Types of Rooms in a Victorian Home
Entrance Hall: The front door of the house usually led into a grand entrance hall that often had impressive woodwork and decorative tile flooring. A hallstand was used to hold umbrellas, canes, and hats, as well as provide a spot to leave a calling card. A bench or chairs might be provided for seating. The stairs were no longer just a utilitarian device, but instead became a focal point in the halls with impressive woodwork and carving. Windows in stairwells/halls often showcased stained glass as well.
Parlor (Drawing Room, Lady's Room, Sitting Room, and Family Room): Parlor was a term commonly used in America to refer to the reception room or sitting room used to socialize with guests. This was a very ornate and well furnished room, usually accessible from the main hallway of the house.
In some houses, the Parlor also served as the Drawing Room (from the term "withdrawing room"), where the ladies would sit together after dinner as the men continued to socialize around the dining room table.
Many floorplans do show a separate Family Room or Drawing Room, which was often less decorative and used just by family or close friends.
Music Room: A variation on a separate Family Room would have been the Music Room. In the wealthiest homes, they might have even had a grand piano. This room would usually have a piano as its focal point. It might also have card tables and games that could be played while listening to the music. Usually, a small square harpischord or square piano, or even an organ, was simply put in one of the sitting rooms, though.
Dining Room: Having a formal dining room was a must! The Dining Room was often connected to the Kitchen (usually via a Butler's Pantry), and to a sitting room that could be separated with a curtain or sometimes a door. The Dining Room's essential furniture included the dining table and chairs, a buffet or sideboard (for serving), and a hutch that stored the fine china and glassware.
Kitchen: The kitchen was a purely utilitarian room with little to no decoration. Work surfaces were plain tables, and storage would be plain wood hutches or pot boards,. Utencils and pots were also hung directly from the walls and ceilings. Wood or coal burning iron stoves were seen in the last half of the 19th century, replacing the metal lined fireplaces (Franklin Stove) used to cook in up to that point. A copper boiler attached to the stove provided hot water to the house in later years, and ice boxes were the precursor to the electric refridgerator.
Scullery (Back Kitchen): Sometimes a partitioned area of the kitchen and sometimes a completely separate room, the scullery is where the messiest chores were performed which included scrubbing dishes, cleaning fish, plucking fowl, etc. A scullery maid handled the most labor intensive cleaning around the house and was the lowest ranking servant.
Butler's Pantry: Many floor plans show that a Butler's Pantry separated the Kitchen from the Dining Room. It was usually a small area used to securely store the silver and the serving utensils, but in large houses (especially in Europe) this could be a room large enough for a butler to sleep in, so he could protect the valuables.
Library: Libraries became a mark of social status, and later homes show a room denoted as a library on either the first or second floor. (Note: In the first part of the 19th century, the term library was used to refer to a collection of books not a room, so floor plans might simply reference a Study.) Since this was another opportunity to show sophistication and wealth, the library had social seating areas. If there was a Billiards Room, the library might be connected.
Billiards/Snooker Room (Game Room): If a Victorian home had a separate Drawing or Family Room from the Parlor, it might contain game tables for chess or cards. However, a true Game Room was really a Billiards or Snooker Room. It was uncommon to have billiards in an early Victorian home because the game was associated with "vulgar" behavior and was considered quite risque. Because of this stigma, when a Billiard Room was put in a house, it was usually separated from sleeping and entertaining areas to insulate the women and children from the drinking, smoking, and cursing that might occur. There are examples, though, at the end of the 19th century of some Billiards Rooms on the main floor and treated as a family activity.
Study: Sometimes a small chamber was dedicated to the man of the house as his study. This is where he would retire to read or work. This would have been a private room, and so decoration would have been more simple.
Interestingly enough, the Lady of a Victorian home almost always had a desk, because she ran the household and also spent quite a bit of time on correspondence. The location of her work area varied. It could be in the library, the bedroom, a study, or even one of the sitting rooms.
Bathroom and Water Closet: Early Victorian homes used chamber pots in the bedrooms and did not have a bathroom as we think of it today. Bathing was usually done in a metal tub stored in the kitchen that would be pulled out and filled with hot water for baths.
When the toilet was first put into use, people were afraid sewage gases would leak out, so the water closet was relegated to the lower, less appealing parts of the house. Even after advances in plumbing, the toilet was often still self-contained in its own little part of the bathroom known as the water closet because of the persistent view that it was unsanitary.
The turn of the century bathrooms were fairly open, though, with porcelain showers, tubs, toilets , and sinks all in one room. A bathroom could be connected to a bedroom or centrally located so that it could be accessible by multiple chambers.
Bedrooms: Bedrooms were usually small and dimly lit, with a bed, storage chests for clothes, a screen to dress behind, and sometimes a washstand and a vanity. Small closets could be found attached to late Victorian bedrooms, but even armoirs were not common earlier in the period. Everyone folded clothes, even dresses, for storage until in the late 19th century airing out textiles was considered good for health. Husbands and wives in America did not often sleep in separate bedrooms (usually only the most wealthy), although they might have had separate dressing areas.
Nursery: The nursery was a room dedicated to babies and very young children. If the mother was the primary caretaker, the nursery might be joined to the master bedroom, otherwise the nursery was located near the nanny's quarters. Sometimes there was a separate daytime nursery where the children played.