Xxxi

THE DINING-ROOM\

IF it were not for the sanctity of the family sitting-room, one would not be far out of the way in calling the dining-room, after all, the heart of the house. For it is in the dining-room, in all ordinary households, that the family assemble three times a day—sometimes the only place in which they are sure to be together for any length of time; and if things are wrong in the dining-room, they are tolerably sure to be wrong everywhere else in the house.

The first impression, then, which the dining-room should make on the beholder, the constant one it should make upon its occupants, is that of solid comfort. There is to be no airy trifling either with colors or fabrics there, and fussy fancy-work must not presume to show its face in such precincts. The colors must be those substantial colors which hold their own —the rich crimsons, the dark blues, the dull Pompeian reds and olivines, and kindred tints, according to one's choice, but those which, being of full body, present no appearance of having faded from the original hue — feolors which suggest permanence, as the fade colors suggest poverty unless relieved by gayeties out of place in the dining-room.

The suggestion of poverty, by-the-way, is something to be avoided more in this than in any other room of the house. If it is possible to have but one sumptuous room, we would advise that the others should be comfortable, but that the dining-room should be that one sumptuous one. It is all very well to pronounce eating and drinking animal, but so is life animal ; and as one must eat and drink to live, one should be allowed to eat and drink in peace without more reminder of care and pinching than is absolutely necessary; and this a pleasant dining-room secures. When we say that the dining-room should be sumptuous, however, we do not mean gaudily or ostentatiously so, but a sumptuousness that is felt at once, and observed upon examination, but does not carry its price upon its face, and doe6 not obtrude its splendor.

But while the subdued richness of the dining-room is felt, there should be an amount of ease there which shall make it dear to the family, and allow the guest to feel at home—that is, shall cause the guest to feel that lie is not upsetting the house by his presence, that the customary routine is maintained, and that the permanent arrangement of the room is so comfortable that evidently the "best things" are not emerging from their dark places for him alone. In fact, "best things" are the great enemy of the dining-room; it should always be so good that it can hardly be better. We venture to believe that the wife who makes the dining-room her first consideration, having it always in such a state in all its appointments, and her table so equipped and served, that her husband, if he has done his part of the duty and allowed suitable provision, will always feel free to bring home his friend to dinner without creating an earthquake in which soiled cloth and cracked dishes are swept away for clean damask and the nice china, will have twice as much of her husband's society as .she would otherwise obtain. For if he cannot bring his friend home, he will take him somewhere else; and if he once has the habit of home established, he will find it too pleasant and comfortable to break. Let her feel that her husband is, after all, her most honored guest, and things are not good enough for him unless they are good enough for the best that may come with him. She will perhaps find it a measure of wise administration, too; for the husband that has all as he wishes in the dining-room will be tolerably sure that, so far as it is in his power, the wife shall have all she wants in the drawing-room.

As one of the component parts of the comfortable dining-room, an ample chimney-place should be demanded; and it may be either with tiled jambs and hearth and great shining fire-dogs to hold the logs, or with the old Franklin fire-frame and its polished brasses, or with the coal-grate fianked by bright steel implements, but either of them capable of holding a goodly core of heat. Perhaps no arrangement above the fire will ever be found more picturesque than the narrow high 6helf and the tiny Jacobean cupboards and racks above it for the display of china too precious or too long-descended for daily use; in the centre the mantel mirror with bevelled edges, and smaller bits of mirror behind the open racks, again with the bevelled edges, whose jewel-like cut adds greatly to the brilliancy. On these open racks may stand many oddities hardly appropriate to other rooms: the mugs of '76, porcelain pepper-boxes, little old-fashioned gilded decanters—all those enviable trifles that some inherit and others "pick up." Such things as the strange shell may have place there too; the bit of coral which some roving member of the house may have brought from the seas at the other 6ide of the globe; a fantastic little idol; a Greek jar—now turned out very satisfactorily in our own potteries—for the suggestions of the room need not be altogether those of eating and drinking, 6ince it is a place for an after-dinner chat as well, or a nap as one stretches one's legs before the fire; and a pleasant dining-room invites many a pleasant loitering moment after breakfast or just before bedtime that no other room seems to suit quite so well. Over the fireplace here is a place for the carving of mottoes and crests also, rather than elsewhere.

Modern Gothic Dining-room.

