The educating influence of works of natural beauty and of art can hardly be overestimated. Surrounded by such suggestions of the beautiful, and such reminders of history and art, children are constantly trained to correctness of taste and refinement of thought, and stimulated - sometimes to efforts at artistic imitation, always to the eager and intelligent inquiry about the scenes, the places, the incidents represented.
Just here, perhaps, we are met by some who impatiently exclaim, "But I have no money to spare for any thing of this sort. I am condemned to an absolute bareness, and beauty in my case is not to be thought of." It is for such that some economic modes of beautifying a home are here suggested.
The cornices to your windows can be simply strips of wood covered with paper to match the bordering of your room, and the lambrequins, made of chintz like the lounge, could be trimmed with fringe or gimp of the same color. The patterns of these can be varied according to fancy, but simple designs are usually the prettiest. A tassel at the lowest point greatly improves the appearance of the entire curtain.
The curtains can be made of plain white muslin, or some of the many styles that come for this purpose. If plain muslin is used, you can ornament them with hems an inch in width, in which insert a strip of gingham or chambray of the same color as your chintz. This will wash with the curtains without losing its color, or, should it fade, it can easily be drawn out and replaced.
The influence of white-muslin curtains in giving an air of grace and elegance to a room is astonishing. White cur-tains really create a room out of nothing. No matter how coarse the muslin, so it be white and hang in graceful folds, there is a charm in it that supplies the want of multitudes of other things.
The following is a sketch of a most attractive parlor, the owners being persons of taste and culture, and visited by the most wealthy and refined class, who are always delighted with its light, comfort, and beauty. In this parlor is the window, Fig. 40, page 192, with its lambrequins, and the window covered with flowers and greens, Fig. 41.
A straw matting, used six years, and still good.
Cheap drab-colored rugs, bordered with green, in front of the fire and under the centre-table. The cheap wall-paper is drab and green, with heavy green border for cornice. On one side is this window adorned with creepers, brackets with flower-pots, and hanging-baskets, as at Fig. 41, page 193. The other (see Fig. 40) window has lambrequins made of an old green worsted dress lined with coarse unbleached cotton trimmed with green gimp, and the tassels home-made from remnants of the old green dress. Cheap white lace with broad hems, in which strips of the green dress are drawn, complete the window outfit.
On one side of the fire-place is a lounge made as illustrated by Fig. 16, page 139; and ottomans around are also made as illustrated in the same chapter. All are covered with drab cotton cloth, and trimmed with green.
Six chairs bought unpainted, and by the mistress of the house painted drab and green. Chromos and engravings in cheap and tasteful frames, as illustrated in Figs. 42 and 43, adorn the walls, and German ivy and hanging-baskets of greens and flowers are in all tasteful arrangements. In cool weather a bright fire of dried walnut invites to a social gathering around its hospitable gleams, the fire-place being an open Franklin stove, so placed that its hearth is on a level with the floor, that there may be no cold feet. Such a stove unites economy with beauty and comfort. A prime charm of this room is its southern exposure, securing sunshine all the year, never shut out with shades or blinds except in the hottest days.
This lovely parlor was furnished with pictures and every other article for less than a hundred dollars, and was more beautiful and enjoyable than many of those which have demanded thousands for their outfit.
As a means of educating the ingenuity and the taste, you can make for yourselves pretty rustic frames in various modes. Take a very thin board, of the right size and shape, for the foundation or "mat;" saw out the inner oval or rectangular form to suit the picture. Nail on the edge a rustic frame made of branches of hard, seasoned wood, and garnish the corners with some pretty device; such, for instance, as a cluster of acorns; or, in place of the branches of trees, fasten on with glue small pine cones, with larger ones for corner ornaments. Or use the mosses of the wood or ocean shells for this purpose. It may be more convenient to get the mat or inner molding from a framer, or have it made by your carpenter, with a groove behind to hold a glass.
If you have in the house any broken-down arm-chair re-posing in the oblivion of the garret, draw it out - drive a nail here and there to hold it firm - stuff and pad, and stitch the padding through with a long upholsterer's needle, and cover it with the chintz like your other furniture and you create an easy-chair.
An ox-muzzle, flattened on one side and nailed to a board, as in Fig. 44, filled with spongy moss and feathery ferns, makes a lovely ornament; while suspended baskets holding cups or bowls of soil filled with drooping plants is another cheap ornament. A Ward case, which any ingenious boy can make of pine and common glass, is shown on the table at Fig. 41, page 193. It is a great source of enjoyment to children and invalids. The box at the bottom is to be lined with zinc, and have a hole for drainage covered with an inverted saucer, and there must be a door at one end. The soil must consist of broken charcoal at bottom, two inches deep, and over this some soil made of one-fourth fine sand, one-fourth meadow soil from under fresh turf, and two - fourths wood soil from under forest-trees.
In this plant all sorts of ferns and swamp grasses, and make a border of money-plant or periwinkle. A bit of looking-glass, some shells, and bits of rock with a variety of mosses, flowers, and ferns that grow in the shade, can lend variety and beauty. When watering, set a pail under for it to drip into. It needs only to keep this moss always damp, and to sprinkle these ferns occasionally with a whisk-broom, to have a most lovely ornament for your room or hall.
An old tin pan, painted green, with holes in the bottom, thus supplied with soil and ferns, makes a pretty parlor ornament. Or, take a salt-box or fig-box, and fill them with soil and plants, and use for hanging-baskets. The Ward case needs watering only once in two weeks, and most of these plants grow without sun in north windows. The fuchsias flourish also in the shade, as do striped spider-wort, smi-lax, saxifrage, and samentosa or Wandering Jew. German ivy growing in suspended bottles of water is a cheap ornament, and slips of nasturtions and verbenas will grow in north windows all winter. A sponge filled with flax-seed, hung by a cord and kept wet, is another cheap ornament, as is also a carrot scooped out, after the small part is cut out and hung up, till its tall, graceful shoots will mingle with flowers placed in it. A sweet-potato in a bowl of water, or suspended by a knitting-needle run through it and laid in a bowl half full of water, makes a verdant ornament. The flowers for a Ward case, in a room without sun, are, ground pine, prince's pine, trailing arbutus, partridge - berry, eye-brights, mosses. Fig. 45 is a stand for flowers, made of roots scraped and varnished.
Much of the beauty of furniture is secured by the tasteful combination of colors. There usually should be only two colors in addition to the white of the ceiling. Blue unites well with buff or corn color, or a yellow brown. Green combines well with drab, or white, or yellow. Scarlet or crimson unites well with gray or drab.
Those who cultivate parlor plants need these cautions: Too much water and want of fresh air make plants grow pale and spindling; so give fresh air every day. Wash leaves when covered with dust. Change soil once a year, or water with liquid manure. Pluck faded flowers, as much strength of a plant goes to make seed. Pick off fading green leaves. If flowers are wanted, use small pots. Do not shut out the sun, which human beings need as much as flowers. Use oil-cloth similar to the carpet, where flowers and sun abound. Shut out flies with wire netting in open windows, and also doors of the same. It costs much less than ill health and mournfully darkened rooms.