Another dining-room is of old black-oak, the frieze of green tapestry. Green tapestry is used on the tall, black-oak dining chairs. All the furniture is Italian. A carved sideboard of much beauty, picked up in Venice, was the centre round which the room was fashioned.
With the gray-green of chestnut, the greens of plants will be found to blend in the happiest harmony, the plants to appear in pots, or perhaps in a lovely old stained marble fountain with a circular basin on its slim pedestal. Sometimes, when a room is large, a Byzantine temple of white marble inlaid with mosaics is introduced in a corner and kept filled with growing maidenhair ferns, freshened by the constant spray of tiny waterspouts.
One dining-room floor is made of oak with a marble border, an importation from Italy. The arch of the window is supported by rare marble columns, of seven tones, with great gilt capitals, brown Sicily, that rich and marvellous storehouse of art treasures. The ceiling and deep frieze, in Italian renaissance, show a blue ground with an arabesque of gold in high relief. The door is an old church altar, also blue and gold, the gold in high relief on the blue. The finest old tapestry covers the walls.
All of these more elaborate dining-rooms have been carefully studied by skilled designers; the objects placed in them have been secured only after many excursions through old palaces of Europe. They are beyond the reach of the ordinary mortal, and their imitations in cheaper materials would be absolutely unpardonable. Imitations, by the way, are always dangerous. They do incalculable harm in blinding us to the virtues of the genuine article, and in creating a disgust for the good thing, which we know only through some spurious example. We react from gilt chairs because we have never seen really fine gilt chairs in appropriate places, - only bad imitations placed in surroundings where they never belong.
In large houses, the elaborately designed dining-room is only used for the mid-day or evening meal. Small breakfast-rooms are provided upstairs, or in another part of the house, where an informal meal, like breakfast, can be taken in quiet, with simply a maid in attendance.
Except in the very old town houses, rapidly disappearing in New York, - one seldom sees the pretty china closets of an earlier era. Mahogany cabinets with glass doors have been made to take their places, or the old-fashioned mahogany corner-cabinet. Yet these old china closets built into the wall were worthy of preservation. They are often repeated in town houses to-day, are appropriate almost anywhere, and add immensely to simple and conventional interiors. Wood, repeating a conventional design, is sometimes used to enclose the small panes. Lead is often employed. These closets appear over the mantel, at its side, or in the corners of the room, sometimes completely filling one end of it. The finest of china alone is kept in them.
The dining-room floor should be bare, except for the rug under the dining table. This should always be large enough to surround the chairs about the table; never so thick that its nap will catch the chair legs, and never so thin that it will wrinkle when a chair is moved.