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The Rooms Of A Home - Part 1
( Original Published 1935 )
This chapter deals only with the problems of each separate room in a house or apartment. The unity of the entire home is considered elsewhere.
The entrance hall is important because it gives the first and the last impression of the home to the person who is arriving or leaving. The hall should indicate fairly clearly the character of the furnishings in the rest of the home, and not be slighted, as it so often is. It should be treated in a somewhat impersonal way, even to the extent of formality, if that is consistent with the entire home. As it should not invite one to linger, books, pictures, and very comfortable chairs are usually out of place in it. In a small house or apartment very little space is given to the hall; often there is room onlv for a chair or some other kind of seat, a mirror, and possibly a table. Needless to say, the hat rack is out of date, as visitors' wraps are for short periods placed on a seat, or for longer ones left in the hall closet.
Among furniture pieces suitable for larger halls are chests of drawers, commodes, lowboys, chests, secretaries, long tables, benches, or sofas with end tables. In larger homes pairs of things are often used because of their formal appearance. Since it is important to have plenty of empty space in a hall, the furniture should be scarce rather than profuse.
Rugs should not be used on tile or composition hall floors that are patterned. Plain wood or composition floors in the hall require a rug or carpet, however, and so do wooden stairs. It is well to use the same color for both hall and stairs. A hall that has a large doorway into the living room often has the same kind of floor covering as the living room, particularly in a small house.
In small houses, it is not absolutely necessary to have an entrance hall, as it saves valuable space to have the front door open into the living room. The stairway may ascend from the living room near the entrance door, which may be partly concealed by a screen.
In a two-story house the hall is the transition point between the first and second floors and so might well contain color ideas of both floors. The hall, however, often has much the same type of coloring as the living room, although in larger houses it is often more impersonal and dignified in color than the living room. In an apartment where one merely passes through the hall, it might be decidedly decorative and colorful, if that suits the feeling of the entire home.
The living room should be the largest and the most attractive room in the house. In addition, it should be the kind of room that its name indicates, for every member of the family should live in it. It should express the spirit of home to the family, and of welcome to the friends of the family. The ideal living room should have gay curtains and flowers, a comfortable sofa, a radio, a table to work on, a desk, a rug that can be rolled back for dancing, and a hearth with a fire on it whenever it is cold, comfortable chairs drawn up near it, and plenty of lamps, books, and magazines close by. There should be nothing too good for use, and nothing saved for company. There should be a place for each member of the family to follow his or her occupation, and a well-lighted, comfortable chair for each. A small chair should be provided for each small child.
Furniture should be placed so that it does not interfere with easy passage about and out of the room. The lady of the house ought to have enough room to walk across her own floors without having to dodge this and that. In a living room of average size usually the only thing that should be allowed to stand out in the room is a low table in front of one end of the sofa. The center of the room should be free, and so, too, should spaces around doors.
In arranging the furniture in a room it is well to locate the largest articles first, and place them parallel to the walls for the sake of structural unity. Then positions are chosen for the other articles of furniture so that they balance one another and the openings of the room. Windows and doors may be balanced by high pieces of furniture or by textiles, mirrors, or pictures over tables or sofas. In order to make each wall look well, it is best to place the largest piece of furniture near the center of it. Then something smaller should be placed on each side and usually something lower towards the corners. It is sometimes well to use, in corners, articles that are specially built for them, such as kidney-shaped sofas, kidney-shaped desks, corner cupboards, and cabinets. It is also possible to use screens, rather round chairs, or tables in corners. Sometimes the wall furniture comes so close to the corner that it may remain empty, but no corner should be allowed to appear weak and neglected.
It is important to arrange furniture in groups according to its use. A small living room often has space for only one conversational group, but where there is sufficient room there might be places for two or three people to sit together aside from the central group. The things needed for serving tea or for the half hour of mending should be together. A small table and chair for a child, or a desk, waste basket, and lamp for writing, might form separate groups. These little centers are focal points that make arrangements useful and logical. Music and writing groups should be apart from groups for conversation. The chairs in a group should be turned toward each other with a table and lamp usually between them. A window or a row of windows forms a good background for a group of furniture. The different articles combined in a group should be in scale.
