There should be no superfluous hangings or curtains, nothing to harbour dust or germs. Whatever else may be wanting, provide ample wardrobe accommodation, and, if at all possible, a full-length mirror. When this latter item cannot be placed in each room it is an excellent plan to place one on a landing in a good light.
A floorcloth, with rugs, is preferable to a carpet, and more sanitary.
In a holiday boarding-house such as the writer has in mind there will be a good-sized lounge hall, a smoke-room, and a drawing-room provided with a cottage piano. If the size of the house does not also permit of a writing-room, then both smoke-room and drawing-room should each be provided with a writing-table. Men are sometimes a little thoughtless in the matter of smoking, and a courteous intimation that the drawing-room should be kept free from the fumes of tobacco will not be resented on their part, and will" be much appreciated by the ladies.
In the lounge hall it will be well to have a good supply of comfortable basket chairs, and on the walls notices of anything that may interest visitors - information concerning local matters, excursions, fetes, entertainments, railway and boating time-tables, names of local churches with their hours of service, and an Ordnance map of the district.
If there happens to be a garden it can be made a great attraction. A shady lawn is the ideal spot for the afternoon cup of tea on hot summer days. Grown-ups as well as children appreciate a hammock or two, and games such as croquet or tennis, if available, will always prove an attraction.
The furniture should be obtained on the most advantageous terms. An introduction to a wholesale firm is invaluable, as the middleman's profits are saved. One enterprising woman obtained her thirty bedroom suites in the plain wood from the warehouse, and then employed a man to French polish them. She thus secured reliable solid wood goods at little more than half the cost of buying in the ordinary way, even with liberal discounts.
The arrangements of the house and its management should permit of plenty of freedom, with restraint so tactfully concealed that it is hardly felt. The proprietress who wishes to enlarge her clientele tries to make every visitor at home, is never too busy for a chat or word of information, and takes a personal interest in the comfort and amusement of each individual.
This spirit of personal interest in the well-being of the visitor and the encouragement of a cheerful, homely feeling is highly desirable and much appreciated. The proprietress may be an expert housekeeper, and yet fail because she keeps aloof or too much in the background. Not for a moment should she let her boarders feel she is making money out of them ; always she should have the tact and the good sense to treat them as though they were guests.
She must, of course, be experienced in the management of a large house, or have undergone training at some school of domestic science. A year or so spent in this manner would be a valuable experience for her. There is the difficulty of obtaining servants and retaining them during the busy season, so that a proprietress who can don her apron and turn cook or housemaid at any moment possesses a distinct advantage.
Undoubtedly she needs a business head. She must buy economically, know all the available markets, understand book-keeping, and be familiar with the legal relations existing between herself and her boarders. Illness may intrude at any time, therefore a knowledge of sick-nursing will be found never to come amiss.
The proprietress, however, may possess a great deal of information and personal charm and yet not attain success, because she has neither wisdom in the selection of servants, nor power to manage them, and to inspire in them the spirit of helpfulness which visitors so much appreciate.
In engaging servants it is very necessary to make particular inquiries as to honesty and trustworthiness, because drawers, wardrobes, and trunks are constantly left open, and their contents at the mercy of the evilly disposed.
The scarcity of servant maids is a difficulty which some overcome by taking young foreign menservants, many of whom are willing to cross the Channel for the season, and do not expect high wages because they value the opportunity for improving their knowledge of English.
In one small suburban boarding-house where permanent gentlemen boarders are taken, a manservant is found useful as a valet, waiter, and general factotum. Occasionally it works well to have a childless married couple, the wife acting as cook or housemaid.
It may be useful to consider the type of boarding-house which people do not care to revisit. There is the house where meals are never ready to time, the food ill-cooked, the servants inattentive, and forgetful of boot-cleaning, hot-water jugs, and bedroom service ; where the proprietress neglects some boarders in favour of others ; where trains, tramcars, and other irritants disturb the night's rest ; where children, uncontrolled, romp and play boisterous games ; and where "extras" run up the account to an amount which is, to say the least of it, unexpected. There is the house to which some infectious complaint has been brought. And there is the house where the proprietress is rarely to be found when she is wanted.
In a seaside, or, perhaps, it would be better to say holiday, boarding-house the work is usually very heavy during the summer months, but when the season is over there is opportunity for a long rest, or visits to friends ; or the house perhaps may be closed entirely.