IT always astonishes me to discover people who can have their own way about things, contenting themselves with a bedroom and bath, when they might, if they chose, have dressing-rooms, boudoirs, or morning-rooms as well. Women living in the country with acres on which to build, and money with which to do the building, will often prefer one large bedroom in which they can sleep, dress, read and write, sew in the morning and lounge in the afternoon, to a series of smaller rooms in which these occupations may be carried on separately. It seems to me even the sentiments that cling about the mother's room might be preserved, if the young sons and daughters found her busy with her needle in a pretty boudoir rather than in the room in which she must perform the offices of the toilet as well.
We all know some of these bedrooms, filled with beds, bureaus, baby-cribs, and dressing-tables, rocking-chairs and lounges, bookcases, and the family photographs and souvenirs. And we know, too, how spotless and neat and sunny they may be, how full of cheer and pleasant memories. But whenever I see one of them my sympathy always goes out to the husband, so small a portion of it seems left for him.
Sometimes, when I think how men are shoved about in their own houses, I do not wonder at the popularity of clubs. Now and then some bold father will venture a room for himself, and with that art undeniably his, of making his own particular quarters comfortable, he will provide himself with a delightful study or library. At once it becomes the most popular room in the house: the young daughter begs it for tea in the afternoon; the children bring their books to his sofa in the morning; his wife's work-bag lies on his table, her family letters among his legal documents, and whenever she wants a quiet chat with some of her intimates she takes her visitors into his den, where the atmosphere is always one of comfort and repose.
I knew a man of letters once. He lived in town in a three-story brick house, with his wife and child. He earned his living by his pen, but he had to do it in this way. After breakfast he was permitted the dining-room to write in; when the maid appeared to set the table for luncheon he gathered together his papers and went upstairs to the guestroom; if that was occupied - and it generally was - he took refuge in a corner of his wife's bedroom. When she was busy there, he wrote where he could.
Of course if you have not money to do as you choose the case is altogether different. If you must live in the conventional high-stoop house, or in an apartment where you are always cramped for space, no question of night and morning rooms can be raised. As to the small flats and apartments that are going up on every side, I never escape a pang of sympathy and regret as I think of their tenants. Family life in its better sense cannot exist in them, and its semblance is only to be secured at the price of eternal compromise. They may mean protection from the weather, a shelter in which to eat and sleep, but personal liberty, and the possibility of privacy in them, does not exist. There is moral danger, as well as discomfort, in cramped quarters, although the capitalist with money to invest in paying properties gives the question scant consideration.
The bedrooms of flats and apartments must be treated in a different way from those of even small houses. The luxury of dressing-rooms, for instance, will be quite unknown unless the apartment is of the most expensive sort. When a dressing-room does appear, the feat has been accomplished, you may be sure, only by the sacrifice of an extra bedroom. Ordinarily everything must be crowded into one room, or, worse still, crowded out.
An apartment bedroom, when it does not open on a shaft, and when it is large enough to sit in at all, and when a living-room and parlor are not possible, must be used for much else besides sleeping. You must dress in it, and when you do not have exclusive use of the bathroom, you must keep a washstand with its pitcher and basin in view of visitors, and not infrequently you must keep your sewing machine not many feet away from your bed. When you find yourself compelled to do this, it is better to hire your machine by the month, as you hire your gas stoves by the year, confining your sewing to stated intervals: in large cities this is possible, the rent of a machine being low. Every effort should be made to keep the sentiment of a bedroom intact. Proper as this is in all places, it becomes imperative in a flat, where every room is on one floor, and where almost unconsciously one permits the properties of one room to encroach upon those of another to the detriment of them all.
It is not possible to insist too strongly on this point, since the whole question of flat-dwelling implies, unhappily, the sacrifice of many a cherished household tradition, and an entering into new conditions forced upon the modern man and woman by the exigencies of the times. The never-ending struggle of the flat-dweller, then, should be above all to respect and preserve certain long-established laws of living, and in doing this, at the same time to yield with all possible grace to the limitations and exactions of the new economic order. The bedroom of a flat should be reserved as a bedroom, the parlor as a parlor, no matter at what cost of labor and inconvenience. Otherwise life in an apartment becomes a hodge-podge, and the graces and amenities of existence are sacrificed.
The smaller the bedroom the greater the need for a bare floor and rugs. It is impossible to keep the room clean in any other way. An apartment, it must be remembered, is not like a house, which has as many halls as there are stories. There is no place for the bedroom furniture when you clean, unless you fill your one thoroughfare with it. You cannot sweep your carpet without moving your furniture, but you may have a rug shaken and a floor washed without any great upheaval. Mattings tear easily, and should not be used in a room where a bed to be made must be drawn out from the wall. The bare floor is not injured by the moving of furniture. Its scratches can be concealed by a rug, and it can be kept shining after it has been washed by being rubbed with a coarse flannel dampened with a mere suggestion of oil.