This section is from the book "Homes And Their Decoration", by Lillie Hamilton French. Also available from Amazon: Homes and their decoration.
The proportions of the mirror must depend upon the dimensions of the hall and the door. It may be oblong, oval, or square. A narrow shelf under the glass could hold the tray for cards, and the clothes-brush, were its design good, and certainly a flower or two, and if the hall were dark, a pair of candlesticks with glass globes to protect the flames from the wind. Were the shelf too narrow for the candlesticks, a pair of brass sconces or candle brackets, fastened to the wall on either side of the looking-glass, would be even more effective. To make the composition better, a plaster cast, toned to a good ivory, could be placed above the mirror. Somewhere between the mirror and the parlor door, however, place must be found for a tree on which hats and overcoats could be hung.
When the door of an apartment opens at the end of a long hall, the whole scheme of decoration must be altered, for in that case there may be too much instead of too little for the visitor to see. Then your object should be to protect yourself, to insure your family a certain privacy, and to do this without shutting all the doors, rendering your hall impenetrable in its gloom.
This purpose may be accomplished in several ways. A portiere hung from a swinging crane of wood or iron is often used. When privacy is desired, the curtain is swung forward. When a freer passage-way is needed, it is pushed back against the wall. The most conventional plan is to fasten a pole across the hall with heavy curtains on rings, to fall straight or be looped back. A shelf six or eight inches wide, holding bits of pottery or brass, when introduced with discretion over the curtain rod, adds an interesting feature to the hall.
The quality of the draperies must depend upon the nature of the surroundings. Tapestry, velveteen, corduroy, silk, velours, denim, cotton, taffeta, mercerized cotton, armure, damask, cretonne, or embroidered materials are proper, but no textile should be used which would create a stuffy impression. It is better to have the curtain specially made. A good pair of ready-made curtains is only found occasionally. Never be tempted to purchase cheap chenille curtains with fringe and border. There is a thin Japanese pink gauze of soft and delicate tones, covered with painted flowers or figures, which, while screening the hall, does not darken it.
I like a table in front of the hall curtain when there is sufficient space. A row of cathedral lamps suspended from the ceiling, while monopolizing none of the valuable floor area, is a delightful addition to an otherwise uninteresting interior.
It is well to remember that curtains are always of value in small places, because they never betray the exact size of any little room. In decorating the long, narrow, windowless halls of apartments, both curtains and mirrors are of inestimable service. Those who work with them must do so with a twofold object in view - that of suggesting both breadth and mystery - of there being something behind the curtain. Another room, perhaps! As if there were ever any other undiscovered room in any apartment! The casual visitor, however, who has come from a house, will never know that.
Long, narrow halls may be partitioned off by screen doors, which any carpenter can construct. They should be modelled after those seen in Spain and Cuba, which are curved or painted at the top, six or seven feet in height, leaving a wide-open space between the top of the door and the high ceiling for a free circulation of air. These doors are in two flaps, each half door being hung to the wall by spring hinges. A slight pressure of the hand is enough to separate them when you enter. They may be made of ordinary pine, covered with a textile. Nothing is better for the purpose than the tapestry of commerce tacked on the door and finished with a gimp put on with invisible tacks. A denim, leather, or velveteen with brass-headed tacks, would also be effective. Everything depends upon the environment. In a large studio-apartment, where tapestry was used, a most agreeable impression has been produced. The door which it covers not only protects the room at the end of the line, but forms a vestibule just inside the front door.
Whether curtains or doors or screens are used, the question of what is to be seen at the end of your vista should never be neglected. On no account should a bed be permitted to show from a front door, else you might as well model your home after a hospital or a soldiers' barracks, where the regulations require that beds should be always in evidence. If necessity compels you to use the room at the end of the line as a sleeping apartment, and to place the bed where, unless protected, it would be seen, then a screen at the front of the bed is an absolute necessity. A view of the bed is never permissible, except during some festivity, perhaps, when the bedroom is used as a ladies' cloak-room.
Neither a bureau nor a dressing-table should be put at the end of a line of vision. They would suggest uses where privacy was peremptory. A chair or a table would be excusable, although it must be remembered that nothing in a house or an apartment, nor in any place known as a home, should be so arranged as to suggest the fact of one's being perpetually in evidence. In a house one does not sit to be observed, but to be friendly, and to escape observation.
If the room at the end of the hall be a parlor, and a sofa or divan must be placed in a conspicuous position, something should be done to protect the occupants from the gaze of the people to whom a front door has just been opened. A table with lamp or ferns could then be placed at the foot of the sofa. In one of the illustrations it will be seen that a tall carved Japanese wooden pedestal has been used, surmounted by a cathedral candlestick and candle. When a vase with tulips or roses is set on this pedestal (and this particular householder is never without such a vase of flowers), absolute privacy is insured, and without the purpose of the mistress being made too apparent. In the other apartment-house parlor, a table with ferns or palms or a lamp accomplishes the same results. In some environments, as in studios, a chest of drawers or a bookcase is effective at the foot of the divan.