FOR some reason, among us libraries and living-rooms seem interchangeable terms. Perhaps because we Americans are really a book-loving, or at least a book-admiring, people, liking to surround ourselves with the evidences of that education upon which as a nation we lav stress, and for which we are will-ing to make sacrifices. Or perhaps - and this certainly is the reason which controls in our larger houses - because we are almost always hampered by a lack of space in our dwelling-places.
In country houses, the library is often specially designed for books, and beautifully proportioned; but except among the men and women of wealth in our cities, the library is only an ordinary room in an every-day house, generally that which would otherwise have been the front bedroom. The introduction of bookcases, sofas, and lounging chairs, and sometimes a few alterations, in general, transform it into a library. Occasionally these transformations result happily, especially when the hall bedroom and the larger room are thrown together and an angle made. For libraries and living-rooms should have angles and niches, as many "round the corners" as possible, as many nooks and out-of-the-way places. When the plan of a room makes them impossible, the sofas, bookcases, and tables should be arranged to produce them. Recesses are the charm of libraries.
No one, having settled himself with a book, wants to become at once in evidence, compelled on entering a library to join a family group round a centre table or a hearth; to take part in a general conversation, or to seem so rude when declining to, that in self-defence he must carry his book off to his bedroom.
When there is sufficient wealth to make additions possible, care is expended on the mantelpiece, which should be one of dignified proportions, without excessive ornamentation except, perhaps, in the way of carvings. This room, it must be remembered, is potent in its influences upon the young, and the mantelpiece should not be set out with trifles, much as they may be beloved by a family. Let the child have its trifles in its nursery, or some other room. The library or living-room, for all the fun and the merriment which may at times go on in it, must still maintain a certain compelling note. It must possess an elevating character, have power to lift even while it charms. A beautiful plaster cast reproducing some great work of a master; a picture in oil or water-color, that has both dignity and importance; photographs of famous portraits and pictures - any of these belong over the mantels of such rooms. If none of these are possible, a wide mirror may be substituted, cut to form an over-mantel, with fresh flowers in front, but never on any account pictures of French milliners, in high heels tripping over the wet pavements of Paris; nor gayly dressed ladies kissing canary birds; nor cheap chromos of St. Cecilia and her roses. Children are not educated by these, nor is one's own mental calibre strengthened. A stranger would know just what books to look for in a library or living-room with pictures like these over the mantel.
Flowered wall-papers, of course, are out of the question; but perhaps a clearer impression may be conveyed by a description of several of these libraries. In one instance the two front rooms are thrown into one, entrance being had through the smaller room filled with black oak bookcases running to the ceiling and enclosed by glass doors with small leaded diamond panes. The two rooms are divided by columns of black oak with carved capitals. The bookcases in the larger room are but four feet high, giving space above to hang pictures over the dull red paper. The doors leading into the hall and the adjoining chambers are of solid black oak, - genuine old pieces like the writing-table and the chairs. The lounging chairs are upholstered in red. The mantel and over-mantel are of deep yellow marble; the fire-irons and fender of bronze. The andirons are low-lions, beautifully modelled, resting their noses on their paws. The glass of the leaded windows is white. There are no thin curtains; those of a red velvet brocade are drawn at night.
White book-shelves ten feet high finished by a frieze of green and white paper, ceiling and doors of white, a table six feet long in front of the fireplace, a sofa and small reading-table by one window, a lounging chair and table by the other, make the general plan of another library on the second floor. The windows having large panes and making privacy impossible are curtained with white against the glass, the luxury of uncurtained library windows being out of the question in a city block.
When entrance from the hall is had through the larger room, the smaller one becomes an alcove or recess. The closet holding the basin with hot and cold water is sometimes removed, the space being thrown into the hall to form, before the library door, a sort of vestibule in which a piece of furniture is placed. This vestibule adds dignity to an otherwise ugly passage-way. The library then has only two doors, side by side, facing the front windows and divided from each other by a small bookcase. One door leads into the general hall through the tiny antechamber; the other into the sleeping-room at the back. The wood-work, bookcases, and window-curtains are white. The charm of the room lies in the placing of the furniture. At right angles to the middle window (there are three), a large sofa is drawn. This helps to shut off the alcove behind it holding the writing-table, and made beautiful with palms and a rubber tree, the widely branching fern being set on pedestals. The only pictures are prints and photographs from celebrated paintings.