The curtained cupboard holding dishes would be out of the question in the dining-room of a town house, but I saw a little scrap of a dining-room in an apartment made quite lovely with one. The shelves were hung with blue cotton stamped in white, and set out with blue and white china. The room was so small that it could hold no other furniture except the table and chairs, and a tiny serving table in front of the windows. For all that, it bore about it an unmistakable air of refinement.
A little more money, and a little more trouble, and a more elaborate cupboard could be produced, - the lower shelves enclosed by doors having well-wrought iron hinges of brass or copper, as one prefers. These hinges should be made interesting, and follow old Dutch models. The upper shelves of the cupboard could be left open, or enclosed by glass doors, the lead of the glass showing the bull's-eye, repeating the design of that on the window-panes, or giving the names or the monograms of individuals so interwoven that their meaning would not be distinguishable at once. I saw the doors of a cupboard treated in this way in the lunch-room of an architect's office. The name of the firm appeared in an elaborate design covering the glass of the long and narrow doors that protected from dust the table china and silver used at luncheon.
One of the illustrations shows a low-boy, with a series of shelves built over it. The top of the lowboy is used as a sideboard, the drawers for holding small silver. This, too, is a makeshift, but has sufficient tact not to make itself obtrusive.
In an apartment dining-room, when a serving-table is an impossibility, one can be arranged for use while the family are at table. The services of the carpenter, that most helpful of appendages to a domestic establishment, must again be called into requisition. "Give me a carpenter," I heard a woman say once, "and I can furnish any house." And I never saw her quite so happy as when she had one at her beck and call for a day at a time. Such transformations as were accomplished under her directions! Such conveniences as appeared! Such utilizations of space no one else ever accomplished.
But to return to that substitute for the serving-table. By the dining-room door leading into the kitchen or pantry (if the apartment boasts a pantry), let your handy man put up a hinged shelf behind the screen. Support it with a leg underneath, to be slipped back when the shelf is not in use, enabling it to fall flat against the wall. A white tablecloth must always be used on a serving-table.
Dining-rooms, in unpretentious country houses, may be treated with much of the informality proper to the apartment. They may have flowered papers, chintz, or cretonne hangings, and when mahogany is impossible, cupboards instead of sideboards. Indeed, it is the aim of many householders, when in the country, to preserve simplicity and informality, and whenever this is done, with a welldefined and well-expressed purpose, a stamp of authority is immediately given to an environment. Simplicity is a standard by which all excellence must ultimately be measured. But this simplicity does not mean the cheap, nor the ungainly, nor the awkward, nor the ugly. It may be purchased at great cost. It must be acquired by temperance in judgment, and a sure knowledge of requirements. It makes itself felt in all the arts; in the building of the most sumptuous houses, and in the furnishing of the very humblest. An elaboration of detail does not disturb the general design. Thus a woman's summer toilet may be praised for its perfect simplicity, yet the needlework, the embroidery, the inlay of lace, may be of the finest, the costliest, the most intricate character. On the other hand a cheap calico may be over-ruffled and over-trimmed, set off with so many ribbons and buckles that it could only be counted pretentious and vulgar, and this, although the cost of the entire calico dress might not have equalled that of one yard of the lace on the dress which had been extolled for its simplicity. The question of cost, therefore, does not enter into the subject. A knowledge of essentials does, which includes a knowledge of what should be kept out of the room. Who, for instance, would tolerate a dining-room chair trimmed with bows of ribbon, or so much as an inch of ribbon on the sideboard cover? I wish that dining-rooms might be freed of baby-carriages and sewing-machines. When I say this I do not mean any criticism of difficult conditions. Where necessity rules, criticism is unjust, but in many houses the proprieties are violated by people who disregard everything but that which is convenient. Children's books, perambulators, a mother's work-basket, are not only pardonable in a dining-room, but quite admissible and interesting at times, when it is easily apparent that the rest of the house is too small to contain them.
"THE TOP OF THE LOW-BOY IS USED AS A SIDEBOARD".
I speak with a certain feeling of these different conditions, remembering as I do a whole row of houses put up in a college town, houses too fine for the professors or even for the president himself. Each dining-room had a bay-window. In almost every window the passers-by could see a sewing machine. In the morning the sewing machine was presided over by the woman of the house; in the afternoon it was closed and shoved against the sash, the mother having joined her husband on the front steps or in a rocker on the porch, while the children romped in the grass plot or on the pavements. A life like this represents no ideal of simplicity. It merely betrays an absence of all sense of the fitness of things, and an absence, too, of all feeling for the social graces. With so large and so expensive a house, why not a sewing-room upstairs? None of the professors, small and unpretentious as their houses were, kept sewing machines in the dining-room: certainly not the president, who could never have afforded one of these costly domiciles. Such facts as these are too often forgotten in the criticisms which one class of society makes of another, and in the discontent so often expressed by people of newly acquired wealth to whom social recognition, by poorer people, is denied. A dining-room in a country house may have white enamelled wood-work rich in Colonial detail, a lovely flowered paper, ruffled muslin curtains, and genuine mahogany furniture costing more than the entire furniture of some houses, and still convince you by the objects on the mantel and sideboard that the aim of the mistress has been to preserve great simplicity. Or it may have woodwork of yellow pine, cheap muslin hangings at the windows; chairs of common wood painted white; and yet by a touch or two, the introduction of flowers and well-chosen china, assume both charm and importance.