One of his methods is to take down all the partitions on a parlor floor except that which shuts it off from the front hall entrance, and to put up columns, making one large room full of angles. High and sumptuous leather screens are then introduced to shut one part of the room from the other, the front part being reserved for formal receptions, the middle part, with its huge fireplace and its deep recess (made by cutting off the hall), for an after-dinner lounging place; and the back part as the dining-room. By removing the screens the whole space may be thrown into one, and used for music or dancing. The library or living-room being on the floor above, the privacy of the family is not sacrificed to social pretences. Besides this, in a room so large, no one can possibly hear what is said at the other end, or know when the table is being laid for dinner behind the tall screens fifty feet away.
When the building laws are not broken, and the depth of the block is sufficient, an addition to the house is made by a room in the rear, to which access is had from the dining-room through a passageway lined with books and hung with brass lamps. This room, used as a studio, living-room, or library, adds enormously to the comfort of a household and to the beauty of a house, especially when its floor-level is below that of the main house, the descent being made by several steps. A balcony from a second-story window will open into the room when the ceilings are high, as in the studios of sculptors. The presence of an extra room makes it possible to use the front parlor as a drawing-room.
Quite as delightful, when there is sufficient space in the rear of a town house, is an addition at the back, which will afford a dining-room on the first floor and a library above. Such an addition, however, is only conventional and uninteresting, unless a wide passage is left between the old part of the house and the new, and unless a special feature is made of the staircase which leads to the floor above, and, by a turn to the bedrooms in front, forms a wide platform before the library door. This platform, with its railing, then becomes a most interesting feature, altogether charming when several figures are introduced on it - a young mother and children waiting for the guests to ascend from the drawing-room floor to the more informal story above.
The plan oftenest followed in these days, when a conventional town house is remodelled to give a drawing and dining room on the first floor, is to take away the high stoop, throwing the old vestibule into the new drawing-room, and making the entrance either on the street level, or, by an ascent of a few feet under the old vestibule, finishes the steps in a hall filling the middle part of a house. This hall then becomes large, and in some cases important, the drawing-room in front, the dining-room in the rear. When these alterations have been made, it is customary to give to the drawingroom an architectural excellence not common to the old front parlors. The windows, chimney, and doors are carefully designed. The walls are stuccoed, or panelled. The inlay is generally of silk or brocade. All the appointments are studded. The fashion of the day inclines to white or cream paint, soft silks on the walls, with mahogany or French furniture. One room will have cream woodwork, green watered silk in the panels, white or gold chairs covered with silk or brocade. Another will have white walls, white woodwork, the furniture covered with a striped brocade. There is no rule. The general tendency, however, is to avoid overcrowding, and to express simplicity through the medium of the costly and the beautiful. Such a room must not be encumbered with too many articles of a minor interest. The domestic life of a family is never suggested, although the spirit of its mistress may yet be made to prevail in a hundred ways. She may still express the hospitable intent even while respecting formality; and she can certainly make you feel her appreciation of grace, of sweetness, and of friendly intercourse, even while she is confining herself to appointed places and stated hours for receiving.
When drawing-rooms of a more elaborate character, or when a series of drawing-rooms of an always increasing splendor, reproducing periods and celebrated interiors, are introduced into a house, it goes without saying that an architect has been or should have been in consultation.
A discussion of detailed appointments proper to these drawing-rooms would carry us altogether beyond the scope of this volume, although in their decoration no one can escape the problems confronting the very humblest of home-loving spinsters in the most modest of parlors. No woman can get away from the question of color. She should always be mistress of a felicitous manner of self-expression. Certainly she can never hope the money she spends will make a successful home if she neglects consideration of the affections, the sentiments, the accomplishments, or the consideration of those needs which spring from the weaknesses and idiosyncrasies of individual anatomies, spineless backs, short legs, weary shoulders, strained optic nerves. Those needs, on the other hand, which can only be supplied by pictures, books, beautiful colors, flowers, and agreeable society.
It is the human touch always which gives value to every form of expression, and in the most sumptuously appointed drawing-rooms of "palatial residences" this touch must be present, or all else fails. The quality of the touch depends upon the individual, upon her degree of excellence, her breadth of nature, her fineness of perception, her powers of appreciation, her intellectual endowments. Hang a room with the costliest tapestries, adorn it with the rarest carvings, or fit it with the canvases of the master, it can only fail or win for itself such success as its mistress has in her to accomplish. One woman will know how to draw her sofas up by her fire, and so to lend to her sumptuous interior a touch of intimacy, cordiality, and charm, without which her room might otherwise have been a museum. Another, not knowing how to do this, for all her wealth of belongings, will never be able to make her room seem other than the work of an upholsterer or of a professional designer.