IN planning or furnishing a dwelling, whatever or wherever it may be, you must be governed by three considerations, - what you want, what you need, what you can have.
I have put these considerations in what seems to me their rightful order, because, in every departure that is made, each person begins by wanting certain things, which is quite different from needing them, and altogether different from being able to possess them. Your wants may be legitimate and rational, or selfish and vain, but whatever they are, they express you. If they express the best in you, you should strive to let them guide you even when satisfying only your needs. Your needs, however, will vary according to your environment, your occupation, or profession, the place which you occupy in the world, and ultimately the amount of money which you are able to expend.
The question of requirements discussed in the previous chapter, then, must govern you in your choice of a dwelling-place. But that choice made, and a habitation provided, you are at once confronted with the problem of how to furnish and appoint the hall-ways and rooms of your house.
As no man can live without eating and sleeping, the logical order of furnishing would compel you to begin with those departments in which provision is made for bodily necessities. All that follows afterward in the appointing of the home must take cognizance of your mental and moral needs, intellectual and artistic sympathies, and of those particular tastes and accomplishments which have been developed in special directions. This is as it should be, since the whole purpose of life is growth. Bedrooms, kitchens, and dining-rooms are arranged first, that growth may take place in one essential direction, and make for the increase of the mental and physical strength upon which rests the foundation of success. Drawing-rooms, libraries, and music-rooms, on the other hand, provide for a different order of necessities. Development here takes place in the graces and amenities of life, in an appreciation of the arts. This is really the reason why the walls of your dining-room may be treated in one way, and the walls of a living-room or a parlor in another. The dining-room is a place for eating. Its purpose is defined. But the living-room, or the one parlor, is a place for recreation, where new interests are, or should be, introduced constantly - new books, new pictures, new pieces of furniture, perhaps, and certainly, if there are young people, new amusements and pleasures. A wallpaper of pronounced and obtrusive character, then, is undesirable in a family living-room. Its tendency would be to keep everything about it bound down to its level. A beautiful and artistic wall-hanging might represent a selection as unfortunate, if it brought the room up to so high a key that nothing or homelier interest could appear - neither a lady's work-bag. nor a paper-bound book - without de stroying the scheme.
Neither a family liv ing-room nor its mistress should have sensibilities of so delicate a nature that the ordinary everyday interests jar. Nei ther should be "too fair and good for hu man nature's daily food.
If you have but one room for recreation, never furnish it when beginning your housekeeping. In so doing you may find yourself perpetually cramped by some early expression of yourself, from which you would find it as difficult to grow away, as men find it difficult to escape the records of a youthful misdemeanor. A parlor with a flowered carpet, white lace curtains falling straight, shining green wall-paper with pink roses, and - (that pride of some purchasers) a whole suit of furniture made of a tufted cotton-back satin; here and there about the room, perhaps, a gilt chair or table with brass legs, or a marble-top table - such a parlor would mean for you a place from which there could be no escape, no chance of rising to better things, no opportunity for expansion. Its case would be hopeless. Nothing could be done with it without a revolution, a complete overthrow, a getting back to first principles. If a man must wax in strength and stature, some chance must be left him in which to expand. "What are you looking for?" said the lady of the house to a friend, who, instead of admiring a room crowded with beautiful things, stood silently gazing about her. " A place for your soul to grow in," was the answer.
If in building you intend to reproduce a given period, consultation with a good designer is imperative. He will tell you what the proportions of your room should be - decide the height of your doors and windows, the character of your fireplace, and the special treatment of your wall-surface and ceiling. "Decoration is always subservient to proportion," says a writer on the subject, "and a room, whatever its decoration may be, must represent the style to which its proportions belong. The less cannot include the greater. Unfortunately, it is usually by ornamental details, rather than by proportion, that people distinguish one style from another. To many persons, garlands, bow-knots, quivers, and a great deal of gilding represent the Louis XVI style; if they object to these, they condemn the style. To an architect familiar with the subject, the same style means something absolutely different. He knows that a Louis XVI room may exist without any of these, and he often deprecates them as representing the cheaper and more trivial effects of the period - those that have most helped to vulgarize it. In nine cases out of ten his use of them is a concession to the client who, having asked for a Louis XVI room, would not know he had got it with these details left out."
The simple possession of some Louis XVI hangings, therefore,js not sufficient to give you a Louis XVI room. Nor can an Empire curtain, sofas, and chairs transform the parlor of an ordinary city house into a room of the Napoleonic period. Neither can the presence of a few heavy draperies, low tables, perforated brass vases, and lamps make for an American house a Turkish interior. I wish the attempt were not so often made. There are, to be sure, certain studios, boys' rooms, and dens, into which these materials may be introduced with propriety; but when finished these rooms should suggest unpretentious motives.