Treatise - Interior Tour

The first design offered by Beecher was "a cottage, whose chief exterior beauty is its fine proportions. It should be painted white." [Beecher 263.] Both the floor plan and the elevation, at right, reveal that it as one of the simpler designs she proposed. Early in the chapter Beecher added the following footnote: "Those, who are amateurs in architecture, in judging of these designs, must take into consideration, that this is a work on domestic economy, and that matters of taste, have necessarily been made subordinate to points, involving economy of health, comfort, and expense. Still, it is believed, that good taste has been essentially preserved, in most of these designs." The first design, if it is the one which most lacks tastefulness, is the one which most demonstrates economy of money.

  • a, Porch

  • b, Parlor

  • c, Dining-room, 15 by 16 feet.

  • d, d, Small Bedrooms.

  • e, Stairs.

  • f, f, f, Closets.

  • g, Pantry.

  • h, Store-closet.

  • i, i, i, Fireplaces.

  • j, Kitchen.

  • k, Bedpress.

  • z, Cellar door.

  • the Porch

    "In the ground-plan ... a is the porch, which projects enough to afford an entrance to the two adjacent rooms, and thus avoids the evil of an outside door to a sitting-room." [Beecher, 263.]

    the Parlor

    "The parlor, b, has the bedpress, k, and the closet, f adjoining it. ...A room, thus arranged, can be made to serve as a genteel parlor, for company, during the day, when all these doors can be closed. At night, the doors of the bedpress being opened , it is changed to an airy bedroom, while the closets, f, f, serve to conceal all accommodations pertaining to a bedroom." [Beecher, 263-4.]

    Chapter XXIX

    "In selecting the furniture of parlors, some reference should be had to correspondence of shades and colors. Curtains should be darker than the walls; and, if the walls and carpets be light, the chairs should be dark and vice versa. Pictures always look best on light walls.
    In selecting carpets, for rooms much used, it is poor economy to buy cheap ones. Ingrain carpets, of close texture, and the three-ply carpets, are best for common use. Brussels carpets do not wear so long as the three-ply ones, because they cannot be turned. Wilton carpets wear badly; and Venetians are good only for halls and stairs.
    In selecting colors, avoid those in which there are any black threads; as they are always rotten. The most tasteful carpets, are those, which are made of various shades of the same color, or of all shades of only two colors; such as brown and yellow, or blue and buff, or salmon and green, or all shades of green, or of brown. All very dark shades should be brown or green, but not black..." [Beecher, 302.]

    the Dining-room

    Chapter XXX

    "An eating-room should have in it a large closet, with drawers and shelves, in which should be kept all the articles used at meals. This, if possible, should communicate with the kitchen, by a sliding window, or by a door, and have in it a window, and also a small sink, made of marble or lined with zinc, which will be a great convenience for washing nice articles. If there be a dumb-waiter, it is best to have it connected with such a closet. It may be so contrived, that, when it is down, it shall form part of the closet floor.

    A table-rug, or crumb-cloth, is useful to save carpets from injury. Bocking, or baize, is best. Always spread the same side up, or the carpet will be soiled by the rug. Table-mats are needful, to prevent injury to the table from the warm dishes. Teacup-mats, or small plates, are useful to save the table-cloths from dripping tea or coffee. Butter-knives, for the butter-plate, and salt-spoons, for salt-dishes, are designed to prevent those disgusting marks which are made, when persons use their own knives, to take salt or butter. A sugar-spoon should be kept in or by the sugar-dish, for the same purpose. Table-napkins, of diaper, are often laid by each person's plate, for use during the meal, to save the tablecloth and pocket-handkerchief. To preserve the same napkin for the same person, each member of the family has a given number, and the napkins are numbered to correspond, or else are slipped into ivory rings, which are numbered. A stranger has a clean one, at each meal. Tablecloths should be well starched, and ironed on the right side, and always, when taken off, folded in the ironed creases. Doilies are colored napkins, which, when fruit is offered, should always be furnished, to prevent a person from staining a nice handkerchief, or permitting the fruit-juice to dry on the fingers..." [Beecher, 306-7.]

    the Bedroom

    Chapter XXXI

    "Every mistress of a family should see, not only that all sleeping-rooms in her house can be well ventilated at night, but that they actually are so. Where there is no open fireplace to admit the pure air from the exterior, a door should be left open into an entry, or room where fresh air is admitted; or else a small opening should be made in a window, taking care not to allow a draught of air to cross the bed. The debility of childhood, the lassitude of domestics, and the ill-health of families, are often caused by neglecting to provide a supply of pure air." [Beecher, 313.]

    the Stairs

    "The arrangement of rooms, and the proper supply of conveniences, are other points, in which, economy of labor and comfort is often disregarded. For example, a kitchen will be in one story, a sitting-room in another, and the nursery in a third. Nothing is more injurious, to a feeble woman, than going up and down stairs; and yet, in order to gain two large parlors, to show to a few friends, or to strangers, immense sacrifices of health, comfort, and money, are made. If it be possible, the nursery, sitting-parlor, and kitchen, ought always to be on the same floor." [Beecher, 259.]

    the Closet

    "An eating-room should have in it a large closet, with drawers and shelves, in which should be kept all the articles used at meals. This, if possible, should communicate with the kitchen, by a sliding window, or by a door, and have in it a window, and also a small sink, made of marble or lined with zinc, which will be a great convenience for washing nice articles. If there be a dumb-waiter, it is best to have it connected with such a closet. It may be so contrived, that, when it is down, it shall form part of the closet floor." [Beecher, 306.]

