This week we’re looking at the words we use to describe buildings and rooms. Since there are lots of useful words, the post will be in two parts.
A lot of building adjectives relate to size, though of course, most have additional meanings. A spacious building or room is large, with (as you might imagine) lots of space: Their offices are very modern and spacious. An imposing building is large and also looks important and impressive: The bank is in an imposing building, overlooking Central Park.
The adjective grand also describes large, impressive buildings (usually old ones), and has the additional meaning of ‘expensive-looking’: The main road into town is lined with rather grand Victorian houses. A building that is splendid or magnificent, meanwhile, is also large and expensive-looking and in addition, is very decorative: There are two splendid medieval palaces in the centre. / Don’t forget to visit the magnificent opera house.
The word palatial means ‘like a palace’, so describes an extremely large and expensive-looking building: It’s home to the painter’s 17th-century palatial mansion.
A rambling house is very large and spreads out in many directions. (This adjective usually describes an old house.): They lived in a rambling old house in the Sussex countryside.
There are fewer words associated specifically with small buildings. The adjective modest describes a house that is not especially large or expensive-looking: Despite her wealth, she still lives in the modest semi-detached house she bought twenty years ago.
Cramped describes a place that is too small so the people in it are not comfortable: There were eight of us sharing this cramped little office. To express how small a place is, people sometimes say informally there isn’t enough room to swing a cat: You’re certainly not going to fit another bed in here. There isn’t enough room to swing a cat!
Other adjectives used about small places are more positive: Cosy is a common word used for a comfortable and warm little house or room: a cosy little room Less common than ‘cosy’ but with the same meaning is the adjective snug: How she wished she was back in her snug little cottage. In UK English, you sometimes hear the adjective bijou used to describe a place that is attractively small and often expensive-looking: Most of these houses have been converted into bijou apartments.
In the second of these posts, we’ll focus on words for the state of a building and also take a look inside, with a round-up of words that describe how a place is furnished and decorated.