I always keep an eye out for books about interior decorating but my prize finds are those published pre 1950. I love reading the advice given to home owners. The social history contained in the pages of such books is so interesting and the decorating tips that are given to the reader often ring as true today as they did back then.
“Queen of Home” was written by Emma C. Hewitt in 1895 and from the minute you open the book you realize it was written for a young woman just starting out in her married life. It’s hilarious to read some of the advice such as “a young couple should get their own place immediately upon getting married – and not to live with parents”! The writer encourages the young woman to ask for ideas on every aspect of home-making and child-rearing from family members but cautions her to make up her own mind.
The book follows a lineal format from getting married, setting up a home, to child bearing and so on. In the “Nursery” section this is something all new mothers are told to heed: “Washing an infant is very much like driving a horse – if you are afraid, the horse is perfectly conscious of the fact – and if you distrust yourself, the baby will distrust you also.”
The writer was not afraid to make her opinions known, that’s for sure. Here are some more pearls of wisdom:
– “If you must have window shades, get them of a color to harmonize with the outside of your house. Nothing is so ugly as staring patches of color at every window of a house.” (Still true today)
– While commenting on parlors being used only for company: “Into such a parlor, the sun is never admitted lest it fade some of the precious “best things” and as a consequence, the room grows musty and chill, with an air of solemnity about it which freezes all genial currents of social feelings on the rare occasions when the “best room” is opened. If you cannot do better than this, it would be better to have no parlor at all!” (Even back then…)
– “It is hoped that you have an open fireplace in your parlor. Above it, it is hoped, that you have not that very ugly marble-piece which was considered a patent of nobility by the last generation. If you have it, do not be afraid of it, but walk boldly up, paintbrush in hand, and give it a good coat of paint to match the woodwork.” (Aaggghhh! – painting marble to match woodwork?)
– About having a sideboard in the dining room: ” The regulation sideboard is another nightmare, and the handsomer and more expensive it is, the more it is to be deprecated.” (Wow – tell me what you really think!)
-“Our housewife would do well to dispense with all the silverware she can until she can have servants enough to keep it in good order; for dull, unpolished silver bespeaks of an overburdened or unthrifty housewife.” (Gee – even then, they didn’t like to polish silver!”
– Our great wooden bedsteads (beds) should be given up. They are heavy to move, so impossible to keep clean in all parts, and such nuisances, if, once, by any chance, are visited by the unmentionable insect.” (Why use two or three words when twenty will do?)
The book is full of such gems.