A library with the same ground plan has mahogany doors, bookcases, and furniture. The frieze is of Spanish leather of dull rich tones. The chimney has a small recess just below the shelf for holding a book or two, pipes, and tobacco. A big lounging chair and a table are drawn up by it. Sofas and tables are arranged to make angles and recesses in the room.
The wall color of a library should be subordinate to that of the books, forgotten in their presence. A bright shining red is objectionable. It takes too great possession of a lounger. Personally, I like no color on the walls except that of the bindings; to have my books so arranged that they look me straight in the face, as it were. This may be because the library which I remember best in my youth had nothing else in it but books, filling oak shelves so high that they were only stopped by the ceiling; not a space anywhere free of a volume, except just over the mantel, where an engraving hung. The curtains were of yellow Nankin cotton, toning in with the yellow oak of the shelves and the doors, and bound with a narrow band of Turkey red. How cheerful it all was, how reposeful! That yellow Nankin cotton is never seen any more, and, except on very old books, none of that yellow calf used in bindings, and growing ever more delightful and fragrant with time. I get the comfort of that yellow which I love in a library all of oak, the shelves extending to a beamed oak ceiling, and divided from each other by fluted columns with carved capitals. The lowest shelf is on a level with the hand, the space below being occupied by a series of small closets for holding papers and pamphlets, and so cleverly constructed that it seems only a panelled support for the shelf above. The only picture in the room, a landscape by one of our great painters, is over the mantel, the wood of the over-mantel being specially designed to receive and frame it. The fireplace is of plain dark green tiles, - a green that is low in tone, cool and refreshing in quality. Nothing is allowed on it except one curio of yellowgreen and a vase of flowers. The hangings and furniture are of dull reds with dull gold braids taking up the tones of the oak. The table is of old black oak. The charm of the library is irresistible, its dignity compelling.
But for perfect adaptability to family life and happiness, where is there a library or a living-room to equal this one? It is thirty-five by fifty feet. Opposite its wide entrance door is a great bay-window filled with plants. At the end of the room, to the left, is a huge fireplace projecting into the room. Facing it, there is another bay-window with low window-seats filled with cushions. The wood-work and shelves are of black oak. The frieze above is a dull green, with a broken figure. But the indescribable angles and the niches and the deep window recesses; the cushioned seats and the sofas; the places in which twenty people, if you will, can gather together, and the little nooks in which one or two alone can talk in quiet and seclusion! And such places for children to curl up in the corners with their books! And such books, and so many! And such traditions as the room has made for itself! It is one which has kept all of the family together, and gathered to it all the family friends, and made life around its hearth ideal. Children and grandchildren have come back to it, bringing the young husbands and fathers too. It has sheltered them all, and educated them all, and won them all to its sentiments, made them lovers of books and lovers of each other. I think of this room and its influence, and what the influence of rooms like it might be, whenever I hear the discontented and the restless murmur over the care of their houses, thinking it must be so much better to write a book or to paint a picture than to furnish a home; or even when I hear those talk who are not discontented, and whose homes are happy, but who are too modest or too self-depreciating to understand the value of their own labors. For a house, especially if it has in it a room like this one, stands for more than many a volume. In reality it is a moral factor in the progress of the time.
Living-rooms and libraries, when they are approached by a descent of several steps, gain an air of distinction. When the steps turn, a small platform is made, protected by a railing sometimes hung with rugs, old silks and embroideries, or left plain, as in the illustration. This particular room is all of gold and green. The wood-work and beams have been stained green. The ceiling is inlaid between the beams with a gold wash, stippled to imitate the tones of a dull law calf. The walls are covered with a dark forest green burlaps. The curtains are of old-gold Venetian brocade. All the furniture is Venetian or Spanish, except the divan. Each article is covered with red or green or dull tones. The carpet is red. This room is in a city block and fills the back yard.
To a library filling one wing of a country house, approach is had by several steps, leading from the old part of the house to the library door. Instead of railings, book-shelves protect these steps on either side, the top shelf supporting a row of flower-pots. The library is of great size and belongs to a man of letters, who permits no overflow from the parlor - nothing but books or pictures of bookmen on his library walls. The wood-work, shelves, and ceiling are of light oak, like the table six feet in diameter placed in the middle of the room. A ruby red hall carpet follows the steps into the room in a sweep of color toward the fireplace opposite the steps. Two ample sofas are drawn up at right angles to the hearth, facing each other.
The placing of two sofas on either side of a wide fireplace is a common custom in large libraries and living-rooms. The sofas are long, of course, and low, well upholstered, and always made comfortable with cushions. The back and side pieces are often broad enough to hold books, papers, ash-trays, paper-cutters, or the after-dinner coffee cup. With these wide sofas the custom is to place a row of upright cushions flat against the back and covered with a heavy fabric; several soft down cushions, covered with silk, are then added, to indulge the idiosyncrasies of special anatomies.