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Kitchens








The kitchen is an important part of the perfect house and should be a
recognised sharer in its quality of beauty; not alone the beauty which
consists of a successful adaptation of means to ends, but the kind which
is independently and positively attractive to the eye.

In costly houses it is not hard to attain this quality or the rarer one
of a union of beauty, with perfect adaptation to use; but where it must
be reached by comparatively inexpensive methods, the difficulty is
greater.

Tiled walls, impervious to moisture, and repellent of fumes, are ideal
boundaries of a kitchen, and may be beautiful in colour, as well as
virtuous in conduct. They may even be laid with gradations of alluring
mineral tints, but, of course, this is out of the question in cheap
buildings; and in demonstrating the possibility of beauty and intrinsic
merit in small and comparatively inexpensive houses, tiles and marbles
must be ruled out of the scheme of kitchen perfection. Plaster, painted
in agreeable tints of oil colour is commendable, but one can do better
by covering the walls with the highly enamelled oil-cloth commonly used
for kitchen tables and shelves. This material is quite marvellous in its
combination of use and effect. Its possibilities were discovered by a
young housewife whose small kitchen formed part of a city apartment, and
whose practical sense was joined to a discursive imagination. After this
achievement--which she herself did not recognise as a stroke of
genius--she added a narrow shelf running entirely around the room,
which carried a decorative row of blue willow-pattern plates. A
dresser, hung with a graduated assortment of blue enamelled sauce-pans,
and other kitchen implements of the same enticing ware, a floor covered
with the heaviest of oil-cloth, laid in small diamond-shapes of blue,
between blocks of white, like a mosaic pavement, were the features of a
kitchen which was, and is, after several years of strenuous wear, a joy
to behold. It was from the first, not only a delight to the clever young
housewife and her friends, but it performed the miracle of changing the
average servant into a careful and excellent one, zealous for the
cleanliness and perfection of her small domain, and performing her
kitchen functions with unexampled neatness.

The mistress--who had standards of perfection in all things, whether
great or small, and was moreover of Southern blood--confessed that her
ideal of service in her glittering kitchen was not a clever red-haired
Hibernian, but a slim mulatto, wearing a snow-white turban; and this
longing seemed so reasonable, and so impressed my fancy, that whenever I
think of the shining blue-and-silver kitchen, I seem to see within it
the graceful sway of figure and coffee-coloured face which belongs to
the half-breed African race, certain rare specimens of which are the
most beautiful of domestic adjuncts.

I have used this expedient of oil-cloth-covered walls--for which I am
anxious to give the inventor due credit--in many kitchens, and certain
bathrooms, and always with success.

It must be applied as if it were wall-paper, except that, as it is a
heavy material, the paste must be thicker. It is also well to have in it
a small proportion of carbolic acid, both as a disinfectant and a
deterrent to paste-loving mice, or any other household pest. The cloth
must be carefully fitted into corners, and whatever shelving or wood
fittings are used in the room, must be placed against it, after it is
applied, instead of having the cloth cut and fitted around them.

When well mounted, it makes a solid, porcelain-like wall, to which dust
and dirt will not easily adhere, and which can be as easily and
effectually cleaned as if it were really porcelain or marble.

Such wall treatment will go far toward making a beautiful kitchen. Add
to this a well-arranged dresser for blue or white kitchen china, with a
closed cabinet for the heavy iron utensils which can hardly be included
in any scheme of kitchen beauty; curtained cupboards and short
window-hangings of blue, or "Turkey red"--which are invaluable for
colour, and always washable; a painted floor--which is far better than
oil-cloth, and one has the elements of a satisfactory scheme of beauty.

A French kitchen, with its white-washed walls, its shining range and
rows upon rows of gleaming copper-ware, is an attractive subject for a
painter; and there is no reason why an American kitchen, in a house
distinguished for beauty in all its family and semi-public rooms, should
not also be beautiful in the rooms devoted to service. We can if we will
make much even in a decorative way of our enamelled and aluminum
kitchen-ware; we may hang it in graduated rows over the
chimney-space--as the French cook parades her coppers--and arrange these
necessary things with an eye to effect, while we secure perfect
convenience of use. They are all pleasant of aspect if care and thought
are devoted to their arrangement, and it is really of quite as much
value to the family to have a charming and perfectly appointed kitchen,
as to possess a beautiful and comfortable parlour or sitting-room.

Every detail should be considered from the double point of view of use
and effect. If the curtains answer the two purposes of shading sunlight,
or securing privacy at night, and of giving pleasing colour and contrast
to the general tone of the interior, they perform a double function,
each of of which is valuable.

If the chairs are chosen for strength and use, and are painted or
stained to match the colour of the floor, they add to the satisfaction
of the eye, as well as minister to the house service. A pursuance of
this thought adds to the harmony of the house both in aspect and actual
beauty of living. Of course in selecting such furnishings of the kitchen
as chairs, one must bear in mind that even their legitimate use may
include standing, as well as sitting upon them; that they may be made
temporary resting-places for scrubbing pails, brushes, and other
cleaning necessities, and therefore they must be made of painted wood;
but this should not discourage the provision of a cane-seated
rocking-chair for each servant, as a comfort for weary bones when the
day's work is over.

In establishments which include a servants' dining-or sitting-room,
these moderate luxuries are a thing of course, but in houses where at
most but two maids are employed they are not always considered, although
they certainly should be.

If a corner can be appropriated to evening leisure--where there is room
for a small, brightly covered table, a lamp, a couple of rocking-chairs,
work-baskets and a book or magazine, it answers in a small way to the
family evening-room, where all gather for rest and comfort.

There is no reason why the wall space above it should not have its
cabinet for photographs and the usually cherished prayer-book which
maids love both to possess and display. Such possessions answer exactly
to the bric-a-brac of the drawing-room; ministering to the same human
instinct in its primitive form, and to the inherent enjoyment of the
beautiful which is the line of demarcation between the tribes of animals
and those of men.

If one can use this distinctly human trait as a lever to raise crude
humanity into the higher region of the virtues, it is certainly worth
while to consider pots and pans from the point of view of their
decorative ability.





Next: Colour With Reference To Light

Previous: The Law Of Appropriateness



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