A habitable attic or small living space at the top of a house; often fitted within the roof space, and having sloping ceilings.

Before the days of lifts, this was the least attractive part of a building. Servants rooms would usually be in this part of the building, and if such rooms were let out privately they would not attract high rents.

For these reasons a garret was traditionally regarded as the least prestigious position in a building, and synonymous with a cramped living space occupied by servants or the poorest classes.

The word is derived from a Middle English (via Old French) word used to describe somewhere where soldiers kept watch or were quartered, hence its unsavoury connotations.

Garrets were very often built within mansard roofs, and have skylights or dormer windows to provide light and air.

This style was very popular in nineteenth-century France (Act 1 of Puccini’s opera La Bohème is set in a Parisian garret occupied by four impoverished students) but examples can be found in England.

Post Author: Frances Traynor