The next item of importance is the floor; and if one is a convert to the square carpet with its border of bare floor or parquetry nowhere else, yet love of cleanliness will be very apt to influence one to such choice in the dining-room. A handsome floor well laid is decidedly the best thing for the dining-room; if in a choice geometric design of colored woods, so much the better; but laid in alternate strips of cherry and Southern pine, it is but little more expensive than a common floor; and if even that is unwise expenditure, a hard pine floor, whose boards one selects one's self, and so secures rich grainiug, can be made, either oiled or varnished, exceedingly attractive. There is, also, at about the same cost as the parquet flooring itself, a parquet carpeting of wood, which is both beautiful and enduring. Over any of these floors in winter the drugget is to be laid, dispensed with or not in summer according to taste; sometimes an article heavy enough to lie flatly by its own weight; sometimes held in place by very long nails, that have holes bored in the floor and lined with metal, like a caster socket, to receive them; sometimes merely a square of bock-ing stamped to imitate the India rugs — in all cases easily taken up for shaking. If, however, the furnisher prefers an entire carpet, she should

remember, in selecting it, the old house-keeper's saying that green eats grease, drab eats dirt, but red eats a hole in the pocket. A crimson carpet certainly, in connection with old mahogany and its winy stains, gives a sense of warmth and luxury that is very desirable; but it is to be had— unless one can renew the carpet frequently—only at the expense of one's good name as house-keeper, for there is not the mark of a careless drop, a fallen morsel, a spot, a speck, that will not be visible in all lights, at all times, to all people. Crimson, although so handsome, is a bad color for convenience to the house-keeper anywhere, but in the dining-room it will end by breaking her heart.

Much variety can be given the room through the carpet. Many people, doubtful of their taste, in order to be sure of getting something not to be found fault with, furnish all in one suit of color; if the walls are brown, the carpet will be brown too, and the upholstery brown as well. But that secures only a stiff monotony, perpetual recurrence of one note; and it is better to have harmony than uniformity. If upon one's walls the paper be of a bluish slaty gray, relieved, as it may be, with outlines of dull Indian red, the red giving the gray a yet bluer tinge, the bluish gray giving the red an orange tinge, a carpet of royal purple, the combination of the two colors, will meet every wish, and will make warmth and variety ; and the same carpet may be used with citrine-colored walls. Again, with a paper of pale azure and delicate lemon-color, the rich peacock-green may predominate in the carpet; and with any of the reds the usual Turkish or India mats, of deep blues and dull crimsons and innumerable dingy broken tints, will accord. In truth, a little experiment will evolve undreamed-of harmonies, and the more they elude the eyesight and affect the sensation, the better the result. The distinction between a room where these harmonies in difference have been sought out and one where the uniform color covers everything is that between true homeliness and cheer and flat dulness. Whatever the carpet is, the curtains, unless they are of lace, should carry up its idea; in the dining-room they need to fall in heavy folds and afford a rather subdued light. The man that built his house in order to frame his windows probabiy felt that he had furnished his rooms when he had draped those windows; and carpets and curtains certainly go a long way in the furnishing. But if the dining-room be also the breakfast-room, the curtains should be so hung that they may then be pulled aside to let in all the morning sun, which at breakfast seems to give a benediction to the day. The possession of that morning sun is the chief element in the location of the dining-room. If there are beautiful views, they may be spared to other rooms; one does not need further beautiful views at a table covered with sparkling silver and gay china, loaded with tempting dishes, and surrounded with loved faces.

As for the walls of the dining-room, the rich warm colors are the best, and there should be great care in selecting the papers, that, while rich, they may be also elegant; the leather dadoes are handsome here, and friezes of decorative paper just under the ceiling, which, by-the-way, should be toned down from very dazzling white into the first shade of the chosen atmosphere of the room. If one may have gilding in the paper anywhere, one may have it in the dining-room, for that is the sole place where it can be used to much purpose, and it adds to the desired idea of richness there. Everywhere else gilding is only to be used to enhance the effect of beauty, to throw up lights, to point out contrasts. But in fine patterns of gilded mosses, close reticulation of leaves and lines, or a diaper of gold-work, it gives valuable aid to the dining-room, especially if the room be on the dark side of the house, supplying a light of its own from the walls, as it were, independent of the window light—a sort of self-radiation simulating sunshine where there is none. And a gilded background is frequently not amiss in setting off such pictures as one may have upon the walls.

