In any successful room, the interests must be concentrated, not scattered. The same rule holds good in art. But it must be remembered that this concentration of interest by no means implies the necessity of what is known in every-day parlance as "a cosey corner." I wonder who invented the term, and why it should have spread like a pestilence over the land, dragging with it a host of ills, filling parlors with right-angle triangle lounges piled with cushions and draped with fish-nets over spears, or Turkish hangings suspended from impossible baldequins. A room may be made cosey: it implies a meagre purpose to make only one corner so.
"THE INTERESTS MUST BE CONCENTRATED, NOT SCATTERED".
By centring interest around a fireside, drawing up chairs, tables, and sofas, so that people may find themselves placed comfortably before it; by setting aside certain other parts of the room for reading, writing, sewing, or music, is to fill it with cosey places. The secret of knowing how to do this is the secret of making a successful parlor. It can only be done with a thought back of every move - that of making special pursuits or forms of relaxation easy, or of insuring repose, seclusion, or comfort, for various moods. It can never be done when the object alone has been to produce a "cosey corner," while the rest of the room is left bare and uninviting. Even when the heart is set upon the divan with a fish-net or a hanging over it, like that of a neighbor, the corner in which the right-angle triangle lounge is found, must not be out of key with the rest of the room, and never by any possibility designated or treated as the one "cosey corner" in the room.
In conventional brick or brown-stone houses, found everywhere throughout our country, houses put up in rows with front stoops and narrow halls, we find the parlor of all others most difficult to treat. At one time in our history, even among the very rich, one method alone was followed. Between the tall windows of the front parlor there was always a pier glass in a heavy gilt frame, a marble slab below it; over the marble mantel there was another mirror in a still heavier gilt frame - an oval or a round mirror, this one hung so high nobody could see in it. Then there were lace curtains falling straight. A sofa flat against one wall faced a piano plump against another. Sometimes there was a marble-topped centre-table. This arrangement was almost universal, even when the furniture was covered with a costly textile, a velvet or a satin brocade, and even when expensive family portraits were hung on the walls, or the tables were set with pieces of porcelain, books, albums, or Japanese bronzes.
After this, came the introduction of the tea-table, with a kettle and china cups and saucers to catch the dust. We have learned now that tea, when served in the parlor, must be brought in on a tray and placed in front of the hostess on a small table, which has been kept hidden somewhere in the corner of the room, and which disappears again when tea is over and the tray and the steaming kettle are carried away. But there are still people who never seem able to part from the old set method of arranging their furniture, and who understand nothing about the necessity of breaking up the lines in a room.
THE WALL SPACE RUNNING FROM THE WINDOW.
The very configuration of one of these long, narrow rooms is awkward - two windows at one end of the room, facing folding doors at the other, and the fireplace directly opposite the door into the hall. The general habit now is, to move the door farther down the hall, so as to give greater privacy about the fireplace. When this is done, that part of the hall under the staircase is furnished with a seat, a large mirror, and a tree for the coats and hats of visitors. Nothing but the chair and the table for cards then appears by the front entrance. But even when this change of parlor doors is not possible and the opening must face the fireplace, the subject is not hopeless.
The awkwardness of the general plan was quite forgotten in one parlor I know. The walls were lined with bookcases six feet high. Above these were pictures. The grand piano, covered by a piece of rich embroidery thrown over the end, and holding a tall vase with flowers, came between the fireplace and the folding doors, its keys toward the dining-room. At the foot of the piano a small sofa stood at right angles with the fireplace, the piano forming its background. On the other side of the fireplace was a desk, drawn out from the bookcase; between the windows and door into the hall there was a carved mahogany sofa; opposite the piano a mahogany table with books. By all these tables were big chairs easily wheeled about, so that they could be drawn together or up by the sofa whenever two or more people wanted to talk together. And everybody did want to talk in that delightful old parlor once belonging to a man of letters, who gathered about him many a famous company.
In another parlor exactly like this, - and all these parlors are exactly alike, more is the pity, - there is a long carved sofa placed flat against the wall between the door from the hall and the front window. This is a conventional arrangement relieved by a happy inspiration. At the end of the sofa by the hall door a tall vase filled with long-stemmed roses stands on the floor, a table by it with a lamp, and behind the table, concealing it from the door, a low carved screen with an inlay of glass. At right angles to the sofa, with its back to the screen, is a Chippendale arm-chair. This makes it possible, then, for two people on the sofa to talk to one on the chair, who at the same time has been put to no trouble for a seat, nor found himself forced to seat himself directly opposite the people on the sofa. In the window at the other end of the sofa is another chair which can also be drawn up. Between the windows is a fine old desk; opposite the sofa, a tall piece of mahogany with books behind glass doors. Between it and the mantel, and at right angles to the fire, is a small sofa for two, with a chair by it, a table and a lamp. The other end of the room has low bookcases on either side, with more tables and sofas and chairs.
THE WALL SPACE RUNNING FROM THE WINDOW.