If objects are to be seen as a group the spaces between them must be smaller than the objects. If one group is to he considered with another group near it, the space between the two groups should be smaller than either group.
Furniture arranged for comfort is quite likely to look well also. Chairs should be placed for reading both by daylight and by artificial light. Usually each chair should have an end table and a lamp. Bookshelves should be convenient and low if possible. A flat-top desk or a large table near the windows adds to the comfort of the room in daytime. Convenience is more important than appearance, for the first necessity of a home is that it functions. If the living-room chairs are "all out of place" after guests have departed, it might be well to let them remain that way. Perhaps the former arrangement was less interesting as well as less convenient.
Among the living-room furnishings, the seating furniture is the most important. Some chairs that are light enough to move around are necessary. Upholstered backless stools should be used much more than they are, as they are excellent to draw up for short conversations. Rocking chairs should not be used in living rooms, or anywhere else, except as a concession to a very elderly person.
The piano is a difficult article to balance properly, as it is large enough to upset even a fair-sized room. A group of windows with interesting curtains and a sofa balances a grand piano across the room. A wall hanging over a large table, high bookshelves, a secretary, or a fireplace might balance a baby grand or an upright piano. A grand piano might well be placed with its right angle in a corner and its long straight sides parallel to the walls. It is desirable to place a chair or table in the curve of the piano. An upright piano is usually backed up against a wall, but when there is space enough it might be placed with its end to the wall and possibly its back to the room with a textile and table back of it to make interesting divisions in the room. It might thus be used to give privacy where the entrance door opens directly into the living room. The sofa and the piano should not be at the same end of the room.
A woman should rearrange her furniture occasionally in spite of the objections of the men of the family. A reasonable amount of change keeps the atmosphere of the home interesting and living. Audacity is an excellent human quality to exercise while arranging furniture.
The Center of Interest. The center of interest in a living room is usually the fireplace in winter and a window group in summer. Seats should be placed accordingly. Needless to say there is no point in gathering around a gas log or a bed of artificial coals. If one is so unfortunate as to have an imitation fireplace it might be ignored or covered but certainly never treated as a center of interest. It is not hospitable to conceal a real fireplace from the person who is entering the living room. Even large establishments can not afford to reserve the hearth for just a few people. Therefore it is not well to place a sofa squarely in front of the fireplace. In a small room, the sofa might be placed along the side wall near the fireplace with several movable chairs near by that can be pulled up to form a group. In a larger room the sofa might be at right angles to the hearth with two chairs and an end table opposite it. In such an arrangement the space behind the sofa is a good place for a small desk. A low coffee table or a seating stool is not objectionable before the fireplace because it is so easy to see over it. A backless bench has the same desirable feature.
If there is no real fireplace, the center of interest may be a good sofa with a picture or textile above it. It may be a very interesting cabinet, a chest, highboy, piano, a window full of plants, a window seat with books underneath, or a window with a view. It may be a display from the collection of some member of the family who has an interesting hobby. The center of interest should be featured so that one looks there, upon entering the room. It is often desirable to make a secondary center of interest also, particularly in a large room.
In general the color used in the living room should be somewhat impersonal, but cheerful and welcoming. It is safe to state that the living room should be largely warm in color, except in the tropics or in a summer home. In the winter, people are in the house much more than in summer, so the color should be the kind that is most pleasant for winter. It is almost a law that walls of living rooms should be warm and light in color. It is important to have one definite color dominate in the living room. There should also be a color that is secondary in area, and lesser amounts of several others. It takes at least five colors to make a satisfactory living room. Accents of the color complementary to the dominating color are needed, also.
The rules that apply to all color schemes of course apply to those in living rooms. The larger areas should be subdued; smaller areas may be brighter. Colors should vary in hue, value, and intensity, but if there is great difference in any one of these three then there should be little difference in the other two. Triads and complementary schemes seem to work out best for the usual type of living rooms, as they can provide a nice balance of colors. Adjacent color schemes are excellent in modern living rooms.
