When a guest-room is to be arranged, extra care is required. In the furnishing of the guest-room there is greater need for the exercise of tact than in any other room of a house. Nowhere else does a hostess reveal herself so plainly as in the arrangement of her guest-rooms - not in her plans for a dinner-party, nor in her selection of flowers or other details of entertaining.
Guests on a visit are, in reality, at the mercy of their hostess, and although we should train our children to carry all the necessities of their toilet with them, even their writing materials, still, now and then a guest starting off in a hurry forgets something, or, going to spend Sunday only, has hesitated about taking a trunk sufficiently large to hold her possessions. Then, too, few visitors wish to bother their hostess about the coming and going of the trains or the mails, or for a glove-button or a shoestring. The tactful hostess should prepare for emergencies.
I wish a guest-room in a certain college town might be taken as a model. It has four large windows, the fireplace being between the two side ones. Opposite the front windows were the closet doors. Opposite the fireplace were two single beds, each with a night-table and an electric light arranged for reading. On one side of these a door led into the hall; on the other side another door led into the bathroom, a bathroom with provision made in it for all imaginable needs of its guests.
At the foot of the two beds and opposite the fireplace was the couch. On a table near by were a dozen of the latest books, and a silk work-bag filled with buttons, threads, needles, hooks and eyes. A tall chest of drawers stood between the two front windows. None of my hostess's best dresses were tucked away in it. Between the fireplace and one window stood the dressing-table; between the mantel and the other window, the desk. This desk had not only pens, paper, inks, pencils, stamps, blotter, rubber-bands,' mucilage, twine, sealing-wax, candle, and pen-wiper, but a calendar, a time-table, and a list of the arrivals and departures of the mails.
And the dressing-table! Not only were there brushes and combs, hat and clothes-brushes, nail-files and scissors, shoe-horns, pins, hat and bonnet-pins, toilet powder, but a tube of cream for chapped hands, and a bottle of soda-mint tablets. I never knew any other woman to remember the soda-mint tablets. On the table at the head of the bed was a night-taper in a glass for the timid sleeper afraid of the dark. A clock stood on the mantel, going! The fireplace was not empty. The logs were laid, the matches ready, the fire-irons near by with a basket of wood, when you wanted to replenish the blaze.
The wood-work and ceiling of this room were white, the paper a fine yellow-and-white stripe; the beds and all the furniture of mahogany. White dotted muslin hung next the panes, chintz curtains over it.
Mahogany furniture is a desideratum in the lives of all householders, but a bedroom can still be made pretty without it, if only light yellow oak beds and bureaus have found no lodgement in them. Then the case is almost hopeless. Paint the oak white if you must have it at all. Subordinate it. Get it out of your way. Otherwise you will sink your furnishing to its level, instead of lifting the room above it.
If you are in doubt about what should go on your bureau, - and many people are, - remember that, like the sideboard, the well-appointed bureau or dressing-table must be first of all in spotless order, and then be pretty. No handkerchief-cases should lie on it, nor plush boxes for brushes and perfumes, nor any materials manufactured for the catching of dust. Photographs in frames are permissible, brushes and combs that are made for the purpose, with gold, silver, ivory, tortoise-shell, or wooden backs, but never the cheap ordinary brush which has no pretension to beauty and which should be kept out of sight. I have sometimes been asked what distinction should be made between articles placed on a dressing-table or a bureau by correspondents who have evidently not understood that bureaus were invented for those who had no dressing-tables, or that a question of economy of space had governed the invention of the bureau. If, therefore, you have only a bureau in a bedroom, and must dress by its mirror, this bureau should be filled with fine toilet articles, brushes, combs, perfumes, and so forth. If you have a dressing-table, however, you do not want a bureau in the room, but a chest of drawers, either large or small, for holding underclothes, handkerchiefs, gloves, and veils.
A dressing-table is literally what its name implies, - a table to dress by. It is so made that the knees of the person who sits before it need not be obstructed as they would be by the drawers of a bureau. It contains no drawers except for extra toilet articles. If by any chance there should be both a bureau and a dressing-table in the room, I should prefer removing the mirror from the bureau and treating the bureau as a chest of drawers. The mirror can be used elsewhere.
When the purchase of a dressing-table is an impossibility, one can easily be manufactured by covering an ordinary pine kitchen-table with denim. Across the top, however, there should always be a linen or wash cover, readily removed to be shaken or washed. White muslin, dotted, embroidered, or plain, over a color, makes a daintier table, of course, than the denim, but less durable.
The mirror over the dressing-table can be draped like the table, with the muslin; while dimity with an old-fashioned fringe, or a pretty chintz lined with a color, can be used in the same way. When the legs of the table are square, they can be covered with a chintz or cretonne, the material to be nailed on with brass-headed tacks. But whatever the material chosen or the fashion followed, the wash cover laid across the top is essential.