Saturday, February 24, 2007

excerpts from THE HOUSE 1907

THE HOUSE: its plan, decoration and care

Read the book in image format. If you wish to copy some of the text, switch to text format, though it will have many “typos”. Pictures can be saved from the image format pages.
The author, Isabel Bevier, was a home economist and professor on the staff of the University of Illinois. This book was part of the curriculum, apparently, because it contains a quiz.
There are chapters on construction, some plans, and information about decorating. Information about how they prepared wood for painting is towards the end of the book. There are also sketches and photos, though most of the latter didn’t come out too well in the photocopying process. I did manage to touch up a few.
I chose the following excerpts because they were more in the line of general interest.
There’s a chapter list and link to the book at the end of this article.

Volumes might be written upon the subject of floors and their finishing, covering and care. Pine, hard and soft, maple, ash, and oak are the kinds of timber most often used in floors. Soft pine has the advantage of being least expensive. Oak is by many considered the best wood for floor uses, particularly if it is quarter-sawn. All woods darken in time if treated with oil.
Maple is preferred by those who object to the dark floors, as the closeness of its grain prevents the rapid absorption and consequent darkening by oil. The stained, painted, oiled or waxed floor partly covered by rugs is steadily growing in favor and displacing the floor covered with carpet.
There is much to be said in favor of the finished floor. It saves the tugging and pulling sometimes necessary to make the carpet fit. It simplifies very much the problem of house cleaning. Instead of that week or two in the spring and fall when all the carpets were taken up, pounded, beaten, stretched and pulled with the resulting finger and back aches, with the rug covered floor, the rugs are removed as often as need be, shaken, the floors wiped off with a damp or oiled cloth and the rugs relaid with much less expenditure of energy. The rugs are much lighter and easier to handle and the dust which accumulates under the ordinary carpet is thus dispensed with; so the rug covered floor is apt to be more sanitary. Some people object to any bare floor where there are children or elderly people. This can easily be obviated by the use of large rugs with borders of matting or filling.

…………The question as to whether the finish shall be paint, varnish, shellac or wax must be decided by the expense and by the use of the rooms. Wax and varnish are not desirable if the floor is to be subjected to the tread of many dusty feet. The oiled or painted floor will stand the wiping with the damp cloth to remove the dust much better. A little kerosene or milk added to the water used in sponging will serve to brighten either the paint or oil.

………No entirely satisfactory finish for the kitchen floor has yet been found. The time honored way of scrubbing with soap and water makes the whitest and cleanest looking floor, it is true but the work required! It does not seem to be an economic condition to have the floor of the work shop such that nothing may fall upon it. Linseed oil, frequently applied, makes a finish in every way good if it were not for the unsightly darkening. When the wood is thoroughly filled with oil, nothing will produce a spot on such a floor, not even grease. It may be wiped up with a wet cloth but should not be scrubbed with soap and water.
A good grade of linoleum makes a floor covering most easily cared for. When this is to be used there is no necessity of laying an expensive hard wood floor in the kitchen. This does not mean, however, that the floor need not be carefully laid, for if any of the boards warp the linoleum will be quickly worn through in the raised parts.

…..The floors of pantries, back hall and stairs may well be finished in oil……

A list of various floors and costs of each per square foot begins on p.117, it won’t come up properly in text format.

Many people who would be glad to have the benefit of the use of rugs, feel that they cannot undertake either the trouble or expense of having new floors laid. For such the following suggestions, which have been carried out in actual practice, are given. One woman wished to make over an old soft pine floor, but found the wide cracks a great detriment. She overcame this difficulty by stretching very tightly over the floor
strips of old sheeting. To this she applied two coats of paint and thus secured a very satisfactory "border" to her room, the center of which she covered with a rug made of old ingrain carpet which had been ravelled out and woven over.
Another woman secured a very good looking floor from an old, soft pine one with wide cracks by applying first, a coat of linseed oil, after which the cracks were filled with a "crack and crevice filler," then an oak stain and two coats of floor finish were used. The wood work of the floor was inconspicuous because it was of the same general tone as the rest of the wood work of the room,
This treatment, of the floor cost $5.00 and the floor is in quite good condition after two years constant use.

