MY YOUNG friend Margaret wrote me the other day to ask if I could get her a tiny apartment in the city. Margaret is a very new Bachelor of Arts, and has been offered what she is pleased to term “a swell job," which is to be her first attempt to earn a living.
“Mother thinks,’’ she wrote, “that I should live in an expurgated boarding or rooming house, but I feel that I must have a place of my own where I can entertain my college friends without benefit of pussyfooters, and where I can cook the occasional meal. I am ten pounds overweight, and have to give some thought to calories, or I can never hope to be able to wear the waist-line frocks with neatness and dispatch.”
Margaret further informed me that she didn’t care how shabby the wall paper and paint were, or how many stairs she had to climb to reach her new place of abode, but two points to be be remembered were that it must have a real fireplace and that the rent for it mugt be i‘next-to-nothing.”
_ When I set out upon what what proved to be a rather difficult quest, I found that a a fireplace was almost an unknown quantity in a small apartment. There was the occasional gas or electric one, one, but as Margaret had stipulated that the fireplace must be real, they could not be considered. I found at last that her requirements could be most easily satisfied in old houses which had been remodelled into suites, as these houses had been built in the days when central heating was less general than at present, and when fireplaces might be said to have a vocation rather than an avocation. I was able to find in one of these old places a small apartment of two rooms with a fireplace such as the one pictured, and Margaret is now happily and busily furnishing her “spot of home” in preparation for a grand Festival of Freedom.
Margaret’s rooms are practically duplicates of those illustrated, and are on the second floor of a house built over fifty years ago for a family of four. Its present owners found it rather an expensive proposition as an establishment for a small family, so they decided to turn it into a money-making medium. As a result of careful planning and plumbing, and with the odd partition here and the small addition there, this old house is now able to accommodate twenty people.
On a Lean Pocketbook
TT IS a distinct achievement to be able to give a homelike quality to a room which is used for practically every phase of living. Especially is this so when the expenditure for such purpose is limited. Sometimes, however, a lean pocketbook renders valuable service by preventing the mistakes so likely to result from hasty judgment.
The rooms pictured are a case in point, for very little money has been spent upon their actual furnishings. Most of the furniture was picked up for a small amount in a secondhand shop. A very successful purchase was the dropleaf table in the front room and the chest of drawers at the left in the back room. These had been so badly treated with stain and varnish that it was difficult to believe that underneath all this make-up was some fine old walnut. The heavy mask has been carefully removed by the new owner, who has an affection for the grain of old wood, and it is to be oiled and rubbed down many times until it acquires a satin finish and is completely restored to its pristine beauty.
The old table has a comfortable widespread and is really an amazingly practical piece of furniture. In addition to its natural use as a dining table, it is used as a desk, as a sturdy footing when its owner essays to hang curtains or pictures, as a place to sit when visitors are more numerous than chairs, and as—in a pinch —an ironing table.
The small chair which stands near the opening into the second room is a family piece, and is still sound and comfortable after over half a century of constant usage. This is one more proof that good construction is an important point to be borne in mind when buying furniture; in fact, it might be said that “there all the honor lies.” Pieces of furniture that are associated with childhood days are always desirable possessions. There are few things that give one so deep a root in the past as do some bits of the past lodged beneath one’s own roof.
Disguising the Bed
rT"'0 HAVE a bed which is comfortable,
which is ready for sleeping purposes as soon as its outside cover is removed, and which can be adequately disguised to give the effect of a sofa during waking hours, is sometimes quite a problem. The day bed has become very popular for this purpose, and lends itself to much variety of treatment. It was, however, considered too expensive in the case of the rooms illustrated, and two cots have been used with very good effect for the purpose, each of which is covered with material that will not muss or pull out of shape. The cover on the cot in the front room is made of monk’s cloth with bright-colored threads run through strips of it to make it distinctive and to harmonize with the general color scheme of the room, which is blue and yellow.
Margaret has also bought a cot for her small place. In order to give it a couchlike air, she has had large cushions made like those of a chesterfield, and these are placed along the back and one at each end. She has made a matching cover for the cot, which has been carefully tailored and snaps into place. She has used rosehenna rayon for these covers and for her curtains. This color is in charming contrast to the plain grey paper which she has put on the walls.
