Is There a Word for this Type of Place?
July 24, 2019 7:24 PM   Subscribe

Is there a word for this type of place OR the feeling associated with this type of place? The place in question is actually a somewhat forgotten room or area.

A few (real life to me) examples would be:

A closet or room that rarely gets opened and you almost forget it's there.
A shed on your property that you rarely enter and you can go months or years without giving it a thought or going inside.
A back room in an office that may have some stuff stored there that's rarely, if ever, needed so the room gets pretty much forgotten.
A small empty stall that was never used tucked away in a barn.

In addition, those areas evoke some feelings for me. So, maybe those spaces don't have a specific name, but perhaps the feelings they evoke do?

A bit of background to explain the place and feeling. Growing up we had a small rustic shed on our property. It was always there, I always knew it was there, I passed by it every day. But I rarely ever went in it. When I did though, I always felt this thrill of remembering it was there and loved revisiting it and exploring it.

The horse farm I worked at - I stumbled across a small stall tucked away that I really didn't know existed. I mean, I knew it existed, but it never registered in my brain. It was fun to consider that extra space that I wasn't really conscious of.

At work, there's a room we don't use. It has a few items in it, but it's unused - no need/reason to go in there. But every once in a while I will go in there and it's so fun to poke around. Part of the fun is that I wasn't conscious of the space. The space was sort of pushed out of my consciousness until for some reason it came to the forefront of my thoughts.

In addition to these examples, I have recurring and vivid dreams about such spaces. Mostly, I'm touring a home or have just bought a home and stumble across an entire room that I wasn't aware of before, or sometimes an entire wing of a house. These dreams evoke the same feeling. These forgotten places that I stumble upon and can anticipate the potential of having something more and extra that I didn't know I had before.

Any thoughts about a term for these spaces or the feelings these spaces evoke?
posted by Sassyfras to Writing & Language (21 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
spear closet

You might also be interested in the Backrooms meme from earlier this year.
posted by Rhaomi at 7:52 PM on July 24 [1 favorite]

I know this isn't technically correct, but I used to have a space like that I called an oubliette.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:31 PM on July 24 [12 favorites]

You may enjoy this previously
posted by ejs at 8:47 PM on July 24 [1 favorite]

In British usage such places are called nooks and crannies.

(One of my favourite bits of language. Basically nobody really has any idea what a nook is, or a cranny is, or what the difference is between the two, but everyone understands what nooks and crannies are).
posted by automatronic at 8:49 PM on July 24 [4 favorites]

The first part of your question reminds me of the word "novelty" just because when I was growing up my grandparents and uncles and aunts houses had these little sheds and closets full of old stuff and poking through there was one of the only forms of entertainment there was (besides going to the library which was it's own kind of novelty seeking). I was definitely just responding to the promise of finding something new to look at & think about. Kind of like exploring.

I also have those dreams about finding new rooms in those houses. They always feel extremely real. I heard somewhere that those dreams are about thinking about something in a new way or seeing a different aspect of something. I always feel like "oh my gosh I can't believe I'm just finding this out now.." stuff like that.
posted by bleep at 9:16 PM on July 24 [5 favorites]

Priest hole
posted by humboldt32 at 10:16 PM on July 24

memory hole
subconscious room
dead to me
posted by a humble nudibranch at 10:25 PM on July 24

My dog feels strongly that these locations are Emergency Toilets.
posted by deludingmyself at 10:28 PM on July 24 [8 favorites]

I’ve had dreams since childhood of finding rooms I didn’t know about in my own house.