In treating an old floor it is well to avoid the use of bright colored stains or paints as such treatment calls attention to the floors; also very dark colors are to be avoided as they show the dust more easily than lighter colors. At the same time it is to be remembered that in the general color scheme of the room, the floors are supposed to carry the deepest tones, the walls to be lighter and the ceiling still lighter. It is well if possible to have the color of the floor blend with the color of the baseboard and with the border of the rug.
……The kinds of floor coverings now on the market are so numerous that one can hardly fail to find a suitable one. …….

a summer parlor
If the ceiling be too high, the effect of lowering it may be given by allowing the ceiling paper (or calcimine) to extend a foot or more on the side wall. The picture molding may be put on where the ceiling paper meets that of the side wall. If the pictures are hung from this molding and brought down to the level of the eyes, one is helped to the impression that the molding marks the line of the ceiling. "Skied" pictures that one must stretch one's neck to see are never decorative. A wainscoting and frieze help greatly in breaking up a high side wall.
Note, “skying” pictures was beginning to be considered unfashionable in the 1880s, but though unfashionable, people were obviously still doing it in 1907. “Skied” pictures were hung one above another in a row toward the ceiling.
Again, if the ceiling be low a striped paper, where stripes extend from baseboard to ceiling, will make the ceiling appear higher than it really is…..

a New England Colonial style parlor

……..Certain general principles apply in the selection of decoration and furnishings. Avoid pretentious things. If real lace cannot be afforded, sham lace ought not to be allowed. Muslin curtains are better adapted to the purpose and much prettier than sham lace ones. Get simple things, few things, durable things and such as will harmonize with many others. Avoid the unusual; chairs with impossible twists in their legs; tables with glass and brass feet; settees, whose arms are "decorated" with hearts set on at irregular intervals and whose backs are "finished" with marvelous clusters of grapes glued on. These and their kind make a room a museum for the keeping of curios rather than a place of rest and beauty.
They must have been popular

The floor coloring should be the deepest; a suitable gradation would leave the walls of a lighter tone with the ceiling still lighter. The amount of light will influence the color. The vestibule is not likely to be too well lighted, and therefore dull and dark colors are to be avoided. Pompeian red, or tints of brown corresponding with the natural finish of the wood are desirable.
The floor of the vestibule should be tile or linoleum that it may be easily cleaned. Owing to the effect that the weather may have upon the paper some prefer the use of rough plaster or paint. …….
In the hall proper the same rules as to gradation of color hold. It is safer and better, if one is somewhat of a novice in the selection of color, to choose some one prevailing tone for the hall and the rooms that open from the hall in order to avoid a striking contrast,
and trust to relieve the monotony by a difference in the principal colors in the rugs. A grey green makes a comfortable color to live with, and the halls and rooms opening from it may have papers in which these colors predominate; varying shades of reds and browns may be used in the rugs.
In wall coverings one has the choice of many materials, calsomine, papers of many kinds, grass cloth, burlap and its near relative fabrikona. …………. Plain papers have their use and their abuse. A plain paper makes a good background for pictures and is less likely to introduce elements that are at war with the other furnishings. On the other hand too liberal a use of it in a house tends to monotony. Very good patterns may be found in two-toned papers. Of a given sum of money to be expended in wall covering, some prefer to use elaborate and expensive Morris or Crane papers and to omit all the pictures.
Grass cloth makes satisfactory hanging. Its slightly uneven surface gives pleasing effects in the distribution of light and shades. .Burlap and fabrikona are more expensive but they can be painted and so renewed. Both give a somewhat severe and substantial air to a room. Too much of them in a small house gives a somewhat heavy effect. They are, perhaps, most suitable for library and dining room.

