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From the book "Household Discoveries" Copyright 1914 Sidney Morse


The subject of house furnishing is more important than is often realized. It has a moral and social as well as an economic side. The relation is very close between the character, or at least the reputation, of men and their surroundings. Everyone is free to change his surroundings. Hence the furniture and the decorations of a house, and the condition of the house and grounds, are properly considered an index to the character of its occupants.

Furniture, decorations, and other surroundings that are disorderly or in bad taste tend to keep refined and thoughtful people away from such homes. They have an even worse effect on the character of the inmates. Those who live in such circumstances become used to them, and no longer notice their badness. But the worst effect is upon the impressionable minds of growing children. Young children naturally take their own homes as models. What they see in childhood tends to fix their standards for life. Hence, neat, tasteful, and orderly homes, but not necessarily expensive in their appointments, have a very important educational influence.

The problem of furnishing and decorating comes up in two ways: originally, as in the formation of a new home, in the furnishing of additional rooms, or in moving into a new and larger dwelling; or, secondarily, in refurnishing from time to time, and purchasing additions to the family stock, usually in connection with the semiannual housecleaning. All of these occasions give rise to many problems that require good judgment. But these can usually be referred to a few simple rules that are not difficult to understand or to apply. Styles and fashions in these matters change more slowly than some other fashions, as in dress; but they do change, and while it is proper and desirable that the furnishings in the home should be to some extent original and express the individuality of its owners, it is natural and convenient for everyone to conform in a general way to tendencies of the times in which he lives. Hence it is important to know in what directions the current of thought is moving, so as to keep in advance or abreast of it, rather than to lag behind.

Simplicity, harmony, and durability are the keynotes for the modern tendency. The general intention seems to be to avoid everything that is superfluous, everything that has a tendency to catch and hold dust or dirt, or to add to the discomforts and dangers of dust and dirt by quickly wearing out. Hence carpets are being largely replaced by hard-wood floors and rugs; wooden bedsteads, by beds or iron or brass; stuffed and upholstered furniture, by articles of plain wood or wood and leather. Wall papers are often discarded for walls tinted or calcimined with washable materials. “Bric-a-brac,” flounces, valances, and all other superfluous articles are much less fashionable than formerly. Good and Bad Taste – The same trend can be seen in decoration. Wall papers in solid colors, and hard-wood floors or solid-colored floor coverings, with rugs of Oriental patterns, are preferred to the large figured carpets, rugs and wall papers with their so-called “cheerful” or bright and contrasted colors. Stuffed plush, and other upholstered articles of furniture in bright colors, or large figured designs, are being much less purchased than formerly. All this is a result of the Arts-and-Crafts movement originating in England with William Morris, inventor of the Morris chair. A number of popular magazines are devoted to these and kindred subjects, which occupy a good deal of space in general periodicals of all classes.

Formerly there was little opportunity for persons in small towns and remote rural districts either to become familiar with the right standards or to obtain the more approved styles of furniture. But the general prosperity of recent years has resulted in many country homes being tastefully and elegantly furnished. The possibility of buying desirable styles on the mail-order plan has forced local dealers to keep better and more up-to-date stocks of all household articles. Moreover, the great demand for simplicity of design has reduced the cost. There is now a good selection of household furniture in the less expensive grades upon the same models as the most costly and tasteful articles.

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