1890,  Bed Chambers,  Browse By Era,  Browse by Subject,  Victorian

The Bedroom

BEDS AND BEDDING.
I.– The Bedroom.
How about the bedrooms? There is no more important question than this, in connection with the building, engagement or arrangement of a living place for the family.
Unfortunately, it is a question which is too often overlooked or ignored. We pay much attention to the kitchen, and to having it in every way convenient and comfortable.
That is all right. ” An unhandy kitchen ” is the terror of any woman. We give consideration to all the details connected with the sitting and living rooms, the parlors, reception rooms, library, and even the hall, though we do not live there at all, save in passing through, because, forsooth, it is the first apartment in the house to meet a stranger’s eye, and so is to be held as giving ” first impressions ” regarding the whole of the habitation.

When all of this has been done, such space as is left is devoted to bedrooms! No matter in what out-of-the-way corner it may be located, we have altogether too much come into the habit of thinking that any spare section, not good enough or not sufficiently convenient for any other use, will answer very well for a sleeping apartment. Suppose we carry the line of reasoning a little further, and consider that in these sleeping apartments each member of the family passes from seven to ten hours of each day, speaking in a general way. No other room has an equal slice from the twenty-four hours; no other is so indifferently ventilated ; no other exposes to so many dangerous influences, seen and unseen.

We may go a step further, and consider the purpose of the apartment. In the kitchen, the workshop, the library and even the parlor, we are wearing out the human frame, tearing clown and destroying, so to speak. The various powers of mind and body, taxed, wearied and weakened by the activities and exertions of the waking hours, are taken to the keeping room as an overtaxed engine goes to the repair shop — to be rejuvenated, strengthened and fitted for another tour of service. If we consider these things in the right light and reason upon them, we shall at once see why the sleeping room should be the sweetest, purest, most invigorating place in all the house.

Two considerations, then, come in at the start, and must influence us in a marked degree subsequently. The bedroom should be one fully exposed to the beneficent effects of air and light. Without these powerful agencies, no form of life can be fully successful.

Every bedroom should, therefore, be so situated that during the day– it is immaterial in what part of the day– it may receive an abundance of direct sunlight. It should also be capable of thorough and perfect ventilation. And this should not only be possible, but it should be positive. Every day in the year, and the sooner after the couches have been vacated in the morning the better, each sleeping apartment should be thoroughly ventilated and aired. This process should be so far-reaching that not a breath of the vitiated air which was in the room at the start shall remain. Everything in and about the room which can contaminate should be promptly removed. Even then, the apartment is not to be closed and so remain till again occupied for the night. If it is necessary that it should be closed during most of the day, let it be again opened toward evening, so that the air which it contains shall be pure and fresh when the occupants come in for the night. Again, it scarcely needs be said that cleanness and neatness, in the best meaning of those words, should pervade the sleeping room in every detail and every respect. How often, in second-class hotels, boarding houses, and even dwellings, are the sensitive nostrils shocked, on entering an apartment, with the musty odor which means closeness, want of ventilation, neglect–in other words, dirt gone to seed! In this connection, and from this point of view, a very important question is as to the floor covering; it is also frequently a somewhat difficult question for perfect answer. Some authorities go so far as to urge the abolition of carpets from the bedroom altogether; yet it is only in rare instances that so radical a measure will be found necessary. When there is danger of frequent soiling and contamination in any manner, or where the germs of infectious disease are liable to lurk in its embrace, the carpet should be abolished, and rugs should be substituted. These may be so disposed as to make it unnecessary to step on the cold bare floor with the unprotected feet– which is the principal reason for having the floor carpeted, though it is frequently desirable on the ground of additional warmth, and to prevent the entrance of air currents through a defective floor. Of course the laying of a proper floor would cure the latter evil ; but that is not always feasible, especially in a rented house. By the exercise of reasonable care, and a certain amount of daily or weekly labor, it is possible to keep the carpet of a sleeping room as wholesome and in as good condition as in any other portion of the house ; and where this is the case, there is no good reason why the bedroom floor should not be carpeted. Even then, however, it is preferable that the carpet should be somewhat smaller than the room. By leaving a painted margin of from six inches to a foot all about the apartment, which can be readily swept, the most convenient and persistent lurking place of dirt will be abolished ; at the same time, the task of taking up and putting down the carpet is very much simplified, on account of the “room to work” which is provided. Where it is not desirable, or expedient, or feasible for any reason, to have a carpet, the next best for any reason, to have a carpet, the next best thing is a system of rugs. By this is not necessarily meant the expensive articles with which, in a limited way, perhaps, the name of rug is too often associated.