A two-toned green paper with a cream ceiling, weathered oak furniture and wood work, with Oriental rugs or American ones in shades of browns and a little red, make a satisfactory living room. Or one may use the copper brown tints for the walls with blues, browns and reds in the rugs. However, blue is likely to show soil and wear more easily than either browns or reds. Morris's words, "Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful", finds especial application in the sitting room. …………. Draperies and bric a brac should be conspicuous by their absence; a beruffled lamp and a bedecked sofa cushion are alike undesirable. A good light and comfortable chairs are essentials.
The furnishings of the parlor are best characterized as delicate. Some one' has said it corresponds to the afternoon tea toilet of the family. Whatever of elegance the family wishes to show will find its place here. Old rose or blues make a good background for the delicately upholstered furniture, the rare vase or bit of favrile glass. Oriental rugs with their mellowed tones will harmonize with almost any color.

The dining room requires little furniture besides the the table, chairs and china which are its essentials. Soft yellow walls, mahogany furniture, ivory white paint and net curtains make a pleasing combination. Some prefer the Delft blue with cream ceiling, oak furniture and the Delft china displayed on the plate rail. The plate rail is a somewhat questionable feature, as sometimes used with a motley collection of old ugly china covered with dust, it is far from decorative. A sideboard on which a few good pieces are displayed at one time is likely to be more truly decorative, and a china closet built in, more useful.
Leather bottomed chairs are a desirable addition to a dining room, and burlaps may be used very successfully on its walls.
Note, I’ve seen references before to delft blue china and cream or white in the dining room
during this period, so it’s possible this was, or became, a very popular look.

The kitchen furnishings should be such as can be kept clean easily. Linoleum seems to have the preference as a floor covering. Tiles are expensive, hard for those who must walk over them constantly and a hard wood floor is more difficult to keep in order than linoleum. A good piece of linoleum will last for years and its use dispenses with the scrubbing which takes so much time and energy. If the worker is careful to wipe up the spots immediately, the care of the kitchen floor is reduced to a minimum.
In wall coverings, one has the choice of paper, calsomine, paint, enamel paper or oilcloth. Paint sometimes scales and its continuous use necessitates a number of coats which must finally be removed and this is a somewhat tedious and expensive process. the enameled paper is quite durable and can be wiped with a damp cloth; oilcloth stands this treatment still better, and for the woman who does her own work and does not wish to calsomine or paper her kitchen every season, it is perhaps the most satisfactory wall covering and it may be obtained in very attractive patterns and colors. Under present circumstances the kitchen may be a very attractive room and color schemes are as effective here as anywhere……..

A hard wood floor and a rug or two help to the simplicity which aids restfulness and to the cleanliness which is one of the most desirable elements in bedroom furnishings. Here is a chance for dainty belongings, for light and airy wall papers, cool blues, greens and pinks , not with fantastic figures that dizzy and perplex by their intricacies. The bedroom is not to be a sitting room, but a sleeping room with perhaps an easy chair and one or two favorite books, beside the mirror and drawers in dresser or chiffonier. The bath room may relieve the necessity for a wash stand and thus save the trouble of caring for the articles it requires.
One has a large opportunity for choice in the matter of suitable bedroom floor coverings, mattings in great variety, fiber carpets, Berea rugs or the more expensive ones.
A very attractive bedroom can be made with white enamel paint, white iron bedstead and the Japanese matting with its blue figures and a blue rug. An old dresser may be quite transformed by a coat or two of white paint. Rattan chairs because of their lightness make good bedroom chairs…..

bedroom in a restored Colonial house
The bathroom is one of the most useful rooms of the house and can easily be one of the most attractive. Good plumbing, a commodious tub and a stationary wash stand are its most attractive furnishings. A hard wood or tile floor with a small rug, a wainscoting of wood, tile, or cement made to resemble tile, with paint or oilcloth above, give a good setting for the necessary fixtures. A small cupboard for the bathroom accessories, a larger one for the towels, a washable curtain, a good mirror and a towel rack complete the list of essentials. A desirable addition is the chute, by which the soiled clothes may be sent down to the laundry. Some very ugly bathrooms have been transformed by a generous use of white paint and enamel.

