This section is from the book "Modern Buildings, Their Planning, Construction And Equipment Vol1", by G. A. T. Middleton. Also available from Amazon: Modern Buildings.
The last three chapters have dealt with the principal requirements of house plans - their aspects, the position and interrelation of the various rooms, and, in the case of the larger houses, the proper separation of the various departments, together with such essentials as the provision of ample sunlight and the possibility of constructing, and especially of roofing, the house with ease. Still, there are many little points to which scant or no attention has yet been given, which, nevertheless, are of real importance.
Not only is it desirable to plan so that direct sunlight shall be admitted, at some time of the day, to as great a part of a house as possible, but ample light must be provided to all parts. The general rule is, that the clear area of the glass in the windows of a room must be at least equal to one-tenth of the floor area, while every landing, passage, or staircase must have one window opening directly to the open air; but this rule is for the minimum and not for the maximum, and the more light in excess of this requirement the better. Dark corners and passages are not only awkward, but great harbourers of dirt, and the unsuspected cause of much illness; while light is the great germ killer and exposer of all that should not be in a house.
Consequently, not only should there be plenty of windows to the rooms of a house, but to its halls, passages, staircases, store cupboards, and most particularly to the w.c.'s and the larders, - and in all cases the light should be direct from the open, and not "borrowed" or obtained across another room.
The positions which the windows occupy also greatly affect their value. A window at the end of a long passage is, for instance, of much less use than one in its side wall, about the middle of its length; the effect of walking towards a window being, that anyone coming in the opposite direction is seen in shadow, while if you are walking away from the window you are yourself obstructing the light to all the rest of the passage.
In sitting-rooms the windows should be placed, so far as is possible, to give side light to any tables or seats used for work or reading, and to the piano; and in the kitchen to give a direct light to the working table and a side light to the range, while direct light over the sink is most useful in sculleries and pantries. In bedrooms light is needed to shine directly upon the person when standing before the looking-glass, the best arrangement being, possibly, the provision of two windows in the same wall, with sufficient space between for the dressing-table. A small window, somewhat high up, is sometimes useful beside the bed to give light for reading if the room is occupied by an invalid; and similar supplementary windows may well be introduced into sitting-rooms, to light ingle-nooks or the position which a desk or piano would occupy. To staircases and halls often a top light is the best - that is, the most diffused; but it is always difficult to clean, and is often used by the unskilful planner as an easy solution of an awkward problem which could be better solved in some other way.
Artificial Light needs just as careful consideration as that from windows. Whether gas or electricity be used, the lights have to be placed where they will best do their work; and in the case of gas, where the taps are easily within reach, and the flame in such a position that light curtains are not likely to be thrown or blown across it, and out of direct and sudden draught. It is also advisable to avoid positions from which the shadows of occupants of the room will be thrown upon the window blinds, particularly in bedrooms, bathrooms, and w.c.'s.
Possibly a suspended centre light is best in a dining-room, as it avoids shadows upon the dining-table; but in the hall and other sitting-rooms it is possible to exercise discretion to a large extent, remembering that diffused is more pleasant than concentrated lighting, while the best artistic effects are to be obtained when the source of light is invisible. Bracket lights or standards, it will be borne in mind, are the most suitable for incandescent gas burners, causing less destruction of mantles than swinging or other hanging lights.
In bedrooms the best position for lights is just above and in front of the looking-glass - preferably suspended electric lights; but this position is a difficult one in which to put gas without risk of setting the window curtains on fire.
Proper lighting to desks and piano, to persons reading in front of the fire, to the kitchen range and table, and in the passages, so as to have no dark corners, are all matters requiring careful thought, preferably upon the spot; but many architects will denote the positions which lights should occupy by some sign, such as printed in red upon the plans.
Ventilation and Heating, cognate subjects, to be dealt with fully in a later Volume of this book, receive much less attention in the ordinary small and middle-class house than they properly deserve. When fires are alight in the winter-time, very efficient outlet ventilation are provided by their flues, but if equally effective inlets are not carefully arranged, the air to supply them is drawn in from every crevice in the windows and from beneath the door, causing sharp draughts of cold air, especially along the floor between door and fireplace. This is now generally provided against in large houses by a supplemental system of heating and ventilating by means of warmed air; but in small houses no provision whatever is made. Undoubtedly the best thing is to use a warm-air grate, whereby the incoming air is warmed before admission, but this is costly, and so usually the most that can be done is to provide an inlet at a high level through one of the outside walls, or to construct the window - if of the double-hung sash type - with a deep inner bead on the sill, so that the lower sash may be raised an inch or so and air admitted between the sashes.
