By John Crowell, M.D., in the Popular Science News. NO. IV.
Nearly every well-appointed dwelling has a room called the library, and it is quite apt to be located in some obscure and dark coiner or angle of the house, shut out from the light and air of street or courtyard. Many city libraries are so dark that it is difficult to read or write on a cloudy day without the aid of artificial light. To people of literary tastes the library is an important room. It is a convenient place for quiet work, and even the business man loves to seek its restful seclusion after the strain of the day?s duties in the counting-room or on the exchange. The room, therefore, should be light, cheerful, and unique in all its appointments. The furniture and finish should not be too sombre and heavy, and the uses of the apartment should be suggested in every adornment and fixture. The bookcases should be made to hold books rather than to display the caprices of antique ornamentation and carving, and they should be so constructed that the books can be reached without stooping too low or reaching too high. There should be a substantial table for study and writing, cabinets for large folios, easily adjusted portfolios for the display of pictures, and just enough of bronze, marble, and paintings to suggest the uses and refinements of the room. Too often the modern library has too much of the bizarre in its appearance, with a lack of elegant adornment and quiet repose, always indicative of a cultivated taste and scholarly habits. Library pictures should deal in domestic scenes for their subjects; hence the fine interiors as shown on the canvasses of Gerard Dow, Miens, Houghton, Faed, or Millais, are in place, as well as historical and allegorical scenes, with a sprinkling of the reproductions of the medieval masters, as seen in some of the copies of old frescoes. A cold, damp, ?stuffy? library is an incongruity not to be tolerated. If you are in the country, let this room look out upon the broad lawn, with a boundless view of field and sky from the great bow window. The study of Charles Dickens at Gad’s Hill was full of sunshine, and his writing table stood in the unobstructed glow of the window opening upon the lawn. If a man possesses literary tastes, he will soon give to his library a certain kind of individuality that is its chief charm.
Great care should be taken, in planting shade-trees, not to place them too near the house, especially in a Northern climate. Oftentimes the dwelling is made damp, and even moldy, by the obstruction of light and air from the dense foliage of the large shade-trees. There should be open spaces, and great vistas of scenery among the groves; and the sunshine should be allowed to penetrate the rooms, even in the hottest days. How often, when entering the house of some rural neighbor, do we feel the damp chill, and smell the earth-mold, in the dark, cheerless parlors or library! Closets are rendered unfit for clothing, and beds are pervaded with a clammy odor that makes them dangerous for occupancy.
Therefore cut down all trees that are superfluous, and severely prune the rest, and let the house glow in the light and warmth of the day. One of the common nuisances of large estates is the proximity of the stable to the house. Quite often, for convenience sake the stable is connected with the house by a covered way, making a sure communication of stable odors to hall and chamber. This odor is inevitable; and no matter how great may be your precautions, you will surely encounter it when entering the house. Another objection to having the stables near the house is the noise made by the horses, especially in warm nights. If the grounds will permit, stables should be located at least fifty feet from the dwelling. There should be no place in back-yard, area, or open space, for the accumulation of any kind of filth or rubbish, for the air that feeds your furnace flues comes from these spaces, and nothing foul nor unclean should ever pollute the vital current. A concreted area is the safest protection against dampness and disagreeable odors. The air of the house will be the same as the air of your surroundings, hence the necessity of having purity about your own premises. Great care should be taken in piping a house for gas. The joints should be secure, and fixtures should be of simple patterns, with few joints, especially in sleeping-rooms. A leaky gas-pipe in a concealed place is a disagreeable and dangerous foe; and in piping a house for gas, as for sewerage, the pipes should be so arranged as to be easily exposed to view. Nothing but thorough testing by a scientific expert can make a house absolutely safe from the danger of gas-leakage. In a large house the servants should be instructed as to the proper means of escape in case of fire, and back stair-cases should be sufficiently open and easy of access in order to secure safety in case of a panic by fire or from other cause. Back-stairs are often a nuisance by reason of the narrow and steep flights, and a wise economy would suggest that the part of the house where the hard work is done should be of gracious dimensions, and convenient in construction. Basement kitchens and dining rooms are very common in city dwellings; and unless they are built upon a dry bottom, and above the line of the sidewalk, they are very objectionable, both on account of dampness and darkness. Yet, because of the expensiveness of land, they are of general use in some cities as a matter of economy. Boston is almost peculiar in this arrangement, but in Philadelphia a basement kitchen is hardly known. It is very difficult to make a basement dining-room elegant or desirable, and every sanitary writer and critic pleads for the abolishment of such apartments. The Southern custom of having the culinary and laundry appliances in a small building separate from the house has many advantages, especially in ridding the rooms of the disagreeable odors inseparable from these necessary quarters. A kitchen in an L is preferable to those in a basement for obvious reasons. What is more disagreeable on entering a house than to encounter the odors from the kitchen as soon as one opens the hall?door? and nothing save fire and absolute destruction will neutralize some of the stenches that arise from certain kinds of cooking. A well-ventilated kitchen, with improved apparatus for cooking, is one of the greatest triumphs of modern house-building. How many safeguards are necessary in the construction of the healthy home! Every hint from scientific discovery, every fact from the broad field of investigation, every valuable invention of the ingenious artisan, and all the devices that the forms of beauty and the more practical forms of utility ever suggest, must be considered, amid their forces conserved to the highest and noblest uses of refined and healthful living. Under such direction, domestic architecture rises to a nobler art, guided by the protecting case of sanitary science. Under such intelligent conditions life is worth living, and a house is worth living in, to the end of time.