THE house that Jack built has a wonderful situation and a wonderful view. It sits high on the top of a forested hill, with a clear horizon to the north, northeast and west. In the valley down below can be seen the line of the old aqueduct, an embankment that furnishes a splendid promenade for holidays and Sundays. Off to the northeast is the tower that stores the water which supplies Jack's house and protects it from fire.
But it is the landscape to the west and northwest - the historic and noble Hudson, with its glorious western bank and hundreds of steam and gasolene and sail and row boats - that fascinates me most. No wonder that Jack and Mary liked to sit out on the porch and watch the pageant on the river, and the transformation of woods and sky as the sun drops low in the west. No wonder that so many of Mary's luncheons are served out on the porch, and that Mary's luncheon parties are so popular with the ladies of the neighborhood. Jack seldom joins them, for he is active in business, commuting to New York daily in order to secure the wherewithal to keep the house supplied with necessaries and luxuries.
I shall never forget my first visit to the house, one rich day last autumn. The air was fresh and keen, although the sky was overcast and clouds of mist were rolling in from the ocean. I was met at the station by the automobile that quickly and easily climbed the hills from the river level to Jack's house. At every turn of the winding road a new surprise presented itself. For in this part of the country are to be found some of the most delightful homes in the world - one of them a reproduction of Mount Vernon built by Mr. W. W. Law for his daughter. And almost all of these homes are cleverly landscaped and closely related to the land and trees around them.
Jack was on the veranda to welcome me.
"It is quite a climb to get up here from the highway," I remarked to Jack. "The roadway must Have cost you a pretty penny."
The House that Jack Built.
"Yes," said Jack, with some feeling, "it cost nearly as much as the house itself. Thank heaven, it's done now, and the automobile takes the incline without a murmur. When I first spoke of building on the summit of this hill, some of my friends said I was crazy; that the wind would blow us away in winter, and that the house would be absolutely impossible to heat."
"Have you found it so?" I asked.
"Well, it was cold last winter," admitted Jack, "mighty cold, and this winter we're going into town December 15th. But in all except the severest weather the steam keeps us comfortably warm, and all the year around we have air and sunshine galore. We live among beautiful trees, with birds and squirrels as our neighbors, and though only a few miles from Manhattan we are as secluded as the landed proprietors of ancient European castles. And in the autumn - well, you see for yourself," he said, pointing to the magnificent golden-brown foliage that adorned the tall trees at the northeast corner of the house. I was later delighted to discover that the guest chamber, in this corner of the house, had been decorated and furnished in tones of golden brown borrowed from the outside.
The verandas I liked particularly. They are spacious and are appropriately furnished with wicker and rough hickory and other rustic furniture, and the large veranda at the northwest corner has light wooden blinds as a protection against sun and rain. The box seat and pillows at the end of this veranda are very inviting and comfortable, and the flowers that Mary placed in the basket beside the table in honor of my visit added a feminine touch of beauty that I still remember gratefully. Mary, by the way, not only put fresh flowers here, but in other parts of the house, all artfully arranged with the skill that is natural to the Japanese, and by some Americans acquired.
These flowers impressed me mightily, but not a word did I say about them until just as I was leaving. Then I said, "Mrs. Jack, I want to congratulate you on your skill and taste in the arrangement of flowers."
Mary flushed, but looked pleased. All she said was, "I wondered if you were going away without noticing them."
The open veranda or terrace is at the northeast corner of the house. It is protected at the east end from the cold winds. The floor is of rough tiles, and the two doors open into the living-room.
Jack's Covered Porch.
I told Jack I thought his house a great success.
"Yes," replied Jack, "we are very well satisfied, but I do wish I had known about fireplaces sooner. It cost me $250 after the house was built to hire an expert to create a draught in the living-room fireplace. For $50 an expert will go over your place beforehand and guarantee, if his suggestions are followed, that the chimneys will draw. No draw, no pay. He also guarantees results after the house is built, but he charges from $250 to $1,000 for doing it. I wish we had employed him beforehand," he added reflectively.
This is to be the story of the furnishing and decorating of Jack's house - the solving of problems that beset every homebuilder. Because Jack and Mary were unusually successful it has seemed to me worth while to tell the story in detail. And it is a story not without the romance that ever hovers about the making of a home.
In all their undertakings they were much helped by the similar experiences of their Cousin Tom. In some respects they have improved upon Cousin Tom's house; in others I think he has a little the best of it.
Cousin Tom's house, like Jack's, is near to the heart of Nature. The fine trees, particularly the Japanesque one at the northeast corner, background the house splendidly. But in most respects it is in strong contrast. Jack's house is of rough stone and shingles, set on a hill miles from open water. Tom's is right on the edge of Long Island Sound and is of double hollow-tile construction - a costly but durable material - with tiled roof. One reason for this expensive construction was that the man for whom the house was built is prominent in one of the big construction companies, and consequently could secure results at minimum cost.
If Jack's house has a wonderful forest view, Tom's has an equally wonderful water view. Here is a place where one could spend weeks studying the moods of sky and ocean, watching the craft that crowd the Sound, listening to the stories told by these weird trees where leaves are always rustling.
The approach to Tom's house is much less effective than the approach to Jack's. You enter far in the rear along a narrow road, with the garage to one side and a children's Japanese play-house on the other. Only when you are well past the south side of the house do you begin to realize the charm of the surroundings; and not until you are well out toward the water-line do you get a full view of the front of the house.
Cousin Tom's House.
The architectural plan of Tom's house is simple and good, with classic forms in the per-golaed veranda in the middle, and classic in general proportions. The sun rooms on each side of the main entrance are completely protected from the weather. I fancy that when the Sound kicks up under a heavy wind, and the spray drives high and far inland, the windows and walls of these sun rooms are very welcome.
Cousin Tom has just made plans for the enlarging of his house. I didn't have an opportunity to talk them over with him, but I very much fear that it will be difficult to make an addition of any kind without ruining the unity of the whole.