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.





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