When to Choose a House - An Ideal Position for a Hall - An Eighteenth Century Staircase and Hall - Inglenook and Settle - A Hall Floor and Its Covering - Chairs and Tables - Two Suggestions for Treating a Hall Sitting-room - The Square Hall - How to Make the Most of It - An Ideal of
If a really successful hall sitting-room is wanted, one that is thoroughly comfortable and artistic, then it is wisdom to start betimes and think ahead. We know well the popular verdict on the foolishness of the man who builds his own house, while the man who buys a house already built is extolled as wise and prudent. Surely the most sensible plan, however, is to take a middle course; choose your house just as the building is begun in earnest, and suggest improved and artistic fitments wherever possible.
If it is proposed to buy a house, look about where building is just started. Find a builder possessed of intelligent ideas, and seize upon a house that is architecturally sane in its ground-floor plan.
A Well-placed Hall
The hall shown in the plan given herewith is tucked snugly away in the very heart of the dwelling; no draught could venture to intrude. The staircase is well placed, leaving the dignity of space in the hall unbroken. The long approach through porch and vestibule, and the rooms which hem in the hall parlour on every hand give snugness and warmth, while any fear of stuffiness and inaccessibility to the air and daylight is obviated by the splendid bay window jutting out beyond the verandah. There will be a cushioned window seat, of course, from which to look out over the garden in the summer, and a heavy plush curtain can be drawn across this recess in the winter evenings, so that one may draw up close to the fireside in comfort.
A Historic Example
To do away entirely with draught risks, it is advisable to have double doors, at least where the porch from the outer air enters the hall sitting-room. This is a rather costly undertaking, unless "the man of the house" is an expert carpenter, so those who cannot afford the expense must make shift with a good fourfold screen, standing nearly six feet high; or arrange a wooden settle seat as a fixture, jutting well out from one side of the fireplace so as to enclose a snug area for the cold weather days.
The architect's plan given may, of course be adapted to a more modestly proportioned house.
That our ancestors knew what practical comfort meant is shown by the illustration given of the magnificent old oak staircase and noble entrance hall from the London house of the first Duke of Marlborough in Great Marlborough Street. This was an historic residence of the early eighteenth century, in the days when Great Marlborough Street was the fashionable centre of London, long before the Soho restaurants sprang up and multiplied on that site. Notice the great oak door with its massive side pillars, crowned with Corinthian capitals.
The Modern Hall
People nowadays have learnt that they may have beautiful surroundings and truly artistic comfort without waiting till they are dukes - or even millionaires. The square hall is a proud feature of nearly all our well built and intelligently designed modern houses, which means that we appreciate both the artistic effect and the common-sense comfort of the dignified simplicity of one of the earlier periods of English decoration.
The illustration published as a frontispiece, although on baronial lines, can be adapted to suit the structural possibilities of an unassuming mansion, nor is there any need for extravagant expenditure in fitments.
The inglenook in the illustration is alluringly cosy, yet how simply contrived! Many modern halls have a fireplace recess; the decorative archway is quickly put up, and if wooden panelling is out of the question, the walls may be made imposing with a dark-toned lincrusta.
Wooden beams make a beautiful ceiling, and, if black oak is not possible, stained wood may be put up at little cost and with good effect. Shaped and curved white woodwork for ornamental archways may be bought already fashioned. The inglenook seats may be made by the handy man from materials as inexpensive as old packing-cases, if need be, for a very simple framework is all that is necessary, and a covering of figured cretonne or tapestry, with stuffed seat.
If the housewife is timid about tackling the upholstery of a fireside settle, here is a simple suggestion for the back of the seat.
Fix a rail on little brackets at the required height on the wall, and from this hang a curtain in tapestry or cretonne matching your padded seat (it is a very simple matter to stuff the seat with layers of cotton-wool). To give the necessary comfort to those who lean back when sitting in the inglenook, hang behind this a little wadded curtain. Make a sateen-covered cot quilt, as it were, a hanging bag of cotton-wool; it will fall in folds behind the outer curtain, draping with it and giving the feeling of luxurious comfort which is aimed at, without the formidable task of making a tightly stuffed and upholstered back to the settle.
For floor coverings choose a small carpet square in rich Oriental colouring for the roomiest part of the hall, and have a strip in the same tones continuing on from the stairway. The floor itself may be parquetry, if the cost is not prohibitive, or the boards may be stained and polished.
A gate-legged table should be chosen; it will not only look well, but will economise space whenever that is an object. The table top must on no account be covered with a cloth, but, if wished, a narrow runner, preferably one of art linen embroidered in Oriental silks, may be laid across the middle with ends hanging.
High-backed straight chairs are in character, and many people find them very comfortable. For those who like a more luxurious and pampered ease there is the upholstered inglenook or the cushioned window seat; we take it for granted that our hall sitting-room has a pleasant window.
A square bay window may be very easily provided with a most comfortable window seat if a small couch bed be placed close up thereto. The mattress may be covered with rep, brocaded fabric, tapestry, or casement cloth, and the sides of the bed should be covered by a deep falling valance quite touching the ground. A box ottoman window seat is also very useful, for papers or fancy-work may be kept within, so that our hall sitting-room need never look untidy.
Shelves, mantelpiece, and dresser - where there is room for it a dresser is a handsome piece of hall furniture - should have blue and white china upon them. Costly pieces, whether antique or modern, are very beautiful, but if these are out of the question do not despise the humbler stoneware. Many charming blue and white plates, vases, and ornaments may be bought very cheaply, and if wisely chosen and effectively disposed against the dark wood, they will be almost as much admired as the inaccessible Delft.
The hall should be an informal lounge, not a state apartment, nor a workroom. Therefore, the scheme of lighting should be to give a subdued and mellow effect. If there is electric light, choose globe fittings of the ancient watchman's lantern design. Such lanterns look best if suspended by heavy chains. If electricity is not in use, lamplight will be grateful. A hanging lamp, set rather high, with coloured glass shade, will look well; and a hall standard so placed as to throw a cheerful glow upon the stairway is also successful.
This hall sitting-room ought to be an apartment that spells welcome. Let me describe one such hall parlour that strikes this note quite unmistakably. There is a handsomely carved archway dividing the roomy part of the hall from the longer and narrower portion, and running right across over this archway in gold Roman type is the inscription: