White wood-work and ceiling, a paper covered with enormous poppies, a white shelf under the frieze for blue and white china, made of another small apartment-house dining-room an oasis in the hot and dusty town.
Although the dining-rooms of apartments maybe built to correspond in size, and although every dining-room must be furnished with its tables and its chairs, no one room need look like another. In order to make this clear, illustrations have been given of two dining-rooms in the same apartment-house. The dimensions of the rooms are identical, except that the ceiling of one is higher than the other by some ten or twelve inches. One of the dining-rooms, that with the corner cupboard, has white wood-work and ceiling. The dark red cartridge paper is finished at the ceiling by a white picture-moulding. The curtains of green net over white net are looped back over large brass disks. The second dining-room has, like the parlor into which it opens, green wood-work and green burlaps. The ceiling is treated with the merest suggestion of green, and brought down to a shelf running round the room. The thick curtains are of green corduroy; those next the pane, of soft yellow silk over cream white muslin. The only china appearing from under cover is the blue and white.
"THAT WITH THE CORNER CUPBOARD HAS WHITE WOODWORK.
To go from one of these dining-rooms to the other is like going into another town, proving that wall-spaces of identical dimensions need never entail the necessity of monotonous effects.
I remember another dining-room in an apartment-house, long since demolished, where the scheme of color ran to greens and pinks. The wood-work was the green of the mullein stalk, the walls of soft clover-pink cartridge paper, the ceiling plain and slightly tinted with pink. The table-service was of an old green china that represented the heirlooms of several generations. The hangings were of denim, matching the wood-work.
I know a dining-room in a studio-building that has its walls covered with a wainscoting of pine treated with oil until it looks like old oak. The frieze is dull green. Gay Dutch plates and pewter mugs are on the shelf. A Dutch clock hangs on the wall. I know another, also in a studio-building - a dining-room with a wainscoting of fine old carved wood, and walls covered with a burlaps treated with a dull gold wash. The ceilings are hung with brass Italian lamps, and one or two of old silver. All the furniture is richly carved dark oak.
Then there is another in which I once dined, high up in the tenth story of an apartment - a circular dining-room with classic white columns running round the room; the white stuccoed walls and ceiling covered with charming designs in arabesque and flying figures - its crowning glory the window opening on a wide stone balcony. I shall never forget my evening there, nor the luxury, in an unpicturesque city, of resting my empty coffee-cup on the stone balustrade of the balcony while the soft night air stirred the leaves of its vine. Stretched below me, in the darkness, with its myriads of street lamps shining through rising smoke and vapor, New York looked like a black sea into which the stars had fallen.
The articles necessary for a dining-room, the table and chairs, sideboard, side-table, and screen may be of the costliest and most elaborate character, or of the simplest. A screen used to conceal the pantry door through which the butler or waitress approaches the table will sometimes cost many thousands of dollars or may be had for a dollar and a half. The uses of the screen are the same in both cases.
"THE ONLY CHINA APPEARING FROM UNDER COVER IS THE BLUE AND WHITE".
The most conspicuous, and, when beautiful, the most impressive piece of dining-room furniture, is the sideboard, and it should represent the most judicious selection. When well designed, it adds a never-failing dignity to the simplest room. Time lends it quality, and a careful choice in the beginning means the possession of an object which will form a permanent element of value in the ever-changing modern home. After the sideboard, come the chairs. They should have wide seats and high backs. If when the sideboard and the chairs are purchased the money is exhausted, a sorry comfort may be had in the thought that an ugly table can be concealed by a cloth.
In the furnishing of a dining-room as in the purchase of wall-papers a black-list is needed. At the head of this list should come the common oak sideboard of commerce, with a mirror over the top framed by tiers of upright shelves. Were these sideboards good in design, they might be painted, scraped, or stained; but the design is generally unpardonably bad. If a choice must lie between one of them or none - choose none. Send instead for the carpenter to make what old-fashioned people called a cupboard, and what is now designated as a dresser. A cupboard, as I still like to call it, costing but five or six dollars, can be made in this way: four narrow pine shelves above, and three wider shelves below, supported by upright pieces at either end. The top of the wide shelf may be set with silver like a sideboard. Paint or stain the shelves.
They may be curtained with the denim cretonne or flowered material that hangs at the windows. When finished, the result is by no means to be despised, and the exigencies of apartment life make it admissible. For it must never be forgotten that, in the very nature of things, life in an apartment necessitates many a makeshift. Until one rents for more than a house, sufficient closet room is not to be expected, nor wall-space for extra wardrobes and sideboards. Housekeeping resolves itself into a series of compromises. Sacrifices go endlessly on - today of a comfort for the sake of an appearance, tomorrow of an interesting effect to gain a greater moving space. Nothing for all our pains is quite as it would be in a house. Twice the intelligence is needed in arranging it - in knowing what to discard, and how to make a compulsory choice take on the air of an inspiration.