    "Both the closets, f, f, should have shelves and drawers." [Beecher, 264/]

    the Pantry

    Beecher seems not to have given much thought to the pantry when writing her Treatise; although nearly all the floor-plans include one, no discussion of the pantry is included. She does, however, deal extensively with closets in general. Here is another excerpt on this subject:
    "In a closet, should be kept, arranged in order, the following articles: the dust-pan, dust-brush, and dusting-cloths, old flannel and cotton for scouring and rubbing, sponges for washing windows and looking-glasses, a long brush for cobwebs, and another for washing the outside of windows, whisk-brooms, common brooms, a coat-broom or brush, a whitewash-brush, a stove-brush, shoebrushes and blacking, articles for cleaning tin and silver, leather for cleaning metal bottles containing stain-mixtures, and other articles used in cleansing." [Beecher, 322.]

    the Store-closet

    "Every house needs a storeroom, in which to keep tea, coffee, sugar, rice, candles, &c. It should be furnished with jars, having labels, a large spoon, a fork, sugar and flour-scoops, a towel, and a dish-cloth." [Beecher, 322.]

    the Fireplace

    "A shallow fireplace saves wood, and gives out more heat than a deeper one. A false back, of brick, may be put up in a deep fireplace. Hooks, for holding up the shovel and tongs, and a hearth-brush and bellows, and brass knobs to hang them on, should be furnished to every fireplace. An iron bar, across the andirons, aids in keeping the fire safe, and in good order. Steel furniture is more genteel, and more easily kept in order, than that made of brass.

    Use green wood, for logs, and mix green and dry wood for the fire; and then the woodpile will last much longer. Walnut, maple, hickory, and oak, wood, are best, chestnut or hemlock is bad, because it snaps. Do not buy a load, in which there are many crooked sticks. Learn how to measure and calculate the solid contents of a load, so as not to be cheated. Have all your wood split, and piled under cover, for Winter. Have the green wood logs in one pile, dry wood in another, oven-wood in another, kindlings and chips in another, and a supply of charcoal to use for broiling and ironing, in another place. Have a brick bin, for ashes, and never allow them to be put in wood. When quitting fires, at night, never leave a burning stick across the andirons, nor on its end, without quenching it. See that no fire adheres to the broom or brush; remove all articles from the fire, and have two pails, filled with water, in the kitchen, where they will not freeze." [Beecher, 280.]

    the Kitchen

    Chapter XXXII

    "If parents wish their daughters to grow up with good domestic habits, they should have, as one means of securing this result, a neat and cheerful kitchen. A kitchen should always, if possible, be entirely above ground, and well lighted. It should have a large sink, with a drain running under ground, so that all the premises may be kept sweet and clean. If flowers and shrubs be cultivated, around the doors and windows, and the yard near them be kept well turfed, it will add very much to their agreeable appearance. The walls should often be cleaned and whitewashed, to promote a neat look and pure air. The floor of a kitchen should be painted, or, which is better, covered with an oilcloth. To procure a kitchen oilcloth as cheaply as possible, buy cheap tow cloth, and fit it to the size and shape of the kitchen. Then have it stretched, and nailed to the south side of the barn, and, with a brush, cover it with a coat of thin rye paste. When this is dry, put on a coat of yellow paint, and let it dry for a fortnight. It is safest to first try the paint, and see if it dries well, as some paint never will dry. Then put on a second coat, and at the end of another fortnight, a third coat. Then let it hang two months, and it will last, uninjured, for many years. The longer the paint is left to dry, the harder it becomes...." [Beecher, 317.]

    the Bedpress

    Beecher's commitment to economy was so complete that daytime parlors often serve as bedrooms at night, with beds and "all accomodations pertaining to a bedroom" emerging from bedpresses.

    the Cellar


    "A cellar should often be whitewashed, to keep it sweet. It should have a drain, to keep it perfectly dry, as standing water, in a cellar, is a sure cause of disease in a family. It is very dangerous to leave decayed vegetables in a cellar. Many a fever has been caused, by the poisonous miasm* thus generated. The following articles are desireable in a cellar: a safe, or moveable closet, with sides of wire or perforated tin, in which cold meats, cream, and other articles should be kept; (if ants be troublesome, set the legs in tin cups of water;) a refrigerator, or large wooden box, on feet, with a lining of tin or zinc, and a space between the tin and wood filled with powdered charcoal, having at the bottom, a place for ice, a drain to carry off the water, and also moveable shelves and partitions. In this, articles are kept cool. It should be cleaned, once a week. Filtering jars, to purify water, should also be kept in the cellar. Fish and cabbages, in a cellar, are apt to scent a house, and give a bad taste to other articles." [Beecher, 322]
    [in her glossary at the end of the Treatise, Beecher defines miasms: "such particles or atoms, as are supposed to arise from distempered, putrefying, or poisonous bodies."]