Pent room: An extra or attached room in a house or apartment. Sometimes spelled pent-room or pentroom.
Pent room has been cropping up with some regularity in San Francisco’s overheated real-estate market. The earliest usage I’ve found is in a 2007 book, Linda Applewhite’s Architectural Interiors: Transforming Your Home with Decorative Structural Elements. A caption accompanying a photo of a cozy sitting area reads: “This small pent-room on the top floor of a loft-like space on Nob Hill feels huge and wondrous with the City by the Bay as its backdrop.”
A December 5, 2009, story in SF Luxe about “the Pacific Heights dream house,” a seven-bedroom Victorian at 2311 Broadway, had this gushing comment about a pent room:
The bright and airy pent room on the top level features soaring cathedral ceilings, sparkling views sweeping across the City and Bay, a wet bar with refrigerator and an abundance of skylights and windows. It works beautifully as a combination media and family/game room –– and is a perfect spot to enjoy sunsets over the Golden Gate Bridge*.
*On fog-free days.
Listed at $6,950,000, this house sold in 2010 for $6,500,000. A current Zillow estimate places its value at more than $10.5 million.
There was a pent room in this year’s San Francisco Decorator Showcase, a Presidio Heights mansion whose architect was Julia Morgan, designer of Hearst Castle.
“For the adults, Jeff Schlarb of Green Couch Interior Design created the ‘Pent Room,’ a space for gathering, gaming, entertaining and relaxing.”
A pent room is the smaller cousin of a penthouse (first documented use: 1921), now defined as a luxury apartment on the top floor(s) of a skyscraper. According to a Wikipedia entry:
One of the earliest penthouse apartments in [New York] was publisher Conde Nast’s duplex penthouse at 1040 Park Avenue. The original 1923 plan for the building provided three units on each floor with additional maids’ rooms on the roof, but in 1924 the building’s upper spaces were constructed to provide a grand duplex for Nast. Connected by a staircase to the rooftop entertaining salons, the corner unit at the top floor was redesigned to be private family quarters.
But penthouse wasn’t coined in the 20th century. It first appeared in the early 14th century, when it was spelled pendize and referred to any attached building, often a simple structure. (According to Online Etymology Dictionary, in some Middle English homilies Jesus’ birthplace was called not a manger but a penthouse.)
The pent- of penthouse and pent room is unrelated to the pent in pent-up (confined), which is a past participle of pen. In fact, penthouse is an example of a false etymology’s influence on spelling. Here’s Daily Etymology:
The Middle English word “pendize” was changed over time to a combination of the more familiar English word “house” (a natural assumption since the original word indicated a somewhat house-like structure) and the Middle French “pente” meaning “slope.” In other words, the penthouse was originally an attached building with a sloping roof.
So a pent room is actually an appendage room – what might, in a less frenzied market, have simply been called a bonus room, attic, or garret.
There’s evidence of even further pent- drift in a 2011 listing for a Telegraph Hill (San Francisco) house with a “view pent level family room & spacious deck.” “View” is intended here as an adjective, and “pent” may be a shortening of “penthouse.” In Brooklyn, “pent level” can refer to something far more modest, as in a recent Craigslist listing for a “large pent level studio flat!!” with “modern flare [sic].” Rent: $1,925 a month. In San Francisco, that would be considered a bargain.