DRAWING-ROOMS, it must again be urged, are impossible except in houses where some other room has been provided for the recreation of the family. In a high-stoop town house a room on the second floor is, as we know, generally set aside as a living-room or library, the front parlor then being furnished as a drawing-room, or, if the tastes of a family incline it to musicals, as a drawing-room and music-room combined. Heavy draperies are avoided. Little or no bric-a-brac is permitted. A quiet paper, oftener a striped or brocaded silk, covers the walls. A line of low bookcases extends around the room, painted cream or white like the rest of the wood-work, and filled only with the best bound books. The floors are bare except for rugs. The furniture is French - a cream-white wood sometimes ornamented with gold and upholstered to match the wall-hangings. Small gilt chairs are permitted while the music is going on - substantial and well-modelled gilt chairs, it goes without saying. The presence of pictures on the walls is left to the discretion of the householder. The lamp and electric lights are shaded by silks of soft cream tones. Now and then one note of color is added by a high-backed gold chair covered with red damask; but there should only be one chair or - many. Two red chairs in a room of this kind would be disastrous, suggesting the fact of there being but two and no more. One chair, on the other hand, would suggest the possibility of its having been chosen because of a unique excellence, or as a chair for a privileged or distinguished person. Of course the entire room might be furnished with these chairs, but that would alter the scheme of decoration. On ordinary occasions the chair is drawn up by the fire, and the afternoon tea-table is brought there to the lady of the house. Neither the mantel nor the tops of the bookcases are encumbered with bric-a-brac, one or two choice pieces alone being permissible, - generally a glass or two from Venice holding roses.
The wood-work may be painted a delicate gray, and the walls covered with gray silk, a paper, or a silvery gray burlaps; the furniture to be mahogany, oak, or French with cream-white wood and touches of gilt, upholstered with reference to the textile on the wall. The walls may again be finished with a four-foot dado of green velours finished with a gimp supporting a flowered paper with roses on a white ground, the color of the velours-repeating that of the rose-stems above. The furniture, of mahogany, would then be covered with a green matching the dado, the hangings of rose silk looped over brass rods. Mirrors in gilt frames and brass sconces might be the only decoration.
Nothing does more for these rooms than four corner mirrors sixteen inches wide, with bevelled edges and no frames. They must run from the floor to the picture-moulding, which should be at the level of the upper casing of the doors and windows. With their reflections they serve two purposes: that of bringing the room together, while suggesting spaces beyond. It all depends upon where you are sitting. The charm of them is that you are never forced to look directly at yourself, never placed in the embarrassing position of one seeking to avoid the appearance of being bewitched by a study of her own features every time an eyelid is raised. Their purpose is to beguile the vision, and the angle at which they are placed does this, for they must cut directly across the corners. I saw them first many years ago in the house of a friend who had seen them in Norway. Her drawing-room was long, narrow, and low-ceiled. The wood-work was dark, the walls covered with a Japanese paper of rich tones. The furniture was mahogany. Though the room was low and had but two front windows, I was constantly charmed by an impression of space, as of rooms and stretches beyond.
Now that mirrors are becoming more and more fashionable in the decoration of houses, the need of studying their reflections grows. The object of a mirror is not to reflect a glare, nor a blank wall, nor some ugly defect beyond, but to bring a pleasant object to you, and to do so with tact - without making the intention too obvious. Mirrors in parlors are not introduced to let you see the hang of a walking skirt. Mirrors in dressing-rooms or in the "parlors"of tailors' establishments will do that. The secret of how "to entertain you the while" is the principle that leads to the successful placing of them.
It is not to be supposed that the craze for things Japanese has left the drawing-rooms, even of high-stoop houses, unaffected. Japanese silks are employed in the hangings; Japanese straw papers cover the walls; gas and electric light fixtures are made of Japanese bronzes, or modelled after those repeating the form of some flower, generally the lotus; the pictures on the walls are Japanese only - not framed water-color sketches, but Kakemono, pictures painted on strips of silk or gauze and mounted on rollers; the bric-a-brac pieces of Japanese porcelain or bronzes.
Of course, being Americans, these householders who have Japanese parlors or drawing-rooms are obliged to have chairs, so making a departure from the customs of Orientals who sit on the floor; but the chairs admitted are never obtrusively American, never upholstered and tufted and tasselled. They are made of wood, dark and low in tone, and sometimes heavy.
Here in America we live in an age of building. Blocks of old houses are being swept out of existence to make way for new and splendid dwellings. Far and near, wherever we go, the air is rent by the hammers of steel-drivers and carpenters. This activity, this constant remodelling of old houses when a construction of the new is not possible, is an interesting sign of the times. The first impulse of the man of inflated fortune (and our country is full of them) is to build, to change the nature of his former habitation. He may, in so doing, want to revert to the customs of his grandfather; it is often his pride. He seems to have convinced himself that the customs of his fathers were not what they might have been. He takes scant pride in their preservation, and in this who is there to condemn him? Why should he want to abide by a fashion sanctioning a front parlor, an unlighted and unventi-lated middle parlor, and a back drawing-room with two windows? Why should he be blamed for doing as he does, - for trying in every way to attain to something more livable and more enjoyable?