just called ours the front room. It wouldn't have made much sense to call it the sitting room, since we hardly ever used it except when entertaining up-market guests we wanted to impress. Mostly it just got dusted once a week! – FumbleFingers Dec 10 '12 at 15:17
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    @BarrieEngland From this side of the pond, sitting room sounds fine even if it isn’t common, whereas drawing room has a musty-unto-death smell about it, or at least of something that’s escaped its prison in the cellars of Wardour Street. Sometimes people these days will say the great room. – tchrist Dec 10 '12 at 16:50

I think your question can be answered by this question and answer, but having said that, it depends on the intended use of the room. We had a sitting room in a house I own, but we more often than not called it the front room because that's where it was.

If you intend to use it with your family, then it might be a family room. My initial instinct would be that you want it to be a parlo(u)r, or a room where you would invite guests to sit and visit.

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  • I may be wrong about this, but I have the impression parlor is still used quite naturally by some Americans even today, whereas parlour practically vanished from Britain after WW2. – FumbleFingers Dec 10 '12 at 19:00

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