At certain seasons of the year the thoughts of the dwellers in cities instinctively turn towards the country.
There are thousands, indeed, millions, who are bound by necessity to live in towns, but there is a growing tendency to rush away from the toils and tumults of busy surroundings for a week-end in the country. Gradually, but surely, the compelling need of rest and repose for both mind and body is borne home to all in a century which is remarkable for life lived at high pressure.
The popularity of the country cottage is growing among all sorts and conditions of men. Nature lovers, golfers, and fagged brain-workers, all alike seek the restfulness of even a tiny dwelling which is not invaded by the hum and bustle of crowds, a place where the restraints of town may be cast aside. The cut-away coat is exchanged for a Norfolk jacket, the latest creation of Madame la Mode for a simple cotton gown !
Scattered over various parts of England there are innumerable cottages which, with a little skill and some simple and not expensive sanitary improvement, could meet the requirements of the most fastidious. Many of the cottagers have deserted their old homes for the uncertain delights of "model dwellings" on the fringe of a factory district or large centre of industry, and in consequence charming little places can be D 28 rented from £5 to £18 a year, according to the county and locality.
When once the idea of renting a cottage for a week-end abode or a summer residence is entertained seriously, there are several important things to decide. First, locality, proximity to golf links, if golf is desired, also distance from one's permanent home, unless the cottage is to be the home. Some women with small incomes choose country life for financial reasons; in this case, of course, the social character of the neighbourhood may claim their attention, for few people care for entire isolation from congenial society.
If the cottage is simply to fulfil the needs of a week-end retreat, then the distance from one's permanent home is important.
Long railway journeys are not only fatiguing, but costly, and may cause the Saturday to Monday holiday to prove an expensive luxury. It will, therefore, be more economical in the end to pay a little higher rent and be nearer to one's headquarters. Distance from the station is another point to be kept in view. "Six miles from nowhere" may have fascinations for some, but, if it entails a six miles' walk on a wet morning to catch a train, the one cab being incapacitated through its driver having rheumatism, the glamour will vanish. For practical purposes, two or three miles from a station will be found sufficiently distant from civilisation to satisfy the . most determined enthusiast for country life. Another point is to be on a main line, if possible.
Oxfordshire abounds in picturesque cottages; some of its villages possess an absolutely unspoilt old-world atmosphere, and it is possible to rent a cottage with oak beams and oak dressers which many a collector might envy.
To others Sussex appeals irresistibly, with its glorious downs and quaint diagonally-bricked dwellings. To lovers of mystery and romance, a cottage perched high above the Romney Marsh may appeal. If distance is no object, the white-washed walls of a Welsh cottage can be alluring.
When one finds the ideal cottage, then comes the pleasure of beautifying its interior. If it contains old beams, an oak staircase, oak doors, of which "the bobbin must be pulled before the latch goes up," the task of furnishing is considerably easier. Such a cottage is a perfect specimen of an old English dwelling in miniature. The prospective tenant, however, must be most careful to see that a boarded floor is provided, for the stone or brick floors so often found in cottages are most conducive to rheumatism.
Having considered the general charms of a cottage, we must turn to strictly practical adjuncts. Men cannot live on air and scenery; therefore, before taking the cottage, make quite sure the kitchen range is a good one, with a capacity for cooking. No matter how ideal the interior and the surroundings, material requirements will prevent the week-end visits being a success if lunch or dinner cannot be served properly. Another important factor in the comforts of a cottage is a plentiful supply of hot water. Besides the culinary utensils, several large kettles will be found invaluable. They should always be kept filled on the stove.
Baskets lined with red flannel, containing deep, air-tight cans, may be bought for the use of those who prefer warm to cold " tubs." The cans may be filled over night, and the water remains quite warm in the morning. To cultivate happiness in a country cottage, minimise labour, and at the same time jealously guard home comforts.
It is quite possible in many houses to find enough superfluous furniture to furnish completely one of these cottages. Odd chairs and tables, hidden away in attics or crowded out of use, may be brought into service with a little ingenuity. If this is not feasible, inexpensive and effective furniture that is in keeping with its environment should be chosen, and simplicity ought to be the keynote in its choice.
