By M. Madeline Hollis
In recent years great strides have been made in the practical side of house furnishing and decoration. The modern kitchen with its cheerful, washable walls, electric cooker, porcelain sink and aluminium utensils is a place to dream of as well as to work in.
Upstairs, the bathroom, too, can be the pride of every good housewife, for chromium taps gleam cheerfully—un
attended—and tiled walls need little attention, while curtains of toile cire (that aristocrat of oilcloths) are never damped in any sense of the word by even the densest clouds of steam.
Bedrooms have also benefited by the fertile and inventive mind of the modern
furnisher and decorator. Set-in washbasins, supplied, of course, with hot and cold water, save endless labour and are decorative, too, now that they are procurable in all pale colours to tone with the general scheme of the room. Brass, iron, and wooden bedsteads are pleasingly supplanted by divans, often with built-tin head-pieces to which may be fitted reading-lamps. . Book-shelves and shoecupboards are cunningly fitted into spare corners and do much to facilitate the dreary tasks of dusting and floorpolishing.
Antiques in Modern Settings
It is an open question whether the rather angular modern dressing-tables and wardrobes in favour at the present time surpass in utility or craftsmanship the bowfronted chests and walnut or mahogany tall-boys of great-grandmother's day. They have a mellow dignity that is ageless and indestructible, and take their place in a room of any period of decoration.
Glazed chintz and elaborately quilted fabrics have staged a " come-back " and add freshness and charm even if used in the most ultra-modern fiat.
A very definite challenge is presented, however, by remarkable innovations in the construction and composition of certain well-known articles of furniture that are necessary to make up a pleasing (or unpleasing) whole in the living-rooms.
Beauty Has Been Lost
Comfort is not neglected, utility is not denied, but beauty and durability are almost entirely ignored in our furniture to-day. Is it possible that contraptions of steel or chromium tubing connected by strips of tweed or hopsack are to be dignified by the name of chairs? They can perhaps take their place in bar or cinema lounge, but their hour 'will be brief, for in even early middle-age they attain a shoddy shabbiness, and it is depressing to think what they would look like if they lasted long enough to earn the title of " antique."
A mirror-topped table might be occasionally amusing, but its determined glitter would hardly prove a permanent joy. Rugs and carpets, geometrically patterned, have a restless effect on the eye, and the modern squat, angular sideboard compares unfavourably with those designed by our forebears.
Modern furniture, however, must not be condemned wholesale. Great progress has recently been made in the construction of really comfortable sofas and easy-chairs. They tend towards the elephantine in size, but their seductiveness is undeniable. Such accessories as small tables and sturdily constructed, built-in book-cases have much to commend them.
Attractive table-glass is much more easily procurable to-day. There is a very definite feeling that more colour is desirable in our homes, and shining glass helps towards this effect. The more general use of electricity has also brought attractive fittings and lamps within the reach of everyone.
The Happy Compromise
Reviewing the situation, one realises that it is possible to arrive at a reasonable compromise between the new and the old. Modern goblets, green or amber, can shine happily on dining-room tables of polished oak, walnut and mahogany, and dressingtables can be equipped with mirror-glass tops. Let chromium be banished to the kitchen and steel tubing to any place in the house where it can find a happy niche, but there is no reason why we should not lower our tired limbs into the most modern of arm-chairs, elegantly petticoated in glazed and quilted chintz of Queen Anne design.