When space is limited and one room must contain every requisite for living during the twenty-four hours of the day, only the absolute essentials of furniture should be purchased, especially if the tenure of residence is likely to be brief. There must be, of course, a few chairs, a table, a couch, a cupboard and a chest of drawers. The personality of a room depends largely on the accessories—the lamps, cushions, trays, pictures, books and other decorative affinities. It is quite evident that this idea has been followed in furnishing the rooms illustrated, which are occupied by two college women. They are simply and inexpensively furnished but they have distinction. The arrangement is for practical use, but is such as to give a homelike atmosphere.
“It was necessary to make these rooms simple,” one of the occupants told me, “because of the fireplace which is, of course, the focal point in the room. As you see, it is built on chaste lines which call for a more or less severe type of furnishing. It seems to suggest monk’s cloth and lack of ornament, as well as à color scheme that is low in key. I have managed to get the necessary bit of strong contrast by the introduction of the rather vivid Egyptian wall-pieces and the brass camels which I brought back from Port Said, and which seem to suit these quiet rooms.”
Housekeeping is very easily carried on here. All toilet articles are kept out of sight. There is no clutter because there is a place for everything, and living has been found to be immensely simplified when everything is kept in its place. There is a tiny kitchenette which is kept in rigid order and in which everything is ingeniously arranged.
Margaret has a craving to express herself in color, and is seriously thinking of attacking the rather dark woodwork of her rooms with some bright paint. She is a bit afraid that the fireplace will object to this, because it is of the same austere order as the one illustrated. I have suggested that she use grey paint to match her walls, all of which would make a fine background for her furniture and her pictures and hangings. I have given her an old desk which she is painting black with silver edges. Her mother has given her two black walnut chairs with mohair seats, and she is buying a nest of tables which she has dubbed her “multiplication tables.” A sturdily made folding card table will serve for a dining table. This can be specially recommended for such purpose, as it is an easy matter to carry it to any group of chairs or to the window for breakfast. Every possibility of this kind for variety when space is restricted helps to make living in limited quarters less monotonous.
AS MARGARET has practically no pictures, she is following the excellent example of wall decoration pictured, by investing in wall-hangings, which are an immensely better purchase than pictures could be at anything like the price. Some of these wall-hangings offer most vivid and arresting contrasts in color and are most decorative and effective. Margaret is particularly proud of her French-Canadian wall-piece pictured. These little rugs are made by the families living in the country parts of Quebec during the long winter evenings. Margaret says that her little wall rug, as well as being a thing of beauty, is a constant lesson to her in industry, for these country people instead of shuffling cards every evening and watching catlike for some untoward move on the part of thenopponents, use their spare time to construct unusually well-made rugs, the patterns for which are taken from the farm life about them or from the landscape seen from the windows. Occasionally, the women will fashion in these little rugs some of the folk-lore which is so real to them, or they will blend together birds and flowers with rare instinct for color and design. The Egyptian wall-pieces, as is natural, include the camel, the Mahommedan at prayer and other phases of life in the East.
Margaret assures me that when her rooms are completed they will, at surprisingly small cost, contain every element necessary for comfortable living with a few trifles of elegance thrown in for good measure. Two ingenious additions that she has made to her equipment are rather worth mentioning. One of these is a metal tray that fits perfectly over the radiator in the bathroom and is used for toilet accessories. With a mirror above, this makes a complete dressing table without taking up any extra space. The other addition affects her clothes closet, which is so situated that when it is opened everyone in the room can see what lies within. A fairly wide shelf has been made to fit over the clothes pole, and a curtain has been suspended from this which protects the clothes, hides them from view, and is attractive in color and design.
Margaret is of opinion that this method of housekeeping is an excellent preliminary canter for matrimony. “I’ve learned about buying from it,” she misquoted, when telling me of her various expenditures. “1 have learned the equation of payments, the power of a budget, how to live on twenty-four hours a day and a small sum per week, how to malte curtains, keep the home fire burning, and make savory dishes out of left-overs. It’s a great life.”
The story you want is part of the Maclean’s Archives. To access it, log in here or sign up for your free 30-day trial.
Experience anything and everything Maclean's has ever published — over 3,500 issues and 150,000 articles, images and advertisements — since 1905. Browse on your own, or explore our curated collections and timely recommendations.WATCH THIS VIDEO for highlights of everything the Maclean's Archives has to offer.