Taken from Scribner's Monthly September 1871
WHEN Mr. Ruskin chronicled the "Ethics of Dust," he should have devoted a large portion of his space to the modern floor.
The popular theory of a floor, reduced to practice, amounts to this: it is the principal dust-trap of the room. Being of soft and porous wood, its cracks open easily for the admission of dust, from furnace, cellar, or whatever is underneath. This dust insinuates itself into the carpet from the under side, while from above the chimney, windows, and doors pour a fine insensible stream into the upper surface. Besieged thus on either hand, the unlucky carpet in a few months becomes thoroughly charged with particles, over which the house-maid flirts her broom in vain; only a superficial rise rewarding her pains. A sound beating, and washing of the floor, alone can remove it, and this is impossible, the carpet being nailed securely down. The floor thus becomes the guardian of a noxious deposit which, week by week and month by month, is insensibly imparted to everything in the room, walls, furniture, pictures, and human lungs.
Now the very idea of a carpet, fitted to all juts and angels of an apartment, and immovably fixed in its place, is repugnant to all laws of convenience and health, of taste, and of economy. Of health and convenience, for the reasons aforesaid. Of taste, because, the floor being of necessity the primary and the carpet the secondary object in design a room, some portion of the former should be left visible. Of economy, because by our present arrangement a great deal more carpet than necessary is used, and the difficulty of transferring and adapting old carpet to one room after another infinitely increased.
Now, if we return to the original idea of a carpet we find it to be of a square or oblong shape, laid over the floor in the center of the room, leaving the edges bare and exposed. Our ancestors did not, nor do we, require to have the spaces beneath sofas and side boards covered from sight. The thick turkey webs which warmed their feet were too precious to be chopped and carved to suit the irregular shapes of rooms, and were reserved for their legitimate position and use.
This theory of a carpet, it is true, necessitates a floor which shall be of a presentable finish. This need not, however, be an expensive thing. Georgia pine or plan pine, nicely laid and treated to a coat of oil or shellac, costs little and lasts long, the wear coming upon the carpeted portion of the room. Or the edge of the floor may be stained in a broad band and oiled, or painted in diamonds of color and varnished. For longer purses there are the hard woods in all combinations, from a
simple striping of walnut and maple to the elaborate and beautiful designs which the "French Parqueterie Company," lately established in New York, are ready to lay down at your own bidding. Or there is "wood carpeting," for the dissemination of which a company exists-also, we believe, in New York. This consists of narrow strips of wood, alternately light and dark, glued on to a strong canvas; and it can be ordered by the yard, like a drugget, cut to fit any room, and, when no longer required, rolled up and put away. For lining a bow window, where plants are to hand and water is to be freely showered; for closets, vestibules, and recesses, it is extremely pretty and useful.
A word in passing on woods. Black walnut is the darkest of our native woods. A blacker shade can be gained only by staining. Of the light woods, maple has the finest grain, and is perhaps the most satisfactory; but ash and oak are also used, and Georgia pine gives a fine yellow for patterns.
A coat of shellac or oil every few weeks keeps the floor bright. Wax created a beautiful polish, but has the bad effect of darkening the wood until the contrast between colors is lost. Its use, except sparingly, is not therefore recommended. A damp cloth passed over the floor easily removed all dirt: for stains and smutches soda and hot water should be applied with scrubbing brush. The carpet or rugs should be beaten once a week. by this process the air is kept perfectly free from dust, and the delightful freshness which this gives a house is indescribable. We scarcely realize to what base tests our lungs are ordinarily subjected until the better way is tried.
A square composed of three strips of Brussels carpeting, with a tasteful border all around it, makes a pretty carpet for any room. An ingrain of small pattern with ingrain border is suitable for bed-rooms, and we have seen pretty effects made of the new Venetian carpeting with border to match. turkey or Persian rugs of large size are always beautiful, but their rarity makes them expensive. A good substitute is the Dresden, or, as it is sometimes called, Dutch rug, which is thick and soft, and has much of the same harmonious, brilliant tints suggestive of the east.
Rooms covered in straw mattings can be easily made to look warm and comfortable for winter use by laying down one of these square carpets. The heavy bordering will generally prevent the corners from turning up as the foot passes over them, but, if preferred, any such difficulty can be obviated by driving into the floor half a dozen large-headed brass nails, and sewing to the edge of the carpet corresponding number of brass carpet-rings, which can be slipped on and off at pleasure.
Meanings of Words
Ingrain-This type of carpet can be defined as a flat, woven wool carpet that can be reversable.
Drugget- This is a type of material that is used in floor coverings.
Obviate-to prevent by intervention, avoid
Wood Carpet-This is achieved by alternating dark and light strips of wood then gluing them onto a canvas which allows you to "roll" onto your floor giving you an instant new look.