THE fact that one is able to do as one pleases, to build after no law, to furnish after no particular fashion, makes a camp or holiday house delightful. The whim of the individual rules. If one person finds comfort in a tent, he is at liberty to sleep under canvas; if another likes best rough bark and no plaster, he can indulge himself without comment from his friends.
It has been my good fortune at several times in my life to spend months in some of these camps or clubs or holiday retreats. No one name applies to them all. I have never yet seen any two cabins or tents exactly alike, although by common consent the same materials are everywhere employed. Rough bark is used, and if stone or shingles do appear every effort is made to take away the "cottage" look; the look of houses put up in rows along a village street; or of imitation Swiss chalets, with their scroll-sawed, varnished trimmings. The roofs are stained with a green wash to bring them into harmony with the woods and rocks; their outside walls are never defaced by paint.
The central point of interest in the living-room is the ample fireplace built of rough stone and plaster, projecting into the room. Round the great chimney the other rooms of the house are built, furnishing fireplaces for several chambers. When the expense of an extra chimney is not to be had and a room needs warming, the habit is to run up a small stone or brick chimney from a corner of the room, running into it the stovepipe of a Franklin, or in cases of emergency that of a stove, although no one should ever use an air-tight stove without an apology: airtight stoves are an abomination.
The staircase, where there is an upper floor, begins in the living-room. Now and then it is enclosed, but ordinarily it runs up to a small balcony skirting the chimney, which gives access to the several bedrooms above. The fashion is picturesque, since the railing of the balcony is hung with rugs or gay Indian stuffs, and decorated with green branches. Sometimes the chimney is built so as to leave a space behind it, in which coats and hats and lanterns can be hung, for lanterns are as necessary in these mountain settlements where there are no street-lamps as teacups to a tea-table.
The living-room may be finished with rough bark, or with pine and plaster; sometimes logs with rough bark are used as posts at intervals around the room, forming panels to be filled with whatever the taste of the mistress dictates, - a picture, a plaster cast, a piece of Japanese matting, or a bit of simple drapery, chosen for its wood tones and colors. These objects, however, when used, are subordinated to the general scheme of decoration, which relies for its effects upon growing things, - the greens of ferns and branches, and the colors of wild flowers picked near by. Fresh greens are cut every few days and arranged about the room. The tables employed are seldom from shops or factories. When they are, bark of some kind is employed to give them a look of belonging to their environment. This does not mean that furniture is made of twigs and pieces of knotted wood bent into fantastic shapes, and then varnished to add ugliness and misery to everything in its neighborhood. Simplicity should rule here, and in its preservation the good taste and the tact of the householder are displayed.
Living-rooms are often dining-rooms as well, one corner of the room including the table and cupboard. Blue and white, or red and white, china or flowered dishes are used. Nothing should be used that represents mere cost, nothing that cannot be replaced when broken - the hangings are always of the simplest flowered muslins, stamped cottons, Indian blankets. The bedrooms have bare floors and cheap ingrain rugs, or mattings. The furniture is of wood. In every house there is a tin closet or two for the storing of mattresses and blankets during the winter, and for putting things out of reach of the squirrels or field mice.
The veranda and the loggia are placed always so that a view may be obtained, - down a valley, across a stretch of water, or into the leafy heart of some great tree. They are built of rough bark, the trunks of trees forming the railing and balustrade. Hammocks are sometimes hung in the loggias. Divans are often used there. The real lover of the woods has a framework made on which fresh balsam boughs are laid, softened with cushions for the head. Ferns and nasturtium vines fill the boxes on the rails. The boxes themselves are covered with rough bark. Branches of trees covered with fresh leaves are fastened to the upright posts of the veranda, adding a note of decoration, and assuring a certain privacy.
The verandas below stairs are furnished with straw chairs, their cushions covered with cotton stuffs. Tea is generally served here. The tea-service is simple. There may be a brass kettle, but silver is not in good taste, and the tea cloth is white trimmed with lace, or is fringed and embroidered. Costly laces and linens are out of the question.
In the laying out of these camps certain laws of construction are followed, laws which should be true to the spirit of camping. Separate structures are provided for each individual. Sometimes there are as many as twenty-seven or more cabins belonging to a single camp; each guest, each child has its own. The dining-room is detached, and so is the living-room. Board walks and little paths connect these several structures, hidden from each other by the trees. When such a camp is laid out near the water, rigid rules of etiquette prevail. Thus, no visitor is supposed to approach a camp except by water, and to the landing-place provided by the owner, a guide being always in attendance at the float to receive the guests of the family. To approach a camp through the woods is to take a family unawares: it is like driving up to its back door when one comes to pay a formal visit, - a breach of decorum not readily forgiven.