Continuing with the 19th Century details off various rooms of the house, today we're looking at the Dining Room.
The dining-room, in many houses, is the room in which the entire family is gathered, perhaps for the only time during the day. In this sense it is an assembly room. There is in this busy country a growing respect for the social value of the dining-room. In the family meetings at the table, there maybe an interchange of experiences that does not occur at other times, for the reason that there is no opportunity for it. After the meals the members of the family go to their various occupations, and probably do not come together until another meal.
These facts may be considered in the planning of a dining room.
We have thought of this room before in its mechanical sense; we have looked at it through housekeeping eyes. We have now to consider its artistic and social features. We look at it as one of the family rooms. It has its shape or proportion suggested to it from the table. It is oblong. The light coming into it should be ample, but subdued in tone. It is pleasant, as one enters a dining-room, to come into full view of a sideboard which is decorated with that which belongs to this room in a utilitarian way — its china, cut glass, and beautiful linen, than which nothing can be more attractive.
It is a pleasant thing to have a conservatory attached to one side or at a corner of the dining-room. The odor of flowers or plants may not be agreeable constantly in a sitting-room. The periodical occupation of the dining-room makes this pleasant rather than otherwise. Most of the plans which are shown will admit of the placing of a conservatory in connection with the dining-room in the manner indicated.
The old English dining-room was large in its general proportions, and heavy and rich as to its details; it was so large and impressive that there was an offshoot which took form in a breakfast-room. In our homes at this time we have the compromise. Our habits of living do not demand the breakfastroom: all come to breakfast together, and the requirement is the same as for other meals.
Where one wishes to have a wood ceiling panelled or with decorated beams, the dining-room, or the hall connecting with it, may be chosen as the proper place to be treated in this way. Where expense is not a great object, it is agreeable to have a large part of the walls finished in wood. A wood finish one-half to two-thirds the height of the wall, and a ceiling of wood above, with the intervening space finished in rough, tinted plaster, gives a very pleasing effect. Projecting from the top of the wood wall-finish may be a little shelf extending, say, five inches beyond the wall. It may have a simple moulded edge. In the top may be cut grooves; on the under edge may be arranged, at regular intervals, cup hooks, which may be used in part for suspending china, or, upon certain occasions, as a means of securing floral decorations — say, a little train of ivy or smilax. On the upper part of the shelf are placed pieces of china. This shelf may be placed in any dining-room; if not around the entire room, between two windows, or between the chimney breast and the adjacent wall. Six feet from the floor is a good height. If it is not overloaded, or if the idea is not generally overworked, the effect will be very satisfactory.
The coloring of a dining-room may be a little heavier and richer than that of the other rooms. A very pretty feature which may be introduced in a room of this kind is a china-closet, which opens into the dining-room as well as into the china-room adjoining. The dining-room side of the china-closet should be glazed with clear glass above its lower section, and the chinaroom or back side of the china-closet should be glazed with cathedral glass of a semi-transparent character. There are doors on hinges on each side. The drawers in the lower part, if provided, open from both sides. If doors are used they should be arranged in the same way, so that the lower shelves may be approached from both dining-room and china-room. The glass door on the dining-room side should not come down to the shelf at the top of the lower section, but should be arranged to leave an open space, as is indicated in the chapter on kitchens and pantries. However, the doors on the china-room side of this closet should come down, so as to cut off communication between dining-room and china-room at will. This space between the upper and lower section of the china-closet gives space in which to set a tray, and, by opening a door on the back, it acts as a slide between the china-room and diningroom. This arrangement is not only very beautiful, but very useful.
Source: Convenient Houses ©1889