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Chapter IX, "Everyman's House" book, by Caroline Bartlett Crane
Crane, Caroline Bartlett, 1858-1935, author

Western Michigan University

Architecture, Domestic


Better Homes in America

Item Number

Part of Caroline Bartlett Crane "Everyman's House" Collection

collection, text


110 CHAPTER IX WHAT EVERY WOMAN WANTS I CAN think of no more intriguing sentence with which to begin this chapter than the plain statement that Everyman's House has eight closets, ten cupboards (besides a dish-warming cupboard), twelve built-in drawers, a seven-foot two-parted window-seat box; two closed and ventilated storerooms each 3'6' x I2'; accessible space in the attic peak for a quantity of things including all the window screens of the second story, and a storage alcove 5' x 7' in the basement, with a ventilated cold room of the same size by its side. A woman who could not keep this house in order would create chaos in a vacuum. Men will give women love and money and raiment and jewels and palaces and yachts, and so following, but they simply will not give them closets. Not willingly. Only at the point of much insistence. And the defect 111 WHAT EVERY WOMAN WANTS with us is that, if the fireplace promises to be elegant and the dining room severely stately, we usually fail to insist on closets at the time, and spend our wretched lives repenting. How should men know closets? Who wrestles with the table leaves, and the carpet sweeper, and the ironing board, and must find safe place for the extra vases and candlesticks, and the company table linen that has to be wound on a four-foot stick? Who retires the winter blankets and the voluminous down quilts and the extra pillows and the window draperies He [sic] hates to see around in summer? Who moth-balls and stows the winter coats and furs, and finds a place for the sleds and skates and skis of the family? Who gets out the B.V.D.'s and knickers and golf clubs and baseball mitts and tennis racquets and pup tents and folding canoes and fishing tackle and waders and trunks and suitcases and lunch baskets and thermos bottles of approaching summer? How can a man vicariously suffer the indignity of being bumped on the head by that stuffed skeleton in the closet--the mattress you're saving till you can afford to build on an 112 EVERYMAN'S HOUSE extra room and--you vow--a good million closets? Who picks up and pairs up the shoes and rubbers and galoshes of a ten or twelve-footed family? Not the member who pleads to keep all his old clothes and artlessly wonders on each occasion for its use, 'Now, where can that dress suit be, do you suppose?' Above all--and beyond all enduring--who is expected to know at any moment of day or night the precise habitat of each and every item of the family's possessions? I appeal to an unprejudiced jury of my countrywomen. What this country needs may be rain, as Candidate Will Rogers declares. But what it also needs is closets. And if I get to Congress along with Will, 'I'm going to see to it personally' that you get them. On this sore point of closets, I was going to cite by name a great woman's college, built--by men, of course--without a single one! But I haven't verified it. However, here is a more modern instance: The last time I was East an elderly friend of mine, preparing for permanent residence in a new apartment de luxe[sic], gave me a letter she 113 WHAT EVERY WOMAN WANTS once received from a very famous woman, now dead. 'I'll have no room for it up there,' she explained. 'There's no storage except a gorgeous hat box and a row of hooks behind a folding-bed. I've had to strip down to the last ounce of ?things.' Why, I feel as if I were moving up into an airplane to live. Also, I've discovered the true definition of ?a-part-ment'; ?meant to part you from your most cherished possessions.'' Doubtless there are instances in which the apartment house serves as a valuable ally to the beneficent rummage sale. For I am by no means advocating closets for the purpose of keeping useless things. Nevertheless, who, in either a luxurious flat or a little one-family house, wants to feel that she is now reduced to the bare necessities of life? Well, Everyman's House has enough closets to rejoice any woman and dismay any man. And that means a marvellous[sic] simplification of household work. It is likewise the first essential in teaching orderliness and helpfulness to children. Our four closets and two storerooms opening off the chambers of the second floor carry 114 EVERYMAN'S HOUSE flues into the ventilated attic peak. They all match the rooms they adjoin; waxed oak floors, finished doors and casings, hardware trim, and tinted walls. When a door is opened, it does not disclose a skimped and ugly interior. However, a closet isn't just four walls any more than a home is. A little thought and planning will work wonders. For instance, a closet without a pole running its length is--just four walls that miss the heart of convenience. But with a metal or wooden rod, and an appropriate supply of coat and skirt hangers, even the clothes presses of a tabloid flat will hold an astonishing amount of apparel. Indeed, shallow clothes closets are a decided economy and an advantage to orderliness. Hanging there in sagless and uncrumpled condition, each garment presents a shoulder for identification. There's always corner room, also, to spare for nightie, dressing gown, and such matters. It is a good thing to keep one's best gowns and wraps at the farther end of the closet, with a chintz curtain protecting them. A closet should have two shelves above, spaced so as to accommodate the articles to 115 WHAT EVERY WOMAN WANTS be stored. It should have these shelves unless, as in some old houses, the ceilings are so high that a second pole can be freighted with seldom-used garments and pulleyed[sic] to the ceiling. Closets, more than any other item of the house, can be solid comfort to the woman who knows how to utilize them. Then closets and storerooms need artificial light, unless they can be fully illuminated from the room. I have found a closet light a great convenience to a sickroom. The door, serving as a screen, may be opened far enough to light the room or narrowed to the width of the medicine stand. It is a convenience, too, when one comes from the bath, to be able, by a mere strip of closet light, to open bed and windows for the night without having to draw down the shades. The inside of the closet door presents possibilities often neglected. We need not consider extreme measures, such as converting the upper half