Fiction sometimes evokes this feeling, but often from kind of a horror perspective. A couple of examples that come to mind are House of Leaves (a book about a house where a new closet somehow appears, eventually expanding to a vast and geometry-defying abyss of shifting halls and rooms), and the Doctor Who episode “The Eleventh Hour” (where the Doctor reveals a door that has always been in Amy Pond’s house, but that she never noticed due to a “perception filter”). That may be a creepier and more surreal angle on this idea than what you’re looking for, and it doesn’t answer your question about whether there’s a word for it (I tried to look for a name for this fictional theme on TV Tropes but couldn’t find a close match). But since your question is a little open-ended, maybe these fictional examples will spur something for you or be of interest.
posted by Syllepsis at 11:21 PM on July 24 [4 favorites]

No, there are no words, but I suggest raumschmerz, which doesn’t exist, or topalgia, which does exist but means something completely different.
posted by Segundus at 11:55 PM on July 24

If you were a hipster I expect you would talk about liminal spaces.
posted by Segundus at 11:58 PM on July 24 [2 favorites]

There’s a certain kind of liminal space that really triggers like a wave of raumschmerz.
posted by Segundus at 11:59 PM on July 24 [1 favorite]

Do some of the spaces you have seen\know\dream act as a bridge to another space\place\time or room? Spaces like these are called 'liminal', spaces than bridge from one type of experience to another, even a tree can do this as one enters beneath it sound, humidity, light all change.

Lacuna pl. lacunae are hidden spaces or regions, sometimes the remains of something that is no longer there. Imagine a whole series of walls remaining from multiple house alterations which over time form their own room.

posted by unearthed at 12:04 AM on July 25 [5 favorites]

I love this question! I frequently have vivid dreams about living in a house that has additional rooms that I had forgotten belong to us - think something like an upper floor that you'd only just remembered existed. In my dream, there's a thrill of discovery and a sense of excitement mixed with dread.

In real life, I once worked with someone who lived in an 18th century rectory that he was gradually renovating. He had been working on the sprawling kitchen when he finally got round to unsealing a painted-shut cupboard door that turned out to house a staircase up to two original servants' rooms he didn't know were there. He invited a couple of us round for lunch one day and we saw the hidden quarters, plus a secret corridor linking the main bedrooms running between the rooms and the external wall of the house, plus the outdoor swimming pool that he also didn't know was there until he excavated, plus the three-hole long drop outside WC full of empty bottles of spirits. The entire place was liminal.
posted by Martha My Dear Prudence at 12:52 AM on July 25 [17 favorites]

"Neuk" in Scots has a related but slightly different usage to English "nook". The English meaning derives from the idea of "corner" while the Scots connotation includes this but also adds the Scandinavian meaning of "nok" or "headland". So a "neuk" can be both an isolated piece of coast (East Neuk of Fife) and a hidden away place.

Cubby Hole is another potential synonym. - originally that would have been a cattle pen but the idea includes any small, out of the way space - especially one used for storage.
posted by rongorongo at 3:25 AM on July 25

I would call a space like this a lost world.
posted by guessthis at 8:34 AM on July 25

The adjective would be "disused", as in "the disused attic over the garage".
posted by SemiSalt at 9:43 AM on July 25

Even if not addressed directly in this book, many similar odd place categories are discussed. (It's a great read any which way.)
posted by notsnot at 11:22 AM on July 25

Yes I’m in the dream club too! - rooms I’ve forgotten and they didn’t get renovated with the rest of the house, so now I have to remove wallpaper, repaint and put in hardwood floor all over again. Whole levels I had forgotten about. I take it as peeling back layers of the self, finding new aspects of one’s psyche that needs exploration now that the main rooms are tidy.

As for feelings they evoke - mystery, privacy, discovery or being discovered, and slight danger at being caught exploring. Going back in time...
posted by St. Peepsburg at 12:19 PM on July 25

See also: Thomasson is a term coined by a Japanese artist to describe vestigal bits of architecture, especially those that are still taken care of even though they have no real purpose anymore. 99% Invisible covered this in depth.
posted by oulipian at 6:57 PM on July 26 [1 favorite]

"The window in Alaska. Natural that the people of the area, if they knew about it at all, would regard it as a doorway to the spirit world; and natural that the other windows into our world should be hard to find, and often neglected. People don't like the uncanny, and rather than look fully at something disturbing, they'll avoid it altogether. That house that no one seems to live in for long, that corner of a field that the farmer never quite manages to plow, that broken wall that's always going to be repaired, but never is..."

--Philip Pullman, The Subtle Knife
posted by queen anne's remorse at 11:25 AM on July 28

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