Three or four strips of carpeting, each a yard or two in length, which can be obtained from any dealer in carpets at a merely nominal price as remnants, will equip almost any room, and in a very neat and serviceable manner. These can be taken up at any time, dusted, beaten, aired, turned or discarded altogether, keeping the room in perfect condition of cleanliness, no matter under what circumstances. Even a single short strip at the front of the bed may be made to serve a quite useful purpose, and is infinitely to be preferred to a neglected carpet covering the entire floor, and furnishing germs of infection and disease. There is no question that many diseases of the lungs come from this source.

Direct artificial heat in a sleeping apartment is seldom advisable, though under certain conditions it may be a necessity. In that case, there is nothing so desirable as an open fire, either of wood or coal ; and on the other hand, there is nothing so dangerous as a coal fire in a close stove. Under any conditions except those of the open Hue, it is desirable to keep a small open vessel of water in a warm portion of the room, so that the air may not become disagreeably and unhealthfully dry. A gentle, even temperature, neither too warm nor too cold, is most agreeable and most healthful for the sleeping room. Either extreme tends to create discomfort, bringing wakefulness, nervousness, and perhaps in the end pronounced insomnia.

The matter of ventilation during sleeping hours is quite apart from that of the daytime branch of the same operation. An open chimney naturally supplies the place of a ventilation flue, and may be depended upon to remove at least a portion of the vitiated atmosphere, drawing something purer to fill its place.

An open door leading to a roomy hallway, especially if the latter be ventilated, will insure fresh air ; but unfortunately it is many times impossible for people to sleep with open doors. The window is then the -only resort ; and as a general thing it may, even in quite cold weather, be slightly opened, so as to introduce fresh air, care being taken that a draft cannot in any manner reach the sleeper.

The question of wall decoration is a broad one, but there are some general thoughts and principles applicable to all manner of bedrooms. One reads a good deal in current publications, first and last, as to the fitting up of ” dainty nests,” and kindred subjects.

But these ideal apartments for the young ladies of the household, while important, charming and interesting to view and even to read of, do not cover the entire subject. We have to think of rooms for the older and more staid members, as well as for the younger and less cultured, or perhaps the careless student brother, who never thinks of his sleeping apartment except as a wholly unimportant place for passing the hours of his unconsciousness. In the first place, speaking for bedrooms as a class, they should be made as cheerful in design as possible. The wall paper, if used, should be lighter, rather than darker, than that in other portions of the house. There should be some character in the design of the paper, especially if by any chance it is possible that the room may be occupied as a sick chamber. How often, as we know, have the eyes of a sick and weak person followed the designs upon the wall paper, hour after hour, and thus brought to the invalid diversion of a wholly gentle and unobtrusive nature. For this purpose, a simple design, capable of awakening interest and attracting attention, is better than a picture, even of pronounced merit ; since the latter is too likely to excite strong emotions, to awaken reminiscences, and to lead the thought in altogether too vigorous a manner.

Pictures need not be banished from the sleeping room altogether. At the same time, we must not forget that the primary idea of the apartment is that of rest and repose ; of a surcease from anxiety, activity and excitement of any sort. Unless, therefore, the apartment must also be used as a living room to some degree, any picture, or any style of decoration, which represents the spirit of activity is “o reign in tone to the primary purpose of the room. On the same principle, a surplus of furniture, of books or of bric-a-brac, is to be avoided. Surplus garments hanging here and there about the walls are an abomination. Provide for them a closet, wardrobe, trunks or drawers, so that the general aspect of the room may be that of tidiness. If circumstances permit, there should be in each sleeping room, apart from the indispensable furniture and fixtures, a small table, which can be readily moved .to any portion of the room, one or two comfortable chairs in which the occupant may sit restfully, and a lounge or couch, properly fitted with cushions and pillows, upon which one may drop for a few moments of repose, at any hour. And there should, of course, be harmony in the ensemble of the room. Let the prevailing tones match each other, and do not drop into the idea that any odd and ugly article, left over from other apartments or picked up at random, is good enough for this place. There is a distinction between true and false economy, fitness and unfit- ness, here as elsewhere. In general, heavy drapery should be avoided, and such as it is necessary to use should be light in texture, neatly arranged, and of a quality which can be easily laundered, to look as good as new. The windows should be provided with shades, and curtains of a simple, neat design are always in order. Above all, let it be said again, there should be everywhere the air of neatness and harmony. The habits of life will largely depend upon those which govern the sleeping room, and if we cultivate there the principles which go to make a happy and attractive home, their practice and adaptation will be found the easier and more habitual in other apartments and relations.