This section is from "The Horticulturist, And Journal Of Rural Art And Rural Taste", by P. Barry, A. J. Downing, J. Jay Smith, Peter B. Mead, F. W. Woodward, Henry T. Williams. Also available from Amazon: Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste.
This is a subject so thoroughly discussed in the books, of late, that anything which may here be said, would avail but little, inasmuch as as our opinions might be looked upon as " old-fashioned," " out of date," and " of no account whatever," - for wonderfully modern notions in room-furnishing have crept into the farm house, as well as into town houses. Indeed, we confess to altogether ancient opinions in regard to househould furniture, and contend, that, with a few exceptions, " modern degeneracy" has reached the utmost stretch of absurdity, in house-furnishing, to which the ingenuity of man can arrive. Fashions in furniture change about as often as the cut of a lady's dress, or the shape of her bonnet, and pretty much from the same source, too - the fancy shops of Pare, once, in good old English, Paris, the capital city of France. A farmer, rich or poor, may spend half his annual income, every year of his life, in taking down old, and putting up new furniture, and be kept uncomfortable all the time; when, if he will, after a quiet, good tempered talk with his better hal^ agree with her upon the list of necessary articles to make them really comfortable; and then a catalogue of what shall comprise the luxurious part of their furnishings, which, when provided, they will fixedly make up their mind to keep, and be content with, they will remain entirely free from one great source of " the ills which flesh is heir to".
*The common prejudice against the old stone or brick Looses, on account of their dampness, is of no moment in a house, the wads of which are fined off.
" It is pleasant to see a young couple setting out in their housekeeping life, well provided with convenient and properly selected furniture, appropriate to all the uses of the family; and then to keep, and use it, and enjoy it, like contented, sensible people; adding to it, now and then, as its wear, or the increasing wants of their family may require. Old familiar things, to which we have long been accustomed, and habituated, make up a round share of our actual enjoyment. A family addicted to constant change in their household furniture, attached to nothing, content with nothing, and looking with anxiety to the next change of fashion which shall introduce something new into the house, can take no sort of comfort, let their circumstances be ever so affluent. It is a kind of dissipation in which some otherwise worthy people are prone to indulge, but altogether pernicious in the indulgence. It detracts, also, from the apparent respectability of a family to find nothing old about them - as if they themselves were of yesterday, and newly dusted out of a modern shop-keeper's stock in trade.
The furniture of a house ought to look as though the family within it once had a grandfather - and as if eld things had some veneration from those who had long enjoyed their service.
"We are not about to dictate, of what fashion household furniture should be, when selected, any further than that of a plain, substantial, and commodious fashion, and that it should comport, so far as those requirements in it will admit, with the approved modes of the day. But we are free to say, that in these times the extreme of absurdity, and unfitness for use is more the fashion than anything else. What so useless as the modern French chairs, standing on legs like pipe-stems, gerote-ing your back like a rheumatism, and frail as the legs of a spider beneath you, as you sit in it; and a tribe of equally worthless incumbrances, which absorb your money in their cost, and detract from your comfort, instead of adding to it, when you have got them; or a bedstead so high that you must have a ladder to climb into it, or so low as to scarcely keep you above the level of the floor, when lying on it. No; give us the substantial, the easy, the free, and enjoyable articles, and the rest may go to tickle the fancy of those who have a taste for them. Nor do these flashy furnishings add to one's rank in society, or to the good opinion of those whose consideration is most valuable. Look into the houses of those people who are the really substantial and worthy of the land.
There will be found little of such frippery with them. Old furniture, well preserved, useful in everything, mark the well-ordered arrangement of their rooms, and give an air of quietude, of comfort, and of hospitality to their apartments. Children cling to such objects in after life, as heir-looms of affection and parental regard.
"Although we decline to give specific directions about what varieties of furniture should constitute the furnishings of a house, or to illustrate its style or fashion by drawings, and content ourselves with the single remark, that it should, in all cases, be strong, plain, and durable - no sham, nor ostentation about it - and such as is made for nee; mere trinkets stuck about the room, on center tables, in corners, or on the mantel-piece, are the foolish-est things imaginable. They are costly; they require a world of care, to keep them in condition; and then, with all this care, they are good for nothing, in any sensible use. We have frequently been into a country house, where we anticipated better things, and, on being introduced into the " parlor," actually found everything in the furniture line so dainty and "prinked up," that we were afraid to sit down on the frail things stack around by way of seats, for fear of breaking them; and everything about it looked so gingerly and inhospitable, that we felt an absolute relief when we could fairly get out of it, and take a place by the wide old fireplace, In the common living room, comfortably ensconced in a good old easy, high-backed, split-bottomed chair - there was positive comfort in that, when in the " parlor" there was nothing but restraint and discomfort.
No; leave all this vanity to town-folk, who have nothing better - or who, at least, think they have - to amuse themselves with: it has no fitness for a country dwelling, whatever. All this kind of frippery smacks of the boarding school, the pirouette, and the dancing master, and is out of character for the farm, or the sensible retirement of the country.