"How did you learn all that?" broke in Mary. "I never see anything like that in books and magazine articles on decoration."
"Probably not," I assented. "I have several times in magazine articles touched on the subject of advancing and receding surfaces, but have never as thoroughly set forth the causes that make surfaces appear to advance or recede, as I shall in this book about your experiences in furnishing."
"Well," said Jack, "it's mighty interesting; all the more so because you can test it out with your own eyes, and don't have to put it up to some chap with a spectroscope or a photometer."
"Most decorative problems," I suggested, "are common sense and experience problems rather than scientific problems. If people would only open their eyes and use them, their opinions and decisions would cause much less trouble to architects and decorators."
Jack's Living Room (see Chapter II (The Living-Room) (The Living-Room)).
"Who is responsible for the bookcase in the corner?" I asked. It was simply made and finished in white enamel, good enough by itself, but hardly in keeping with a room beautifully paneled in oak in the Old English fashion.
Mary looked guilty. Finally Jack said: "Oh, we just had the carpenter come in one day and put it up. It serves the purpose well enough."
"If your architect ever sees it," I remarked, "he'll throw nine fits."
"He has," said Jack. "At least, I mean he has seen it, and made me promise to have it taken out as soon as he sends me sketches for what he considers an appropriate case running along the whole north side of the room."
"Your big Jacobean table," I remarked, in order to relieve the tension produced by my criticism of the bookcase, "is very good. I love those carved, bulbous legs and solid construction below. Besides that, the table goes well with the mantel. About the chair beside the table, I'm not so sure. While the back is good seventeenth century, the legs belong to the eighteenth. The mahogany tea table is also of the eighteenth century in style."
"And the tabouret comes from Damascus, and the lamp with Chinese teakwood base and Chinese porcelain bowl, has a silk shade of the Marie Antoinette type made in Paris." So much from Mary with some vigor in her tone.
"Yes," I added, "and the Chinese porcelain bowl was painted by hand with Chinese flowers not in China but in Paris, and the lamp was wired for electricity not in Paris but in New York, because the foreign wiring is not suitable for use here."
"Speaking about wiring," said Jack, "we were much more fortunate than a friend of ours in New Rochelle. His was a small house and the wiring of it was done by a local electrician. When the lighting fixture firm asked for a plan of the outlets, there was no plan to be had, and it took about three weeks to worry out of the electrician a list of the outlets by rooms with the light power of each. And it turned out that the reason the electrician had been able to put in the lowest bid was that he under-wired the house, putting in only two-thirds enough outlets and half enough circuits to supply the brackets and fixtures absolutely needed."
"It seems to me you use rather technical language for a layman," I suggested. "You must have given some time and attention to this question of lighting fixtures."
"I have," said Jack. "I've had to buy the fixtures for a number of large apartment buildings, and trouble enough I had with it all. The lighting fixture salesmen talk all the time about the beauty of their models and the solidity of their castings and the elegance of their finishes, but when you ask how to light a room properly, their volubility usually ceases. And when it doesn't, it should. The average lighting fixture salesman doesn't know any more about lighting a room than he does about aviation."
"Undoubtedly true," I assented, "but there are notable exceptions. And there are a number of architects who really understand the subject. The late Stanford White was a past master. His residence in Gramercy Park, now the Princeton Club, was the most beautifully and effectively lighted house I have ever seen."
"Certainly your living-room isn't overlighted," I went on, measuring with my eye the height of the four brackets and of the candlesticks on the mantel."
"No," said Mary, "it isn't overlighted, but it is very agreeably lighted. The table lamp and the piano lamp are not only useful but ornamental and add a bit of color that is very attractive."
"At any rate," I said, "the side lights and mantel lights are up out of the range of vision. And the dull antique gold surfaces of the metallized compo standards and brackets, as well as the shapes, are in harmony with the character of the room."
"The lighting was really done by the architect," said Mary. "He planned the outlets and made a rough pencil sketch of the type of bracket he wanted us to get."
"Those look like real candles, but I know they are not," said I, pointing to the two candelabra on the mantel. They carried no round frosted bulbs like the brackets.
"No," said Jack, "they're not real candles. They're the new English type of electric candle that glows the length of the candle from a long slender electric glass tube inside. Rather decorative," Jack added, switching them on.
"Is your whole house fully equipped with switches," I asked. Sometimes switches are provided only for those rooms that have candle brackets which it is impracticable though not impossible to light locally, and the rest of the fixtures and brackets are left to get on with keys and chain pulls.
"Switches everywhere," said Jack. "It made the electrician's bill high, but the architect insisted and we have always been glad that he did. Besides, in the long run switches save money. When lights are not in use they are put out. Another good thing our architect did was to place floor and wall plugs where they would do most good, like the two that supply the lamps on the table and the piano."
"It seems a pity you had to cut a hole for the electric cord through the rug," I said to Mary.
"Oh, yes," she answered. "I wouldn't consent at first. But we did need the light on the table. And anyway it's a very small hole."
"Did I tell you about my visit to your Cousin Tom's house?" I asked, lighting one of Jack's cigars.
Mary was immediately all attention. "Do you like Cousin Tom's living-room better than ours?" she queried earnestly.
Cousin Tom's Living Room.
"No, I can't say that I do," I responded. "It is an entirely different type of room. Yours is Old English in general character, while Tom's is Colonial. Yours has a high ceiling and Tom's a low ceiling. The walls of yours are paneled in wood, while wall paper adorns the walls of the other."
"It seems to me that our living-room hangs together better," said Mary. "Cousin Tom's seems to pull apart in the middle."
"Yes, to some extent, if you look only at the floor. The use of several Persian rugs, instead of one big one to dominate the interior, makes against unity. But that tendency to pull apart is, I think, counterbalanced by the lowness of the ceiling and the classic cornice that frames the room."
"Besides," said Mary, "I don't think it as comfortable as our room."
"You mean," interrupted Jack, "it hasn't a big sofa and a big window-seat with pillows galore to nestle down in. That is your first idea of comfort in a room."
"And quite rightly," I commented. "If you can't sit down and recline comfortably in a room, there is little comfort in it."
"That is a charming mirror over Tom's mantcl," said Mary. "I don't wonder Harriet likes to sit at the table facing it."
"Yes, and the two old candelabra with their prisms and cutglass shades go with it beautifully," said Jack. "In fact, I think I like all the lighting fixtures in Tom's room better than those in ours."
"His is certainly much more brightly lighted than yours," I remarked, "although it is larger and has the same number of lights. The ground-glass shades tone the light very agreeably, and the lightness of the woodwork and wall paper and ceiling render them reflecting surfaces of high value. The light that comes to them they reflect and re-reflect, instead of swallowing it up as dark surfaces do. Then, too, the ceiling being low, it is wise to make it seem higher by illuminating it brightly."
"I guess they need all the light they can get down there on foggy days," said Jack. "Up here on the top of a hill we never need artificial light in the daytime, even when the skies are blackest and the atmosphere thickest.
"I think each room is well suited to its environment," I added. "Your Old English room on the top of a hill backgrounded by tall trees and wonderful foliage, Tom's down by the seaside with its everchanging vistas of sky and water."
Mantel in Cousin Tom's Living Room.
"I prefer the top of the hill," said Mary.
"And I," chimed in Jack.
Author's Note. - For itemized cost of the furniture of the living rooms, dining rooms, owner's bedrooms, den, sun rooms, guest rooms, see page 196. For floor-plans of The House that Jack Built, see pages 166 and 168.