For ordinary windows, twelve by nine inch panes do very well for not too heavy a framework. For exposed situations, where windows opening to the ground are liable to catch the full force of the west wind, a plan by which the heavy plate-glass door slides back in a strong iron groove, top and bottom, with a handle inside and outside of the framework to move it easily, is far the most serviceable and convenient that I have ever seen. In bedrooms where the whole of one side of a wall is window, there may be a window-seat across, but then the glass should come down to within a foot of the seat; but I think shelves under the seat with sliding doors are better and more useful than the customary lockers. Doors that are cut in half like old cottage and stable doors have been too little used of late.
My dining-room should always face west, and I think it a great objection to have the fireplace in the middle or at the window-end of a dining-room. It should be at the far end, on one side, so that no one has to sit with back to the fire; the table being as near as possible to the window. I should never allow hot-air pipes in any house of mine, though a stove or large fireplace in the middle of the house is almost essential for keeping it dry. I do not like the usual central hall as a sitting-room, because I do not come into the country to sit within prison walls, and these halls are generally lighted from the top, or from some dark courtyard shut out by opaque glass, or the windows are so high up there is no seeing out of them. To come in on a fine afternoon, with the views perhaps at their very best, to have tea in a darkened room, seems to be a non-appreciation of the best the country has to give us. Here, again, I know most people will disagree with me. I have heard these halls more praised than anything else in modern architecture.
I suppose it would be difficult to manage, but I think the best bedrooms ought to have small balconies to facilitate air-baths night and morning, or even for sleeping outside in fine weather. The modern fashion of roofed alcoves with open sides and glass to the north makes very delightful open-air rooms. Paved yards, too, are full of capabilities for sitting out, or for miniature pot-gardening. What I like best is sitting in my own room with all the windows and doors wide open. This is what most people dread as a full draught, but I have never found any harm from it. Perhaps a safer plan in bedrooms is to have two windows high up towards the ceiling, both of which are kept open, as a single window in a room, however wide open, does not properly ventilate it, because it creates no draught.
I think the rich man has yet to arise who will build a house and furnish it well and in good taste according to the ideas, inventions, and manufactures of his own day, or perhaps twenty years before. A glimmer of the beautiful uses that might be made, for instance, of glass and iron was to be seen in the Petit Palais of the French Exhibition of 1900. Imitation of old things is in no sense true evolution.
In the building of houses I think the greatest care and thought are necessary in order to prevent the builders from throwing out the earth of the foundations in a way that produces a flat space in front of the house. Given that the house is on the slope of a hill, or even on the flat, I would rather throw up the earth into a large mound on the north or north-east and plant this with any kind of shrub liked by the owner, than in any way make a terrace in front of the house. Even in the case of making terraces, they should be laid out after the house is built, and are far prettier if they slope away from the house than if they give the appearance of the house being in a hole. Having decided where the foundation earth is to go, and how it is to be planted in a manner that will cause the greatest protection with the least exclusion of view, one must try to make up one's mind what one really wants most. I came here to a ready-made villa garden which I knew could never be really beautiful or picturesque; therefore I decided that what I wanted was to grow the greatest number of plants and flowers for picking and giving away which could be grown healthily in a small space. This can only be done by growing an immense variety of plants, as constant succession is the only method by which I could gain my object. One must always reckon that in certain years whole families of flowers fail altogether, so that, besides the seasons, one has to provide for wet and dry years.
The beautiful combinations of flower effects which come in all gardens as if by chance, come to me also, though sometimes, I confess, by design; but if I were to build my imaginary house it would be on an uncultivated piece of ground - say, wood, common, or field - and then I think my object would be to keep the character of the ground as it was. In some ways the flat field would be the most difficult to manage, and then an effect of wildness would have to be given by breaking up the ground and making miniature mountains and valleys. In a small space this would be impossible, so that a small cottage garden must be straight in design, a mixture of flowering shrubs and herbaceous plants. The kitchen garden and the orchard would be kept apart, as I said before. Endless small hedges would have a charming effect on flat ground - spring beds divided by well-clipped hedges of Ribes sanguinea; the Japanese loniceras, which flower three times as well if grown on short railings of bamboo-sticks instead of against a house and pruned twice a year; the Penzance sweet-briars - in fact, the combinations for cutting up flat ground are innumerable and would occur to any good gardener. Long lavender-bordered walks would also look very well. I was told this year that the spikenard of the Bible was made from oil of lavender. This may have been an adulteration of the ancients ! for Anne Pratt says it was made from the spikenard-grass, nardus. She adds : 'When an army rides over the plains of Persia, covered with this tall grass, an almost overpowering sweetness, arising from its stems and roots, fills the surrounding air. The ointment which takes its name from this grass was used among the rich Jews at their baths and public feasts. ... Its value among the ancients may be inferred from the mention made by Horace, that the quantity contained in a small box of precious stone was regarded as equal in worth to a large vessel of wine.'
I mentioned before the difficulties of wood-gardening. The heather and gorse ground which I mean when I say 'common,' is so beautiful in itself and so easily enriched by plants that require little but what they find, that it would be undesirable in any way to spoil its nature, and all plants that would not grow without moisture would have to be relegated to the kitchen garden. Even there it would be better to keep the varieties for each season apart, as no real gardener minds large bare places where plants are resting, any more than a mother minds her children being asleep. The toil and trouble of a garden close to the house is that its beauty is expected to be perennial and successive through every month in the year. This is of course impossible, but even striving for it entails immense care and labour if no month is to be without outdoor flowers.
Everybody tries to grow roses, and in many soils they succeed without trouble; but for the best I ever saw in the first year of planting, the bed was made in a way worth recording. The earth was dug out two feet deep and replaced by carefully prepared soils, but instead of mixing them all together, or laying the clay at the bottom as is usually done, the three soils were laid diagonally one on top of the other, clay, richly-manured loam, and the top spit. In this way the roots of the freshly planted roses found that which they required, at different levels.