There is something else about built-in furniture which we think has been sadly neglected, and that is the distinct bearing which painting and decorating has upon all built-in fixtures. It all resolves down to a matter of good taste. We know that when a room is done in one color, walls, trim and ceiling, it not only appears to be larger but it also appears to be more smooth and restful. In short, a better decorating job. It lacks abrupt contrast and disturbing features. Now, if your built-in furniture is painted in the same color as the walls, it blends into the entire scheme and you arrive at a furnished room which is not only furnished, but nicely furnished. To avoid monotony in an overall color or tint, it is certainly simple to use cushions of an off-color (but not clashing), and it is surely simple enough to paint the back of the shelves in a contrasting color (again not clashing) which will add a bit of interest.
We realize that it is easy to talk about this sort of thing, but on the other hand it is equally as easy to accomplish it. Suppose for instance that you had managed to build a set of book-shelves or a good credenza, and went in for a heavy contrasting color scheme at one point or another; and suppose that it turned out to be entirely amateurish-looking and instead of being a high-light it developed into an eye-sore. There is absolutely nothing under the sun to prevent you from letting the job dry thoroughly, and then give it a coat of the same color that covered the walls and ceiling and start all over again. In fact it may be fun plus experience at practically no cost. Incidentally, we have heard of people who were smart enough not to paint at once, but to paste up colored paper, eye it, and make up their minds about it before going into anything definite.
One could go on forever about built-ins, in fact books have been written on the subject which are distinctly worth reading if you are in the mood for refurnishing or modernizing your home. Practically all of the advice given is sound and makes good sense, and most of it points up the idea that built-in furniture is not only inexpensive, but functional and practical as well. It is easy to understand that a room in which the furniture is permanently placed, is a room which is easy to keep in good order. Only a few days ago we were talking to the head of the service department of one of the larger hotels, and he told us that their records showed that a room equipped with built-in furniture could be made up and cleaned in thirty percent less time than it took to do up a room furnished in the regular manner. This should mean quite a lot to the small homeowner, whose wife does all of her own housework, and it certainly would mean a lot to the wife.
There are a hundred places in the average house which would be made more convenient and easier to keep in order with built-in equipment. When we compare a modern kitchen, with its orderly cabinets and counter-tops, to one of the haphazard kitchens of past days, we have a splendid example of the subject. The modern kitchen is all built-in of course, although the same old type of fixture is still there, the sink, range, closets, refrigerator and ironing board; but they are scientifically placed and installed. The same procedure should be applied to every other room in the house.
People are getting around to the understanding that vacuum-cleaners are better than brooms, and that washing-machines are better than the old scrubbing-board and wash-tub, and before long they will be thinking about built-in furniture for the same reasons.
As with everything else, all action has to start with an idea or a motive. If you are really interested in the built-in furnishing idea, your first move should be to get some ideas and then put them into execution. If you have one or more boys in the family, it might be well to start with their room, because boys are quite receptive to any sort of furniture that will take their room out of the ordinary, and they likewise are apt to have a room at the present on which you have not lavished a lot of time or money on curtains, frills or expensive furniture.
When you survey a room of this kind, the first step is to decide where you want the built-in beds. The corner selected should be one of the remote corners, so that the more accessible area immediately inside the door will not be obstructed. Your next move should be to locate the wardrobes, providing that ample closet-space is not already there; and next locate the desk and other pieces which will make up the entire furnishing. In short the room must be planned before you start to fit it out. You cannot accomplish a decent job by starting with one piece, and then finding out that it should have been on the opposite side of the room. Definitely settle locations before you start action, and by so doing you will obviate the necessity of repeating your work.
The homeowner should remember that an ordinary chest of drawers can be very nicely converted into a built-in set by cutting off the legs, cutting away the baseboard so that the chest will set close against the wall, and fastening it there with one or two long wire nails. The correct procedure here is to use "hidden-nailing," or in other words, remove the drawers and nail from the inside of the chest. If the chest is a heavy piece it may not be necessary to nail at all.
Desks and other pieces of portable furniture can be converted in like manner. Imagination and careful study of what you want to accomplish are the main ingredients for success.
Many old pieces of furniture can be converted into attractive furnishings by using a little imagination and a very few dollars.
We have seen a room where an old couch, an old desk and two old chests of drawers, were cut down and built into the walls of the room. The walls, ceiling and furniture were then painted a French gray. All the old wood knobs and metal handles of the old furniture had been removed, and replaced with solid flat brass pulls (these had only cost twenty-five cents each). The floor was covered with a very inexpensive plain wine-colored rug. It was one of the most attractive and well-done rooms we have ever laid eyes upon.
Every time you pick up one of the good magazines, you will see perfectly splendid examples, usually in color, of many fine rooms. Many of them will be done in the ultra-modern fashion. If you will study these, and try to draw comparisons with what you have to work with in your own home, you will probably end up with enough ideas and motives to keep you both busy and interested.
A built-in corner settee shown above is typical of the built-in idea. It serves as a back-ground for dining at a small table, and can double as a seat when the table is removed. Built-ins are always in place, are easy to build and economical to maintain. (See Chapter XIII.)