Every house has a main area. Today we call this the living room (or lounge room here in Australia which is just another name for sitting room). During the Victorian Era, this space was much more formal. Originally known as a receiving room for visitors or a drawing room for the host or lady of the house to 'withdraw to' it mainly came to be referred to as the parlour. It was thought to be a strict space purely for entertaining. People would often also court and even give birth in this room as it was the center of all activity of the house. It meant that the dead were also honoured in this room.
Also known as the parlour, it was the main room centerpiece for rituals performed during the mourning process. It was here that a public viewing would be held of the person who has passed before being buried. It wasn't a 'living room' at all and was referred to more as the death room.
Influenza was running rampant through the US and Europe, and World War 1 had also just ended. It meant there were a lot of dead bodies and not a lot of places to put them. They were often stored in the parlour of the house until they could be collected. People didn't need their entertaining spaces as it wasn't really a time to be entertaining. This is also the room that most port mortem photography sessions would also occur. Funeral ceremonies and wakes would also be performed here. The rooms for a few centuries became synonymous with death and aptly called the death room.
At the beginning of the 20th century, funeral homes and mortuary became more common practice and the family home was not used anymore as a part of the process. Around 1910, the Ladies Home Journal stated that the parlor should no more be a place of death and should be 'livened up' becoming a place for everyone to entertain and enjoy. A place for the living to enjoy. They formally renamed this space as 'The Living Room'.
If you would like to read more about Victorian Mourning Customs, see my article:
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