The Living-Room of the Future
IT is not so very long ago, counted by years, since our houses, or at least certain rooms in them, contained mementoes; but, in fact, it is a generation. In such times men hung their college groups upon the walls, lined their mantels with beer-mugs, now filled only with memories of good times. Trophies of the track and trail were plentiful, and photographs of scenes visited, of old-time resorts or of friends, were allowed wall-room. In certain houses one would find the portraits of bearded young men in uniform, with here and there a battered musket, a brace of pistols, or a sword hung against the wall, mute emblems of a time that our present conflict is bringing more forcibly to mind.
The present generation has migrated from these homely homes. They have built themselves new houses, or they have moved into comfortable and roomy flats. In either case, the architects have tyrannized over traditions. They have built in periods; they have done more than build. They have proceeded to instruct the owners what sort of furniture to buy, what tone of wall-paper to select, what material the curtains should be made of, and, in some cases, what pictures and bric-abrac should be displayed and what should be consigned to a dark corner in the attic. In short, the house has been created in every particular by the architect, and the owner inhabits it as he would a suite at some fashionable hotel.
The den is often wainscoted in gumwood, with panels which prevent the use of the walls for pictures, except for an occasional print, which for obvious reasons must be by some well-known master. Bookcases are built in for just so many books, no more, and certain styles of bindings are recommended; the selection of titles, being of less importance is left to the owner. The living-room, done in pale gray with chintz hangings, wall not set off the old familiar oil paintings left by some maiden aunt or inherited from grand-parents. The flowery bedrooms demand plain walls, and little furniture except the bare necessities.
And so it goes. These new houses require the newest or the oldest, both costly, and neither possessed of the precious personal touch which spells sentiment, or indicates even the slightest veneration for the possessions or recollections of the generation just passing.
How the present conflict will affect our surroundings is interesting to contemplate. It affects us in every other way, and therefore it may alter our very household gods. It has affected our libraries already, for a flood of warbooks has spread to our centre-tables and bookcases — many of them to be preserved as lasting records of the great conflict.
Liberty Loan and Red Cross posters adorn hitherto spotless windows, while we ourselves wear tawdry pins in proof of our patriotism.
Maps of Europe are tacked up on those very gum-wood panels in our dens; and for the children’s sake, if for no other, we have allowed the foodposters to decorate the pale gray walls of the living-room. With the entrance of our own boys into the war, come photographs of them in uniform, properly framed and hung in such places as allow them to be most frequently seen; and the litter of papers and illustrated magazines shows the avidity with which the daily activities on the front are followed. A few of us will be wise enough to preserve these magazines, and to start making scrap-books of clippings which refer to such phases of war as concern our own dear boys at the front.
This litter of papers, this craving for mementoes will be more marked as times goes on; and when the war is over, and our soldiers and sailors come back to their homes, we shall hail with joy their miscellaneous collections of relics. Our dens will become museums. To the bearded portraits of Civil-War time will be added the photographs of our clean-shaven men of this generation who also have done their bit. In some cases these portraits will be the only relic of their heroism.
Is it possible that the architects of tomorrow will not make way for such priceless tokens of our costly victory? or is it possible that, when our own boy returns with his German helmet, his pieces of shell, his hand-grenades, his pictures, and a score of relics of hand-tohand encounter, the den, or library, or any spot in the house selected, will not be so planned as to receive him with honor, regardless of periods of architecture or styles of decoration? The wheel of fashion will turn, and stop at the indicator marked home. The freedom of the house will be given over to those who return, or to the memory of those who no longer need the shelter of a worldly home, and as a result, individual style will prevail once more. When we pass from the house of one friend to another, we shall find each reflecting the spirit of its inmates and lacking none of the comforts or beauties of the architects skill. The house beautiful resembles the face and form of man. For real beauty requires character; and a home without home features, a home which does not reflect the spirit and tastes of its inmates, is a mere shelter, no matter how costly.