It has been the custom to have pictures of still-life in the dining-room —of game, fish, fruit. But, for our own part, the perpetual reminder of dead flesh and murderous propensities is not agreeable at table; and the habit of having on the wall those paintings of fish hanging from their nail, with all their beautiful dying colors, seems no better than the barbarous Eastern custom of carrying the live fish swimming in his tank around the table for every guest to see, and serving him twenty minutes afterward in his sauces. There are many who think the dining-room the best place for portraits. We have already expressed our preference for them in the hall; but if one is blessed with some generations of family portraits, the last generation may well hang on the dining-room wall, looking down on the daily meeting of the children and grandchildren of those that they represent. The dining-room is an excellent place for pictures of a curious nature, and those involving memorabilia; for, besides their pictorial office, they serve to stimulate the conversation which is so necessary to a cheerful meal, and make a groundwork for general observation among guests newly met, or with but little in common.

As the dining-room represents all the banqueting of its ancient original, the great hall, its furniture needs to be solid and heavy. The dining-table should be thoroughly substantial; and lately so much attention has been directed to this need, that stout articles, resting on a good central pier, or on their own four legs, are now superseding the flimsy affairs on which no dish has ever been felt quite secure from disaster. This table needs to be of generous size, that it may not be suspected of any niggardliness ; but its shape is a matter of taste—a square, or a circle when closed, opening into an oval on extension. If the table is of handsome wood and manufacture, finely carved and turned, it needs no cloth when not in use; but a plain table under a cloth corresponding to the prevailing colors, with some silver or china dish set upon it, adds as much to the appearance of the room as the noble carved work could. The house-keeper should always have some very long and narrow napkins, fringed, and banded or embroidered at both ends, to lay across this cloth and fall on either side, on which to set a platter of fruit or a basket of cakes or a cup of tea, for some special purpose, and so spare the larger cloth.

The next requisite is the sideboard; and here one must choose, of course, according to the style of the rest of the furniture, the more massive and capacious the fitter for its purpose. The " old-fashioned " nondescript kind, now in so much request, is supplied with deep drawers for bottles, and long drawers for knives, and square drawers for damask, countless cupboards for dainties, and shelves for display. The Gothic shapes seem more appropriate to the dining-room than any other, from their heavy and solid character; indeed, it is almost impossible to furnish a drawing-room in the Gothic that it shall not seem wiser, when all is done, to use as a dining-room. Another appurtenance of the room is the carving-table at one side or in a corner, to which the heavier joints are sometimes removed to be carved by a servant. The carving can, however, be done on the top of a dinner-wagon—a rectangular piece of furniture consisting of two or three open shelves on which cold dishes are left. A butler's tray and trestle, in which the plates and knives that have been used are the more quickly collected and carried away, is also very useful for temporary purposes in a dining-room.

The chairs should be strong and comfortable ones, with broad seats and high backs, those of the host and hostess a very little higher and more throne-like than the others, for the convenience of commanding the situation. They are best upholstered in morocco; for those that cannot afford morocco or leather, the enamelled cloth will answer, although the wear that there is in morocco makes it the cheaper in the end. It is to be remembered that chairs are not merely conveniences for sitting at table, but for being at ease in that posture. There must be such a number of them that the rest of the room will not look stripped when the table is full.

The chief ornament of the dining-room, however, will always be the buffet, whether it stands in a corner or on the dead wall, whether it is a square Queen Anne, or a pointed Gothic, or a piece of Rococo. Behind its glass doors are to be 6et an array of gay colors in glittering china, whole sets and odd pieces, the ancient painted punch-bowl—if one is so lucky as to have it—green hock glasses, ruby finger-glasses, specimens of majolica, all the silver not in daily wear, and any gold-washed articles; the brilliancy of all which will be duplicated if little mirrors line the back of the shelves. The buffet is not always glazed, although properly so for the sake of simplifying household duties; but some of the finest are entirely open with all their choice burden. There should be, besides, a china closet, for the articles all the time in use, adjoining the dining-room, together with the butler's pantry; for the buffet, once handsomely filled, presents too fine an array to be lightly disturbed; in the old days it was for the delectation of the eyes almost altogether, and, as we have seen, was sometimes presented intact with all its burden to the individual in whose honor it was erected.

In conclusion, the mistress of the house will do well to save expense, as we have hinted, in her parlors, her boudoir, her " best chamber," in order to have her table-linen white and sufficient, her silver plenty, her glass lustrous and engraved, her china attractive to the eye, since cheerfulness and beauty here have great power over cheerfulness and beauty elsewhere, the dining-room being in some measure the laboratory of the house.

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