………..The law of appropriateness should be observed in regard to window hangings. Curtains do soften the lines and take away the bareness and stiffness from the room, but that fact does not make it desirable to have a double set of draperies in a living room. The family need the light, air, and sunshine which the hangings, particularly if they are heavy, shut out. We forget that the heavy hangings were used originally for the purpose of keeping out the wind and rain which entered through the openings cut in the walls of the castle.
Texture and quality are important factors in selecting draperies. Silk lends itself most easily to graceful folds, and wool comes next, but alas! woolen stuffs are a favorite haunt for moths. This leaves cotton and linen for inexpensive hangings and there is a large list from which to choose; chintzes, lawns, muslins, cretonnes, denims, Madras, hop-sacking and countless others. Chintzes have a large use in bedrooms and in summer houses. Denim is very much prized by some - in indigo blue it is apt to hold its color well; that and Turkey red are the two colors which are most nearly "fast" in cotton stuffs. Madras makes very pretty and effective curtains for those who are not so old-fashioned as to feel that nothing is quite so satisfactory as white. The fading of most of the cotton stuffs is a serious objection to their use……

* * * *
Happily the style for papering ceilings in figured designs is going out. A ceiling so covered may be painted with two coats of calcimine and thus the restfulness of the room helped…………..
The staining and painting of floors has already been spoken of. The woodwork of a parlor may often be brought into better harmony with the rest of the room by coats of cream-colored paint. The last coat should be mixed with good varnish to give a more resisting surface. Ugly radiators and steam pipes can be improved by a coating of aluminum enamel………
………..Most kitchens can easily be changed for the better. ………….



………..Another tells of a horizontal curtain pole placed high up in a large closet. This is used for hanging of dresses, each on its own dress hanger. A stick with a hook on the end served to put up and take down the hangers. Others place the pole under the closet shelf where it serves a similar purpose of economizing space………..
An ingenious arrangement for an ironing board is described by an Illinois student. The board is hinged at the wide end and has a hinged leg near the other end. When not in use, the board may be swung up into the narrow closet in which it fits, and the door closed. The closet contains the irons and other appliances and materials used for ironing.
Clothes chutes from the bath room to the laundry and built-in refrigerators with arrangements for filling the ice compartment from the outside, as illustrated in some of the plans, seem to be fully appreciated.

A room of Colonial design is ordinarily best carried out in cream-white painted woodwork, as was done in most residences of the Colonial period, frequently the doors being of mahogany. This offers a pleasure-able contrast, and the white woodwork is best adapted to showing off the delicate furniture of that period, generally mahogany, with which a room of this style only should be furnished. Occasionally, a room in a very elaborate dwelling may be carried out entirely in mahogany, although this was rarely done in actual Colonial times; where occasional rooms such as halls or libraries were almost as rarely finished in oak. A room of English architectural character may be most appropriately carried out in oak, stained dark in tone. Less frequently rooms of this.period were executed in mahogany or walnut and very often their woodwork was painted and handled in a way not unlike our present so-called "Colonial" finish. The modern English, or so-called "mission style" of furniture, requires room backgrounds of similar simplicity and with oak or ash finish stained and treated in the same manner as the furniture itself. Sometimes appropriate and simple rooms of modern design may have their standing finisheven when of a soft wood or white-woodstained and finished in a like manner.
Painted woodwork should receive one coat of shellac varnish to prevent the sap, which is now very frequently in the wood placed upon the market, from coming through and staining the surface of the paint. Upon this first coat there should be applied four coats of paint, this number being about the least that can be depended upon to thoroughly cover the stock. Even then, if whitewood and pine are used side by side such as for architraves and door, for instanceit is quite possible that a difference between the two colors of white may be noticeable, the pine door being of a warmer, creamier tone and the whitewood being a little more to\vard the gray white. The least expensive way of finishing painted woodwork is to put a little varnish in the last coat and so impart a slight gloss to the surface……

chapter list
ENTRANCES . . . . . .. .58
THE FARM HOUSE ....... 74
ROOMS .......... 80
STAIRS. . . . . . . . 90
APARTMENTS ........ 95
FLOORS . . . ... . . . 109
DRAPERIES . . . . . . . . .139
FURNITURE ......... 145
CARE OF THE HOUSE . . . . . . .152
PLANS FOR A $2,000 COTTAGE ..... 185

There are also index pages


No comments: