Upon the size and configuration of the hall must depend the nature of its wall covering. Its color depends upon that of the rooms to which the hall gives access. No one, for instance, would want to walk from a flaming red hall into a maroon parlor. A hall, of course, for all its reserve, should express a certain welcome, but it should, like a well-trained messenger, make itself forgotten as it points a way to pleasures beyond. Its manner must be agreeable but restrained. The more inconspicuous its walls the better, although yellow in certain small vestibules and passage-ways has a most cheering effect upon the visitor. Like the neat cap and uniform of the maid who opens the door, the yellow of the vestibule conveys an assurance of all being bright and orderly and unencumbered within. Red with white wood-work makes a cheerful hall, and when relieved by sconces, brass frames, and mirrors, suggests a warm and comfortable interior. Dull golds and greens, gray and silver greens, Japanese papers of rich warm colors, are most interesting and throw into pleasant relief the plaster casts, the pottery, the pieces of furniture with which the hall may be filled.
A dado of dark burlaps or velours put on with a gimp or bordered with a moulding, and supporting a lighter tint above, helps to give to the longest and barest halls a certain finished air. When such a dado is used, it must not be more than three to three and one-half feet high, and if the hall be small and the adjoining rooms permit the treatment, a flowered paper may in some cases be used. It all "depends," as does everything else in life.
For instance, in a long and narrow hall, a flowered or figured paper, that went on endlessly repeating itself, would be wearisome beyond belief, like a tiresome talker who would never be still. On the other hand, such a long hall treated with a plain tone unbroken by any figure would suggest the dreary monotony of a penitentiary. Lined only with pictures, it would remind one of a museum, and a badly planned museum at that, since there would never be space enough for two people to stand and look at the pictures together, nor for one to get close enough against the wall behind him to look at the pictures on the opposite wall. The study of the tenant must be to break up the lines. This can be done with the curtains, mirrors, doors, and hanging lamps to which reference has been made. A mirror is urged at the end of a long narrow hall which makes a sudden turn to reach a room beyond, but not a mirror which deceives the person advancing towards it, beguiling him into bumps and apologies. Mirrors like these do well enough in hotels and railway stations, where the laughable mistakes they entail may be found amusing by the impolite observer; but they are vulgar in houses. Anything is vulgar in a house which constantly makes another ill at ease and awkward, and for which perpetual explanations and apologies are necessary. A suitable mirror for the blank wall at the end of a long hall which turns must not run to the floor, or be made to seem like an opening in the wall. It must hang on a level with the eye, be furnished with a shelf underneath, the shelf to be set with flowers and candlesticks. The idea is merely to make the end of the visual line agreeable by providing a pleasant composition. A picture over the shelf might take the place of the mirror if the candlesticks were omitted, otherwise the effect would be that of an altar in a long, narrow chapel.
When a door comes at the end of a long hall, it can often be made interesting with a picture, but without the shelf. When doors are ugly, they are often curtained, but never if the effect produced is heavy and the atmosphere made close and oppressive.
The hall chair and table should be of dignified proportions and without upholstery. Easy-chairs have no place in apartment halls. It is not always possible, however, to keep the appointments of these halls as one would have them. The makeshifts and the compromises must enter in continually, and although they should never include tables covered with fringed wools (a cover of silk, linen, or cotton fitting at the top is not to be confused with that which is to be excluded), these makeshifts may include various provisions made by a carpenter. He can, for less than five dollars, construct a comfortable bench with a shelf above, using ordinary pine, oiling or staining it walnut. The seat may be only a heavy board about twelve inches wide, supported by two upright pieces let into the top, like those seen in the Dutch kitchen. Above the bench, high enough to escape the head of the sitter, yet not too high for the housemaid's reach, would then come the shelf for the card-tray.
Another substitute for the chair and the table may be found in the cheap pine settle used in kitchens. It has a back that swings forward and forms an ironing-table. A young artist of my acquaintance has one of these settles in her studio. It cost her less than four dollars. She oiled it well with linseed oil, and waxed and rubbed it until the wood took on the soft dark brown of old oak. At either end a design was burned in, and around the top of the table this inscription from the lectures of a famous Frenchman: "Une forme doit etre belle en elle-meme, et on ne peut jamais compter sur le decor applique pour en sauver les imperfections," which, roughly translated, means that a form should be beautiful in itself, and that no one should depend upon pure decoration to make an ugly thing beautiful, - a maxim well to remember in whatever we undertake, either in the way of building houses or of dressing ourselves.
A pine settle, then, may be so treated as to be an interesting object in a hall. With a cushion it makes a comfortable resting place for the messenger or the maid who arrives with a note to be answered. It is infinitely to be preferred as a catch-all for overcoats to the common oak hat-racks with mirrors and hooks, or the oak tables, or any of the cheap manufactured monstrosities which have so long afflicted us.
These settles, by the way, can be burned with a design stained in gay colors and elaborated into pieces of furniture decorative in themselves.
When there is a steam heater the struggle should be to conceal it. In the new and beautifully appointed houses, the radiator is covered by an openwork metal case, often very beautiful in detail and proportion; but in a cheap apartment such a possession is never to be hoped for. There is a curtain made of a metal netting inlaid with small glass bull's-eyes designed and manufactured by artists of note; but this, too, is beyond the reach of ordinary incomes. It is better to use unpretentious pine, to have the carpenter build a shelf or two over the radiator, and to set them out with books or brass. When the shelf is not possible a simple piece of stuff thrown over the radiator answers every purpose. In the illustration, a steam heater standing in a dark corner has been covered with a stuff of low tone, so as not to accentuate its presence. A Holland milk-can, filled with water to moisten the air, stands on top of the radiator. A good piece of pottery would have done as well. In the hall shown in the picture, the brass of the can has been repeated in that of the lantern hanging near by, the lantern, like the milk-can, serving a definite purpose - that of lighting a dark corner. The fact that these pieces of brass serve purposes of utility must not be forgotten. The uses of things should never be ignored.