The dining room is not taken so seriously as it used to be; in fact, it is often omitted. In a small house or apartment it is not sensible to reserve one fourth, one fifth, or one sixth of the home for dining, if the family uses it no more than seven times a week. There are even some apartment dining rooms that are used only during Sunday dinner. If the housewife does her own work, naturally she conserves her energy by serving meals as often as possible in a dining nook in the kitchen, if there is an attractive one. For a large family, it is probably necessary to have a dining room for dining only, but a small family can eat before the fireplace, beside a sunny window, or wherever it is most interesting or convenient at the time.
The conventional dining room is formal, as is also the very act of gathering for meals. Dining rooms often have a very monotonous appearance because unfortunately they are furnished with sets of furniture. This is entirely unnecessary as every piece may be different if it harmonizes with the group. In an unconventional type of room even the chairs may each be different, but pairs alike are often preferred. A varied collection of furniture cannot usually be purchased at one time but must be acquired gradually.
Although plenty of wall space is more important than wall furniture in a small dining room, it is usually necessary to have at least one wall piece. The person who wants a distinctive room does not now buy a sideboard. The china cabinet, too, is a thing of the past, fortunately, and is replaced by more interesting pieces, such as corner cupboards or tall cupboards, hutches, dressers, cabinets, or hanging shelves. A serving table near the door into the kitchen is a convenience, but if drawer space is needed, a chest of drawers should be used instead. It is sometimes well to use one tall piece of furniture across the room from the windows of the dining room. There are available now some very nice two pedestal dining tables that can be collapsed, so as to become suitable living-room tables. These are especially desirable for apartment dwellers who might have a dining room in one apartment, but not in the next one to which they move.
If the dining-room furniture is dull in appearance it should be painted. In a conservative type of home, for example, the chairs might be painted blue-green and the table black. In an informal home, each chair, or each pair of chairs, might well be a different, bright color, chosen from those that are adjacent on the color wheel. An even more jolly effect is obtained by painting the seat and perhaps the horizontal bars one color, and the rest of the chair another. The remainder of the furniture should also be painted in these colors, with one color dominating, and all within a definite limited range on the color wheel.
The Combination Dining Room. In a small family the dining room may be treated as an extension of the living room, being used also as a sitting room, study, or music room. In such a combination room, between meals it is well to have no evidence of the fact that the room is also used for dining. The reason for this is that most of us do not enjoy sitting around in a dining room, but we do enjoy eating in a sitting room. The sittingroom effect is not possible, however, if one has regulation diningroom furniture. A dining-room table of the usual type, a sideboard, and six chairs alike say dining room in an unmistakable fashion. The furnishing in a combination room might well consist of a table of the gate-leg type or a long table, two open armchairs, a pair of side chairs, a screen, a small cabinet, a tall secretary with drawers below and possibly wooden doors above, or a tall cabinet to hold linen and silver. It is well to have a long, rather narrow table identical with one's living-room table, so they can be placed end to end for a "smorgasbord" or buffet table. Two or three side chairs should be available from other rooms. There should be growing plants in such a room.
The Dining Alcove. It is also preferable not to place regulation dining table and chairs in a dining alcove that is off the living room, but to furnish it like the living room, with a table against the wall, that can be pulled cut into the center of the alcove for meals. It is very convenient to have curtains or screens to conceal the dining alcove while the table is being prepared for a meal.
Because of the likelihood of spots on the floor, a plain carpet is usually avoided for the dining room. If the dining room and living room adjoin, with a large door between them, however, it is often well to have the same carpet in both rooms. An Oriental rug is usually the best floor covering to use in the dining room of a house with traditional furniture of mahogany or other fine wood. Cut linoleum specially designed for the rooms can be used in many types of dining rooms.
In color the dining room may be intimate or formal depending upon the type of home of which it is a part; however, it is usually desirable to have it bright. Since it is a room that is not occupied for any length of time, it need not be particularly restful. Cool, refreshing colors are often desirable in dining rooms, but any dark north room should be decorated with yellow. Colorful woodwork, patterned wall paper, and painted furniture are often used to make dining rooms cheerful. The woman who wants to use white linen should use white elsewhere in the room. Between meals it is not usually desirable to have white textiles on the table or sideboard, unless the room is largely white.