As to the style of treatment of the woodwork it may be that in the matter of interior house finish both client and architect are too easily and generally ruled by conventional ideas. The client desires to reproduce the appearance of a room sometime seen and liked by him, without regard to its appropriate relation to the atmosphere of the rest of his dwelling. The architect is too prone to follow periods and styles that, in the inexpensive American dwelling at least, frequently appear over-pretentious and out of harmony with the life of its occupants.
In the summer cottage especially, there are many ways of obtaining attractive effects inexpensively that are perhaps less suitable to the more restrained conventions surrounding life near the city, or to the dwelling inhabited for the major portion of the year. Rough plaster stained one coat, for instance, is much more attractive than the same color rendered monotonous in tone by its even application in coatings several times repeated. The simpler life during the summer allows of the introduction of the element of accidental informality into the design of the country or sea-shore dwelling. This meaning may perhaps be best and most exactly illustrated by quoting actual happenings that have come within the writer's immediate experience*
In one instance a dining room was designed with a simple panelled effect of wide boards with the joints covered by narrow moulded "battens." The mill getting out the finish asked for further time to complete the contract for this especial room as they had not stock of sufficient width available, except some which had been thrown aside as imperfect on account of discoloration and worm holes. The curiosity of the architect being aroused, he made occasion to visit the yard to see this stock and found his anticipations more than realized by discovering it to be a whitewood (the material specified) of the necessary width, to be sure, but liberally colored in beautiful reds, yellows, browns, and pinks, while the figuring of the wood itself varied greatly from light to a rather dark tone which.handsomely brought out its veining. Realizing the possibilities, it did not take long to come to an understanding with the contractors whereby they were only too pleased to be allowed to make use of this material, - and affording the owner a considerable reduction for the privilege! - while, by changing the finishing of the wood to a very light gray stain with waxed surface, a room in appearance quite as handsome as though very expensive imported woods had been employed was finally obtained at a really absurd cost.
Again; an unusual delay in the installation of some fireplace facings sufficiently aroused the ire of the architect to cause him to descend upon the workshop of the defaulting contractor with the intention of relieving his mind orally and in person. The visit developed the fact that the delay had been caused by the shipment from the factory of a lot of tiles which did not equal the sample selected by architect and client, and the contractor insisted that until he received a shipment of perfect material from the factory, he could not install the fireplaces that had been estimated. The discolered tile being exhibited, it took but a glance to perceive that whereas the sample selected had been a rather flat and characterless pale cream-colored tile; these "defective" specimens had been tinged in their firing by varying and changing modulated tones of yellows, umbers and browns, in just such a way as to emphasize their design most delicately, and to form, in combination, a fireplace facing and hearth of much more character and artistic value than would have resulted if the original intention had been followed out.
Of course both of these opportunities could not have been availed of if the architect had not been sufficiently assured of his client's ability to appreciate the artistic and unusual effects thus accidentally procured; yet this "accidental" element appears so frequently and so unexpectedly in the evolution of house after house that to obtain the best results, the designer and his client should be at pains to work together harmoniously and remain open to accept and make the most of just such accidental happenings as they arrive.
If one were asked what single factor most added to the cost of a building there could be no doubt but a truthful reply would be that changes made by the owners during or while the building is in process of construction are more universally the cause than any other one thing. Yet this in itself is easily avoidable - provided only that architect and owner once arrive at a perfect understanding, that sufficient time is taken before actual work is commenced to study over the possible variations in plan and finish and to mutually decide which will the better meet the points involved - that it seems inexcusable that such should be the case. But time after time, to begin actual work but means the beginning of making changes on the plan, until additional and unnecessary expense is incurred to an amount that is often ridiculously in excess of the benefits achieved; the final result being rarely as good as the arrangement determined upon in the first instance. Unless one is accustomed to the different aspects under which a building and its individual parts will appear while in course of construction, one is not able to judge what its effect will be when completed. The unduly small and apparently low room, when only studded out or rough plastered, appears of quite different and much more capacious proportions when completed and finished; and so it goes throughout the entire dwelling, until the old answer to the jesting query as to "How to Build a Dwelling Cheaply," "Keep the Owner Away Until It Is Finished," is proven to be a most serious and learned bit of practical philosophy.