The sofa is made to face the fire when the room is not large enough for two at right angles to the hearth. A writing-table back of the sofa, with a lamp arranged to give light to those on the sofa and to any one writing at the table, serves to separate that part of the room devoted to writing from that in which others may be reading.
"LIVING ROOMS AND LIBRARIES .... GAIN AN AIR OF DISTINCTION".
Provision is made for other loungers by reading-chairs, small tables, and lamps drawn up between the fireplace and the window, while a chair or two on the other side of the chimney makes it possible for the visitor to feel that the seat he has taken is not the special property of a spoiled man or woman made wretched without it. A beautiful old yellow satin damask bound with a blue gimp hangs at the windows of one of these rooms. The walls are a brownish yellow, the bookcases mahogany with glass doors, - genuine old pieces like all the furniture, the mirrors, and quaint silver filling the room. One happy inspiration is found in the adaptation of an old-fashioned toast-rack to a letter-holder on the writing-table.
When a room is small, the writing-table may go at the head of the sofa that faces the fire, but the large chairs and small tables must still be drawn up about the hearth.
A library chair is not comfortable unless it is commodious. I like it provided with cushions. Morocco, corduroy, velours, velveteen, or in splendid libraries velvets and rich damasks, are used as coverings. Old Cathedral chairs, with high backs and carved arms, add to the grandeur of the room. One library that I haunt has these splendid chairs arranged around a very long room, with huge carved fireplaces at either end, two sofas drawn up by one of them. The book-shelves, extending to the ceiling, are divided half-way by a little gallery. The great oak tables were once the pride of some monastery or baronial hall. A child with a book curled up in one great splendid chair is as comfortable as in the corner of a sofa, and even more picturesque.
I have never seen a library-table that I thought too large, but I have seen many too crowded. The tendency is to put too much on them. If I had my way I should have one that was kept empty most of the time. I remember a rented cottage at the seashore, a simple house without pretensions. It had, in the second-story hall, an empty round table at least seven feet in diameter. That table always secured tenants for the house. A nest of small tables is a delight, giving you an empty table whenever you want it, - for a work-basket, a luncheon-tray, a bunch of flowers, or the glass of milk to be taken at eleven in the morning.
"IT BELONGS TO A BOUDOIR OR STUDY".
A desk with a top would quite spoil certain libraries. A desk implies secrets, the possession of papers to be kept under lock and key. It belongs to a boudoir or a study, but not to a general living-room, where possessions are held more or less in common. Desks, once used by kings or magnates of importance, and which, like those shown in the Louvre, are beautiful examples of a distinct and sumptuous period in art, would be beyond the reach of people of moderate means. Their imitations would be reprehensible. They are, therefore, not to be considered. The mahogany desk, common to New England and the Southern States during the early history of our country, delightful and much to be desired as they are, adapt themselves to those rooms only in which the rest of the furniture is in harmony. One of them would have ruined the living-room furnished with gorgeous Spanish and Venetian chairs, or the library of black oak and yellow marble chimney-piece.
"WRITING-TABLES ARE TO BE PREFERRED TO DESKS (see page 234).
Except in small studies, then, or boudoirs, or in bedrooms and morning-rooms combined, or in informal parlors, writing-tables are to be preferred to desks, unless the desk is small and unobtrusive, and can be tucked away in some corner especially devoted to it. Even then it can be admitted only on sufferance. When a writing-table has drawers on either side, certain private papers may be put out of harm's way. These tables, often beautiful in design and proportion, with carved legs or inlaid surfaces, are great additions to a library or a living-room, possessing a charm and a character of their own. They become distinctive features in the work-rooms of men of studious or thoughtful habit. Indeed, except for the fireplace, there is nothing like the writing-table to lend a library its excellence and quality.
Within the last few years a small table has been invented for holding papers, pamphlets, or account-books. When placed by the larger one it proves of exceptional service. It is made of inlaid mahogany and stands on four slim legs. The top is not more than a foot in diameter and has three, and sometimes four, upright pieces (also of mahogany and inlaid) arranged like the silver pieces of a toast-rack.
A separate table or corner should be reserved in every living-room for the periodicals. Wide pigeonholes made without tops are sometimes built over a corner table; or a long, narrow table is spread with periodicals, not piled on one another, but laid in lines, so that the titles and dates are recognized at a glance.
In some of the more beautifully appointed libraries, where the bindings of the books are of special excellence, representing the work of men famous in their craft, the doors and the shelves of bookcases are of glass. A bevelled glass is used for the shelves, enabling you to look through at the books and their bindings below without touching them.
The doors of mahogany bookcases always show some design in wood over the glass. An artist will make his own design for the lead; weave the monogram of wife or children, or the dates of family anniversaries, in the lead, making special doors memorial tablets to different members of his family. The work must be well done, never obvious nor obtrusive, else its value is destroyed. When well carried out the result is most interesting, giving to the library the air of a well-studied plan.
Books are the important features of a shelf, and I never object to one of pine or whitewood when painted, stained, or treated with oil. A little grooving on the edge gives the shelf a greater finish.
A carpenter can do all the work. When a new set of books is to be provided for, you have only to give him a volume to measure by. A piece of leather nailed on the edge of one shelf protects from dust those that are on the shelf below.