Distemper the walls of the dining-room pale primrose; indeed, this one scheme of colour may be used in every room with advantage. Stain the floor all around, and in the centre lay a cord square. These squares are made in all colours, designs, and sizes. They cost from 6s. 9d. to 47s. 6d., according to size. A cheaper Dutch carpet costs from 3s. 11d. to 21s. 6d. a square. Cord hearth-rugs from 1s. 3d. to 3s. 6d. Cord stair carpets in a dull blue look well and wear well. These may be bought eighteen inches wide at 10d. a yard, and can be procured up to 72 inches in width. A set of six oak rush-seated chairs and a gate-legged table are artistic. The former cost 11s. 6d. each, the latter £1 9s. 6d. Armchairs to match cost 21s. 6d. Quaintly designed country-made furniture is extremely effective and most inexpensive.
For decoration of the walls choose a set of hunting scenes in dull black wooden frames. An oak dresser with a few bits of blue china strikes a pleasant note in the room, while a collection of Toby jugs is the best adornment for the mantelshelf. If a Sheffield plate candelabra is not at hand, a twisted
A typical country cottage, requiring but a moderate outlay to make it a charming refuge for a tired town dweller
How an old-fashioned cottage fireplace can be adapted to modern requirements without spoiling its interesting character candelabra of bent ironwork, either for a lamp or candles, looks well on the table. Sometimes a corner cupboard may be picked up for a few shillings, making a useful addition to the dining-room. The fender and fireirons should be of bent ironwork, costing about 12s. in all. For the windows of the cottage scarlet twill casement curtains, costing 6 3/4d. a yard, are delightfully bright and fresh-looking; a soft art shade of casement cloth is equally effective, especially if the windows are mullioned.
Inexpensive white enamelled furniture is suitable for a bedroom, or a hazelwood suite costing about £7 12s. 6d. Choose a soft green toilet set of quaint design.
Very often, if desired, the wardrobe can be dispensed with. Get the village joiner to fix a triangular piece of wood across one corner of the room about six feet high. Enamel this to match the furniture, and make a curtain of cretonne or twill. Sew rings along the band which holds the gathers at the top, attach a corresponding number of hooks in the wood, and hook on the curtain. Hooks should be screwed underneath the wooden triangle for hanging up clothes. Movable shelves, that will be useful for books and nicknacks may also be made by the local joiner to stand against a wall, but should not be attached to it. The floor of the room should be stained all over and Oriental rugs put down, or the floor may be covered by a reliable firm with linoleum for 12s.
Now for the most interesting room in the house. In a cottage one often finds the door opens directly into the "front room," or "the parlour," as it is reverently called. If it is approached by a narrow passage, it is best to have at least one of the walls knocked down. Banish at the same time all thoughts of a prim little drawing-room, for the ideal arrangement for a country cottage is a " hall-sitting-room." Before visiting modern shops to supply the needs of this room, try to find quaint and beautiful odd pieces of furniture, for even yet some of the cottagers will at times part with some of their old treasures. A couple of chintz-covered lounge chairs, costing about £2 10s. each, or an armchair in natural cane at 14s. 6d. will at all times prove a blessing. For the rest, some odd pieces of Chippendale would be perfection. A table, pushed back against the wall to leave the centre of the room comparatively free, may contain writing materials, bowls of flowers, and favourite books. Over the fireplace, which one must hope will be of oak, miniatures look well. On the mantelpiece one or two specimens of good china, or a collection of animals, "spotted" dogs or zebras, will look effective. A few specimens of old brass and a warming-pan add to the artistic tout ensemble. Rush-seated chairs in fumed oak are always in good taste, and can be easily dusted. It is wiser to wage war against the collection of dust, when the cottage is not in use, by eschewing upholstered furniture as much as possible. Cushions in washable muslin covers may be used on the rush seats if desired, but they spoil the effect of simplicity. Indian matting makes a suitable floor covering on which can be laid several Oriental rugs. An art rush matting also in all the chief shade.; can be bought from 9 1/2d. a yard upwards, according to width.
A cottage-window. The curtains may be of scarlet twill or in casement cloth of an art shade