Improvement in House Furnishing - The Cult of Simplicity - Dispensing with the Useless-removal of Dust - Fresh Air and Sunlight n recent years, as a result of better education I in simple hygiene, a distinct improvement in house furnishing has been apparent.
Good taste and fashion demand at the present time simplicity, and this makes for health in the home. The heavy draperies, excessive ornamentation, the overcrowded bedrooms and sitting-rooms, prevalent in the Victorian era, have been followed by a reaction.
Indeed, the up-to-date English home is plain, simple, and luxurious only in the sense that the furnishing consists of artistic materials and beautiful objects, and it therefore conforms to hygienic demands. Old styles of two hundred years ago have been revived, and washable chintzes and linens replace the plushes, brocades, and serges utilised for drawing-rooms some years ago. People who can afford it are adopting parquet flooring, with one or two fine rugs, in place of the old-fashioned carpet. Many of the better-class linoleums can be utilised for covering floors with every advantage.
Then we do not overcrowd our walls with pictures and brackets and odds and ends as our grandmothers did. A room is quite sufficiently furnished with four or five pictures instead of twenty, and photographs, fans, and rubbish, which collect dust and harbour microbes, are fortunately no longer fashionable.
But the majority of people have still a good deal to learn. The cult of simplicity is unfortunately restricted, and the microbe holds sway in many homes at the present time. The ideally hygienic home is daintily and artistically furnished with articles which are necessary from the point of view of utility or beauty. The absolutely useless article is rarely beautiful, with the exception of pictures and flowers. "Ornaments," in the general sense of the word, are unnecessary, and their room is preferable to their presence in the hygienic home.
Every unnecessary article fills up air space, and the hygienic housewife must remember this when she criticises her furnishing. The majority of homes are overcrowded with furniture and ornaments, and would look better if the number of things were reduced by one-half. The hygienic housewife will go from one room to another criticising everything in turn, asking herself what is necessary, and what should be removed, and will not rest until she has weeded out the superfluous. The result will be more space, a
The fashion of crowding drawing-room tables with collections of silver and china and all sorts of nick-nacks is not tolerated in the hygienic home. A corner cupboard or Chippendale bookcase is reserved for the china that is worth keeping. The rest is removed. Over-elaboration is antagonistic to true art so that the wallpapers are self-coloured, and whenever possible, in bedrooms, nurseries, and dining-rooms, are washable. White is the ideal paper because it shows up the dust, and all hangings should be washable. The amount of dust in our Western homes is what strikes the visitor from the East, who finds our art distasteful because we have too much of everything.
The Japanese keep their treasures in cupboards and bring out one or two at a time, disposing a vase in one corner, a beautiful piece of china, with a spray of apple-blossom in another. This, to the Japanese sense of beauty, is absolutely satisfying. They are perfectly right. We overdo things, and must aim at the elimination of the superfluous in the hygienic home.
If simple furnishing is the first step in achieving a hygienic home, the proper disposal of dust is the second. In the more sparsely furnished house there is less room for dust, which settles, under present conditions, behind pictures and ornaments, in corners of the rooms, covered up by furniture, and wherever there is a crevice for it to lie.
Now the amount of dust in a room furnished with stuffy chairs and heavy hangings, its thick carpet left for twelve months for dust to permeate through its meshes, is much greater than the ordinary person realises. For one thing, it is never efficiently removed, except at the spring cleaning once or twice a year.
The broom and duster just flick most of it from place to place, stirring it up in the morning into the atmosphere of the room, for it to be breathed into the respiratory passages. Some of this dust can be seen quite distinctly when a beam of sunlight passes into a somewhat dark room, as minute, ever-moving particles in the air. Microbes or germs of disease are associated with these dust particles.
The hygienic housewife, therefore, sets herself to devise some method of removing dust from her apartments. Whenever possible the floor should be covered only with rugs or squares that can be lifted and beaten regularly. Thus dust is prevented from lying about for months.
In the second place, washable chair-covers of some smooth material will prevent dust finding its way in and about the chairs and couches. The housewife of the future will abolish the broom and duster altogether, and use in its place a small, modified vacuum cleaner, so that the dust can be daily collected and burned. Whenever possible, one of these should be purchased for the home. They cost little, and save an immense amount of labour and domestic service.
Fresh air and sunlight must be allowed free access to the home. By doing away with heavy window hangings light can enter better, and opening the windows to allow currents of air to pass through the house provides one of the best possible anti-microbe measures. Light and air destroy the low forms of animal life. The microbes of consumption, diphtheria, and other diseases, will live for months, as has been proved, in dusty corners if light and air are prevented access. If, on the other hand, fresh air and sunlight are allowed to penetrate into the room, the microbes perish.
The wallpaper should be white, and not too expensive, so that it can be renewed fairly frequently. Varnished paper is the best from the hygienic standpoint, as it can be washed, and washable floors and washable walls should be the rule in nurseries and bedrooms.
Whilst light, spacious rooms are preferable from the health point of view, many people are compelled to live in rather small, dark rooms from force of circumstances. In such cases the ill effects are counteracted a good deal if the windows are kept well open, and the very lightest curtains only permitted. Let the housewife impress upon her mind that the more sunlight and fresh air she can get into the home, the better for the people who live in it. When children are kept in dark, airless rooms they become anaemic and rickety in a very short time. The size of a room is of less consequence than really efficient ventilation and hygienic furnishing.
The following rules should be adhered to in the hygienic home:
Keep bedrooms and sitting-rooms as empty as possible.
The ideal room has painted walls or varnished paper, a washable floor, a few light hangings which show the dirt, and the minimum furniture necessary for comfort and utility.
Get as much sunlight as possible into the house. The hygienic home must be cheerful. Depression and irritability are dissipated by sunlight. In certain health sanatoriums the "light cure" is regarded as an important part of treatment.
Nervous patients are kept for hours in sunlight, and given sun baths that they may absorb vitality from the direct rays of the sun. Sunlight is in one sense the source of light. The housewife can prove for herself the tonic effect of sunlight by sitting out of doors as much as she can, reading and working in the sunlight with the eyes protected from the glare. In the case of children plenty of sunlight is one of the essentials of health. It keeps most ills of the flesh at a distance, from cold in the head and influenza to irritability of temper and worry.
Efficient ventilation means that no chimney in the house is stopped up, and that the windows are kept constantly open at the top. If open windows prove unpleasant, when the room is very small in cold weather, the following simple contrivance will efficiently ventilate the room without causing a draught.
Raise the lower sash, and fit a piece of wood eight inches deep and the same width as the window in place. Now the air enters between the sashes, and passes in towards the ceiling. There are many simple valvular ventilators which can be fitted into the wall near the ceiling; whilst another plan is to take out a brick or two in an external wall, and fit in place a little wooden ventilating box. The cheapest arrangement, of course, is to utilise perforated bricks. These will afford communication between the external air and the room.