It would have been interesting to have devoted a separate chapter of the present volume to hospital-rooms - one for every house - rooms hygienically appointed, with oil-cloth and paint if nothing else were possible; places in which a patient could be cared for while ill, and out of which she could be carried for her convalescence back to her own room, perhaps. A hospital-room would be easy to arrange. It could be made pretty with varnished papers and bright hangings, hangings cheap enough to be destroyed afterwards without a pang. Were the curtains white they could be washed. There should be an open fireplace in such a room.
Everything should be comfortable and cheerful. The sun should shine in it. It should never suggest sickness, nor painful associations.
When a hospital-room is not possible in a house, great care should be taken to provide night and day bedding for a patient, - blankets that once in every twenty-four hours were put out in the sun; linen made fresh every morning; pillows that could be aired all day, until the very sunbeams lodged among the covers.
We are apt to pride ourselves as a people upon the possession of closets, comparing provisions made among us for dresses and clothes with those seen on the other side of the water. Not long since an architect of note drew attention in a magazine article to the fact that in some foreign capitals important town houses had no closets, while the smallest of ours boasted one in every vacant space, - wherever, indeed, an architect, by straining a point, could insert one.
Every householder knows the value of a closet. Some know the joy of a linen closet, the sweetest-smelling closet in the world, with its shelves laden with piles of white linen assorted and arranged after unique systems on which each individual mistress prides herself. Lately, however, I have chanced to meet some persons who have begun to proclaim against the building of too many closets in the house; they insist that a closet entails the loss of valuable space, especially a closet to which a person must be admitted who approaches a shelf. These persons insist that wardrobes are better, or upright mahogany pieces enclosed by doors, and containing shelves to slide in and out, or hooks for dresses. A series of these in a room, they maintain, not only helps to furnish it, but adds to the decorative quality. Well made, these closets admit no dust. They are, moreover, easily cleaned.
These people maintain, too, that kitchen closets should be abolished in small apartments, the pots and pans kept polished and hung about the stove, since the small apartment could at best only boast of closets so tiny that the task of keeping them clean and crowded with pots and pans would be impossible. A shallow closet with no nooks, no angles, no dark corners, is another affair, and so is an ample closet for the brooms and dustpans of a housemaid.
A house or parlor maid's closet, by the way, should be well stocked, and barred to the approach of any one wanting to put umbrellas or overshoes in it. A parlor-maid is not encouraged to order and cleanliness, nor can she be blamed for carelessness if encroachments are made on her domain and her dusters and brushes are taken at random, or her closet is crowded with things tossed in there to be put out of the way.
Space in a dress-closet is economized by a rod run from one side to the other, on which clothes are suspended from supporters like those that are seen in all the large retail establishments.
Our climate renders necessary a different order of living and a different architecture from that of other countries. The interiors of our houses must be appointed on a different scale. We have so many things to care for, - winter things and summer things; those for spring and those for autumn. I noticed no closets for the clothes of orphan children in Havana, only a series of big pigeon-holes arranged around a dormitory in one of the charitable institutions which we established for them. "Where do you keep the winter clothes?" I asked. "There are none," was the answer. "Each child has a small woollen shawl and one flannel undershirt for chilly days. They never need any more." And then it all came over me how simplified life might be for us if we never "needed any more," and if the "more" we did need did not include so many things - furs and rugs and curtains, and blankets and wraps, to say nothing of coats and dresses and bonnets and shoes and flannels for four different seasons and countless changes of temperature, for so many different kinds of snowy and windy, wet and dry days, that some of us are inclined to believe the foreigner right who said that in New York, at least, we had no climate, only weather.
Then, besides our bodies, there are our sofas and chairs to be cared for, our pictures and our books, our fine pieces of carvings; all those things, in fact, which are useful and those which our taste has impelled us to put into our houses. These must be protected from the dust and from that humidity which makes the feeling of dust so disagreeable.
The various conditions and changes render imperative the storing of much in summer, of dismantling our town houses, of providing a separate dress for them. We can send our rugs and our furs and hangings out of the house to be cared for, but we must cover our chairs and our sofas to make them endurable, to say nothing of protecting them. We must cover our curtains when we have our curtains down. We should try to do this without allowing our houses to take on an uninhabitable air, and the best way to accomplish it is to purchase some pretty chintz or cotton which, while serving a useful purpose, will not rob our dwelling-places of a furnished look.