Fireplaces ought to be so placed as to throw radiant heat into all parts of a room, but this theoretical requirement is rarely obtainable, an angle fireplace alone succeeding fully in doing this. In any case the position should be one from which heat will radiate directly over a large area, without the fire being too close to, say, a dining-table to be comfortable. It should also be screened from the door so as to avoid direct draught, this being frequently done by forming a recessed ingle-nook.
The hall and staircase of a small house are always difficult to heat, yet if unheated they are exceedingly uncomfortable in cold weather. If a fireplace can be contrived, the hall may, on the other hand, be a great source of comfort, and the whole house be kept warm; while, if space be lacking for this, it is often possible to introduce a small hot-water radiator supplied from the hot-water circulating system which most houses now possess.
Another useful economy of heat frequently wasted is to place the hot-water cylinder of the circulating system in a linen cupboard. This involves careful planning, that the cupboard may be in its right position in the house and the flow and return pipes between cylinder and boiler short and direct; but this can frequently be managed with little difficulty, and the advantage gained is considerable. A heated linen cupboard, such as is obtained in this way, should, however, have inlet and outlet ventilators for the admission of cold air at the bottom and the removal of heated air at the top, and the hot-water cylinder should be near the inlet, so that a current of warm air is constantly passing over and amongst the linen, drying it and carrying away any moisture in a state of evaporation. If this is not done the linen will be merely heated and not dried, and may even turn mouldy if left thus for any length of time. Rails as well as shelves should be provided in such a cupboard for more effectual drying.
The comfort of an apartment depends to a very large extent upon the relative positions of doors and windows, both in regard to one another, to the fireplace, and to the necessary furniture. Primarily, windows are needed for light and view - especially for the admission of sunlight - doors for ingress, and fireplaces for warmth; but secondarily, all act as ventilators, and, if not very carefully placed, cross draughts will result where their absence is the chief essential, and other inconveniences will follow.
It being difficult to avoid all draught between door and window, it is advisable, where possible, that this should traverse as short a space of the room as possible, while the necessary current of air from either or both to the fireplace outlet ventilator should be so broken as to flow in a diffused manner, imperceptible, rather than in definite currents either along the floor or elsewhere. Thus doors and windows may be opposite one another so long as only a comparatively small portion of the room is traversed between them; but neither should be opposite a fireplace, which, as already said, is best screened by being placed in an ingle, or by building a permanent screen wall, or at least by so opening the door as to protect it.
In a Dining-room, which in most houses is used as the general living room, this should be carefully observed, the fireplace being either placed in a corner or recessed so that the heat shall not strike too fiercely upon the backs of persons seated at the table; and any such ingle recess should have, if possible, one small window, well made that it may not admit draught when closed, and placed somewhat high on one side, to give light to any person seated reading or working in the recess. The door, also, should be near one corner of the room, opening inwards in such a way as to screen the room without impinging on the table or any of the chairs round it, and giving direct access from hall or passage to a dumb-waiter or dinner-waggon placed just inside the room. The window is best at the side of the room, throwing light across the table rather than along it.
In Drawing-room or Study the principal need, again, is protection against draught, combined with ample lighting and warmth; and the light is particularly needed to the piano in the one case, and to the writing-table and book-shelves in the other, preferably falling from the left-hand side in both instances. The piano, indeed, needs careful placing, in a spot which is quite free from draught, and as far as possible of equal temperature, while it should permit any singer, standing behind the pianist, to sing into the room - difficult conditions to reconcile, especially with an upright piano, yet all the more necessary to consider when the room is planned.
The Kitchen requires its fireplace particularly well screened from the door, and well lit from the left hand, while plenty of light should also fall on the dresser, which is best placed in a recess opposite the window. In small kitchens particularly a considerable amount of skill is necessary to plan them so that they are not mere draughty passages between the entrance hall and the scullery and back door on the one hand, or oppressively unhealthy furnace houses on the other.