In all old brick and stone houses of the conventional kind, with parlor and dining-room opening out of each other, the effect produced is of a long and narrow gallery lighted by windows at either end. You can never escape the feeling of these windows whichever way you look. Draperies that are made to fall straight over them are never interesting, however fine their texture, since they come at the end of the visual line, as it were. As a view of a city back yard is seldom or never good, the windows themselves should be made so. This has sometimes been done by putting a ground glass in the dining-room window, hanging from the middle sashes transparent coats of arms in glass. An iron grill is drawn across the window, its figure outlined against the glass.
Sometimes one of these dining-room windows will face a church wall that is pretty enough in the spring and summer when the vine which covers it is green. But in winter this wall, dull in tone and ugly, becomes almost an aggressive feature in the dining-room. The other window will have been transformed into a door leading to the butler's pantry. In such an instance both the glass door leading into the butler's pantry and the window looking on the church should be curtained alike. Since there is no question of sky to consider, the curtains should fall in a single piece from the top of the sash, so fashioned with little strings run through rings that they can be drawn up to a certain height, a space being left below. This space in the window toward the church should then in winter be filled with evergreens in boxes, so that as one looks from the other room or from the table, one would get the impression of growing plants outside. The curtain over the glass door leading into the pantry should be drawn to the same height as that in the window, in order that the butler may move in and out under it without inconvenience. A screen (a necessity in itself), when placed by this door, conceals the fact of this being only a door, and not a window with plants on its sill, like the other.
When one of these old-fashioned dining-rooms opens into a glass-enclosed porch, like those common to many houses in New York, the dining-room curtains should not be made to fall over the windows or glass doors leading to it. They should be so hung that they are preserved as openings on to the porch, the porch itself not being treated as an excrescence to the house, not being made hideous as a pantry maid's catch-all, but an agreeable addition to the room itself. This can be done by setting plants out on the porch, or by hanging thin curtains against the glass which encloses it, making that glass and its draperies, or the plants arranged against it, the objective point in the room, and not the doors or windows leading on to the porch. One of these old glass-enclosed porches becomes, when treated in this way, a charming addition to your house, agreeable to the eye in winter, and delightful as a lounging place when the days grow warm.
The question being of such importance, I can hardly err, I think, in urging still more strongly that, while still preserving the utilitarian value of windows for ventilating and light-giving purposes, they should be made as restful and agreeable as the walls which enclose us. To accomplish such a result the householder must, even after the architect has finished, consider the question from many points of view. The locality and environment of the window must be taken into consideration - whatever of outlook you may wish to bring into your room, and that which you may wish to exclude from it. Then, again, there are the approaches in the room itself, the near-by objects, the pieces of furniture, the color and decoration of the walls, the color and character of the expanse outside. In cities, as we have seen, it is frequently necessary to exclude every outside object, making our windows part of a general framework in which we are housed. The particular problem which confronts the householder, then, becomes one of tones and lights of agreeable shades, that must harmonize not only with the colors of the room, making the interior with its surrounding walls and doors one composite whole, every part blending yet balancing with the other, but producing as well a restful impression upon those looking toward the light. When, however, the expanse outside is interesting, when you want to live with it, as it were, then that expanse must be considered in relation to what we make of the foreground; in other words, the room in which we sit when regarding the expanse before us. Country and town houses, then, present altogether different problems with their windows. Perhaps the best way of explaining what some of these problems are is to give examples in which they have been successfully overcome.
One room, built by a celebrated architect, directly faces a square filled with trees and grass. The room is all green and dull gold. The Venetian ceiling is raftered and inlaid with painted panels, taking up the tones of tapestries hung on the walls over burlaps that has been treated with a dull gold wash. The window itself, a square bay, some twenty feet long and six feet deep, is entirely filled with rubber-trees, but the framework and sashes have been treated with the same gold and green that appears in every other part of the room, so that one who looks towards it experiences no shock, but is conscious of having had the eye led by agreeable gradations toward the highest light in the room. This effect could never have been attained had the window not been treated with the soft tones prevailing in the rest of the room. Green alone, or gold alone, would have spoiled it, and the absence of the rubber-trees would have left you with a sense of loss and possible harshness. The soft cream tones of the tapestries are repeated again in the thin cream curtains that hang against the panes. There are no heavy draperies.