into a dressing screen with mirror and rack for toilet articles, etc. But a real convenience is a projecting hook which will take a half-dozen hangers for children's suits and frocks. A shoe rack or a canvas 116 EVERYMAN'S HOUSE shoe case across the lower half of the door will handily hold shoes and other small articles. Coming downstairs, still on the subject of closets, please note the convenience of the roomy coat closet off the vestibule, with its pole for coat hangers, with two shelves above for hats in use and hats in storage. On the inside of the closet door, near the bottom, is a rack for rubbers. Above this, and also on the walls of the closet, are hooks for hanging more wraps. One strip of hooks, for the children's wraps, is placed four feet from the floor. I may mention here that the kitchen entry has a low strip of hooks for children's everyday wraps and hats, and a shelf for their overshoes. The strategic position for closets and cupboards is too often neglected. You notice that Everyman's House has a closet for broom, carpet. sweeper, vacuum cleaner, dust mop, etc., not off the kitchen, but off the living-dining room, where they are most often needed. It is the one at the right of the window seat. Above the broom closet is a set of shelves for 117 WHAT EVERY WOMAN WANTS the various necessary small articles which, unless kept rigidly in bounds, do so much to litter a house. Room for wrapping paper, pasteboard, tissue paper, express tags, paste, glue, twine, rubber bands--all right by the table where you want to use them. Here is a space for vases, candles, candlesticks, and electric bulbs, and a special shelf for the odds and ends that are always turning up to be relocated by Mother. The unidentified bunch of keys, the precious nondescripts which escape from children's pockets, the nail files which, perhaps accidentally, wander from bedrooms into oblivion, where Mother picks them up. 'John, if you can't find your knife, look on the Lost-and-Found shelf.' Then there is the little emergency work basket, for busted-off buttons and that last-moment-before-school tear in the stocking knee. On the inside of this door belongs the family 'date sheet.' Not Mary's date with Ned, which she isn't likely to forget, anyway; but her date with the dentist; the date on which books are due at the library; the date of the caucus and the primary; of the food sale or 118 EVERYMAN'S HOUSE the rummage sale to which you have promised a cake or a cast-off suit, or of some birthday that's liable to be forgotten. These are pegs for your mental closet. They save much clutter of the inner dwelling of each of us. On the left side of the window seat is the china closet, with room for the best table linen and a bottom shelf for things due for departure from the house. 'On approvals' for return; shoes for half-soling; books going back to the library; the bundle for the charity organization; things 'to be called for' at request of any member of the family. Whoever answers the door knows where to look. Also, if one cultivates the habit of looking on this shelf before 'going down town,' it saves many special trips. The inside of the seven-foot window seat, with its convenient two-parted lid and cushion, is something I would advise Father to pre-empt--and padlock if he has growing boys. He probably knows better than I do what he will want to put therein. And whatever he does put away is so much easement to Mother. More of this in the chapter on 'Suiting Father, Too.' The Mother's Room has a commodious 119 WHAT EVERY WOMAN WANTS closet fitted with pole, shelves, and wall hooks. The bathroom has the usual medicine cup-board. The light and dry storage alcove in the basement, 5' x 7', will hold all the furloughed furniture of a large room. The open space under the cellar stairs will accommodate all of the door and window screens from the first floor. The cold room in the cellar, 5' x 7', is separated from the furnace by a cement wall, a wood wall, and a distance of ten feet. It has its own window for light and ventilation. The cold room is furnished with stout broad shelves reaching from three feet above the floor to the ceiling. Beneath these shelves is a partitioned slat bin running the length of the room. The slats serve to ventilate fruits and vegetables and keep them from rotting. The dirt from rough vegetables falls through the slats to the floor. The bins are raised a few inches from the floor, so that it can be easily swept or scrubbed. The wall opposite the bins afford hanging space for cured meats, etc. The cold room is perfectly lighted at night by the electric bulb just outside the door. The gas and electric meters are on the wall, 120 EVERYMAN'S HOUSE and on a man's eyeline, just outside the cold-room door. It is the hidden helps to convenience and orderliness, of the kind described in this chap-ter, which are most often overlooked or seriously stinted when we come to build a home. Yet--to say nothing of convenience to Mother--any one would rate orderliness as among the very first requisites of peace and comfort, and a condition absolutely precedent to teaching good housekeeping principles to children. If you haven't a place for everything, how are you undertaking to teach them to keep everything in its place? The woman who is eternally picking up after her family is a slave to their carelessness. Yes, but carelessness naturally exists in a home where order hasn't seemed important enough to make any special provisions for it. Even the little house can spare space for this. In fact, the smaller the house and the larger the family, the more vital the matter becomes. Yet people of pinched resources continue to build dining rooms for use a couple of hours a day, and ignore the howling need of closets to sweeten life continually. 121 WHAT EVERY WOMAN WANTS Is this, after all, a somewhat trivial chapter? Reading it over, I feared so until I looked up at my husband and asked: 'In building a house, now, what would you say it is that every woman wants?' 'Closets,' he replied, with no hesitation at all. Discerning man! Would thou wert an architect instead of a physician! Together we would revolutionize the home. And, yet perhaps he said 'closets,' just like that, because at this very time, with his gallant concurrence, I am engaged in building on two lovely closets at the rear of our house. Incidentally a room or two, of course. But he knows perfectly well it was closets that started the trouble. Anyway, closets it is that every woman wants.--I let this chapter stand.

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