I THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE MODERN HOUSE
I know of nothing more significant than the awakening of men and women throughout our country to the desire to improve their houses. Call it what you will—awakening, development, American Renaissance—it is a most startling and promising condition of affairs.
It is no longer possible, even to people of only faintly æsthetic tastes, to buy chairs merely to sit upon or a clock merely that it should tell the time. Home-makers are determined to have their houses, outside and in, correct according to the best standards. What do we mean by the best standards? Certainly not those of the useless, overcharged house of the average American millionaire, who builds and furnishes his home with a hopeless disregard of tradition. We must accept the standards that the artists and the architects accept, the standards that have come to us from those exceedingly rational people, our ancestors.
Our ancestors built for stability and use, and so their simple houses were excellent examples of architecture. Their spacious, uncrowded interiors were usually beautiful. Houses and furniture fulfilled their uses, and if an object fulfils its mission the chances are that it is beautiful.
It is all very well to plan our ideal house or apartment, our individual castle in Spain, but it isn't necessary to live among intolerable furnishings just because we cannot realize our castle. There never was a house so bad that it couldn't be made over into something worth while. We shall all be very much happier when we learn to transform the things we have into a semblance of our ideal.
How, then, may we go about accomplishing our ideal?
By letting it go!
By forgetting this vaguely pleasing dream, this evidence of our smug vanity, and making ourselves ready for a new ideal.
By considering the body of material from which it is good sense to choose when we have a house to decorate.
By studying the development of the modern house, its romantic tradition and architectural history.
By taking upon ourselves the duty of self-taught lessons of sincerity and common sense, and suitability.
By learning what is meant by color and form and line, harmony and contrast and proportion.
When we are on familiar terms with our tools, and feel our vague ideas clearing into definite inspiration, then we are ready to talk about ideals. We are fit to approach the full art of home-making.
We take it for granted that every woman is interested in houses—that she either has a house in course of construction, or dreams of having one, or has had a house long enough wrong to wish it right. And we take it for granted that this American home is always the woman's home: a man may build and decorate a beautiful house, but it remains for a woman to make a home of it for him. It is the personality of the mistress that the home expresses. Men are forever guests in our homes, no matter how much happiness they may find there.
You will express yourself in your house, whether you want to or not, so you must make up your mind to a long preparatory discipline....