KITCHENS have always had a fasci-nation for me, possibly because I remember how delightful were some of those that I knew in my youth, - long, wide rooms, with white scrubbed floors, old Dutch ovens, and spotless motherly cooks (they all seemed motherly in those days) presiding over a storehouse of pleasant surprises, and with wonderful aromas arising from various cupboards or cellar shelves. Outside these kitchens there was always an arbor covered with grape-vines, which on warm days made the stone flagging beneath a cool and restful playground for children. But until the last few years I have never met any one who shared my enthusiasm. To most women kitchens are bores - subterranean regions suggestive of necessary daily inspections with rapid retreats; regions associated with over-heated atmospheres of divers kinds, sundry threats, much disorder, and endless vexing, unsolved problems of ways and means, right and wrong, leniency and ingratitude, and the host of other direful things which make housekeeping so exhausting to most Americans.
It is only since I have begun to know something of apartments, and how men and women who have studied abroad have learned to live in studios, that I have discovered people as interested as I am in the subject of kitchens, - in making them into pretty and livable places; places to be proud of, not to shun. The charm of some of the old-world kitchens was not to be resisted by those who had felt it. It was inevitable that they should be imitated by returning travellers. Moreover, life in an apartment or a studio necessitates a different order of domestic arrangement from that which rules in a house. Everything is within arm's reach, as it were, nothing can be hidden; and kitchens, in most instances, are separated only by a door from the hall through which guests come and go; and these guests, many of whom have always lived in houses, are apt to regard an apartment as they would some pleasure-craft or mountain camp. To them it lacks the seriousness of a house. They look at it as they might a toy. They realize that life is simplified, much care eliminated, and that a unique system of ways and means must prevail. About this system they immediately begin to inquire, as they would never dream of inquiring in a house with an up and down stairs to it, where a kitchen was off somewhere in the basement. Does not every young married woman, beginning life in an apartment, have the same story to tell? And when she leads now one, now another, of her sympathetic intimates through her new home, must she not always open the door of her kitchen wide enough to admit at least their interested faces? And shall I not confess to feeling aggrieved myself, when a view of one of these comfortable little places is denied me?
"HUNG WITH COPPER COOKING UTENSILS".
I realize that I am constantly making excuses to get a peep into the kitchen of a woman I know. It is one of the most delightful rooms of her apartment. The wood-work is, as she found it, stained to imitate oak; the walls are painted a cheerful, light, and refreshing green; the chimney-piece back of the gas-stove has the appearance of being bricked, though it is only covered with red enamel paint lined with white, the work of a painter under her direction, - easily done, yet costing little. The shelf above the red is hung with copper cooking utensils, highly polished and glowing with color. An old-fashioned Dutch clock hangs over the tubs, its quaint weights suspended by chains. The rocking-chair is cushioned in gay calico. Over the top of the window appears the only other textile used in the room, - a valance of white linen edged with crocheted lace. I have never seen this kitchen when it was not in spotless order, its well-scrubbed floor clean and inviting as the table by the window; nor have I ever seen the smiling maid-servant when she was not ready to exhibit it with pride.
Just above this kitchen, in the same apartment house, is another, its duplicate, which has been treated in a different way. The wood-work is like that on the lower floor, - an imitation oak. The walls are painted a light chrome yellow. The chimney-piece back of the gas stove looks as though filled with white tiles. White enamelled paint, divided by blue lines into four-inch squares, creates this impression. The cooking utensils, being less interesting than those of the neighbor beneath, are hidden in a closet. The two shelves over the chimney-piece are decorated with some of the blue Canton china in daily use, - coffee-pot, cups and saucers, vegetable dishes, and platters. The stencilled frieze above the shelf repeats in blue the simple pattern seen in the border of the Canton ware. The white of the tiles on the face of the chimney matches the bluish-white of the cups. Blue cotton, stamped with white, forms the valance over the top of the window, and the same material is used for the tablecloth. It adds much to the attractiveness of the room, and being washable, can easily be kept immaculate.
By comparing the two illustrations it will be seen that though these two rooms are alike in size and exposure, an application of different colors, and a display of different utensils, have made them assume different characters. It will also be seen - and special emphasis should be laid on this point - that nothing is permitted to appear which is not of actual use. The question of utility has governed every arrangement. The useful has been made the ornamental.
"JUST ABOVE THIS KITCHEN IS ANOTHER".
The moment that the purely ornamental is introduced into kitchens, that moment the possibility of artistic excellence is destroyed. Neither vases nor cheap prints nor chromos should appear. When books are permitted, as they are in another apartment kitchen (shown in the illustration), you are made to feel instantly that the books are there to be read; that the maids, having no separate sitting-room, have been made as comfortable as possible by their mistress. And the books and the reading-lamp are in a specially reserved place by themselves, not cumbering the tables while the cooking is going on. The walls, wood-work, and curtains of this kitchen are white; the floor is covered by a white linoleum squared with blue; there is a folding-table near by, to be drawn out at night; the cooking utensils are copper, and across the windows are shelves for growing plants.