Farm House 2 Miscellaneous Details
At this point of our remarks a word or two may be offered on the general subject of inside finish to farm houses, which may be applicable more or less to any one, or all of the designs that may come under our observation; therefore what is here said, may be applied at large. Different sections of the United States have their own several local notions, or preferences as to the mode of finish to their houses and out-buildings, according to climate, education, or other circumstances. In all these matters neither taste, fashion, nor climate should be arbitrary. The manner of finish may be various, without any departure from truth or propriety—always keeping in mind the object for which it is intended. The material for a country house should be strong, and durable, and the work simple in its details, beyond that for either town or suburban houses. It should be strong, for the reason that the interior of the farm house is used for purposes of industry, in finishing up and perfecting the labors of the farm; labors indispensable too, and in amount beyond the ordinary housekeeping requirements of a family who have little to do but merely to live, and make themselves comfortable. The material should be durable, because the distance at which the farm house is usually located from the 96 residences of building mechanics, renders it particularly troublesome and expensive to make repairs, and alterations. The work should be simple, because cheaper in the first place, in construction, and finish; quite as appropriate and satisfactory in appearance; and demanding infinitely less labor and pains to care for, and protect it afterward. Therefore all mouldings, architraves, chisel-work, and gewgawgery in interior finish should be let alone in the living and daily occupied rooms of the house. If, to a single parlor, or spare bedchamber a little ornamental work be permitted, let even that be in moderation, and just enough to teach the active mistress and her daughters what a world of scrubbing and elbow work they have saved themselves in the enjoyment of a plainly-finished house, instead of one full of gingerbread work and finery. None but the initiated can tell the affliction that chiseled finishing entails on housekeepers in the spider, fly, and other insect lodgment which it invites—frequently the cause of more annoyance and daily disquietude in housekeeping, because unnecessary, than real griefs from which we may not expect to escape. Bases, casings, sashes, doors—all should be plain, and painted or stained a quiet russet color—a color natural to the woods used for the finish, if it can be, showing, in their wear, as little of dust, soiling, and fly dirt as possible. There is no poetry about common housekeeping. Cooking, house-cleaning, washing, scrubbing, sweeping, are altogether matter-of-fact duties, and usually considered work, not recreation; and these should all be made easy of performance, and as seldom to be done as 97 possible; although the first item always was, and always will be, and the last item should be, an every-day vocation for somebody; and the manner of inside finish to a house has a great deal to do with all these labors.
In a stone, or brick house, the inside walls should be firred off for plastering. This may be done either by plugging, that is, driving a plug of wood strongly into the mortar courses, into which the firring should be nailed, or by laying a strip of thin board in the mortar course, the entire length of each wall. This is better than blocks laid in for such purpose, because it is effectually bound by the stone, or brick work; whereas, a block may get loose by shrinking, but the nails which hold the firring to the plug, or to the thin strip of board will split and wedge it closer to the mason work of the outside wall. This is an important item. It makes close work too, and leaves no room for rats, mice, or other vermin; and as it admits a space—no matter how thin—so that no outside damp from the walls can communicate into, or through the inner plastering, it answers all purposes. The inside, and partition walls should be of coarse, strong mortar, floated off as smoothly as may be, not a hard finish, which is fine, and costly; and then papered throughout for the better rooms, and the commonly-used rooms whitewashed. Paper gives a most comfortable look to the rooms, more so than paint, and much less expensive, while nothing is so sweet, tidy, and cheerful to the working rooms of the house as a lime wash, either white, or softened down with some agreeable tint, such as light blue, green, drab, fawn, or russet, to give the shade desired, and for which 98 every professional painter and whitewasher in the vicinity, can furnish a proper recipe applicable to the place and climate. On such subjects we choose to prescribe, rather than to play the apothecary by giving any of the thousand and one recipes extant, for the composition.
Our remarks upon the strength and durability of material in house-building do not apply exclusively to brick and stone. Wood is included also; and of this, there is much difference in the kind. Sound white oak, is, perhaps the best material for the heavy frame-work of any house or out-building, and when to be had at a moderate expense, we would recommend it in preference to any other. If white oak cannot be had, the other varieties of oak, or chesnut are the next best. In light frame-timbers, such as studs, girts, joists, or rafters, oak is inclined to spring and warp, and we would prefer hemlock, or chesnut, which holds a nail equally as well, or, in its absence, pine, (which holds a nail badly,) whitewood, or black walnut. The outside finish to a wooden house, may be lighter than in one of stone or brick. The wood work on the outside of the latter should always be heavy, and in character with the walls, giving an air of firmness and stability to the whole structure. No elaborate carving, or beadwork should be permitted on the outside work of a country house at all; and only a sufficient quantity of ornamental tracery of any kind, to break the monotony of a plainness that would otherwise give it a formal, or uncouth expression, and relieve it of what some would consider a pasteboard look. A farm house, in fact, of 99 any degree, either cheap or expensive, should wear the same appearance as a well-dressed person of either sex; so that a stranger, not looking at them for the purpose of inspecting their garb, should, after an interview, be unable to tell what particular sort of dress they wore, so perfectly in keeping was it with propriety.
In the design now under discussion, a cellar is made under the whole body of the house; and this cellar is a shallow one, so far as being sunk into the ground is concerned, say 5½ feet, leaving 2½ feet of cellar wall above ground—8 feet in all. A part of the wall above ground should be covered by the excavated earth, and sloped off to a level with the surrounding surface. A commodious, well-lighted, and well-ventilated cellar is one of the most important apartments of the farm house. It should, if the soil be compact, be well drained from some point or corner within the walls into a lower level outside, to which point within, the whole floor surface should incline, and the bottom be floored with water-lime cement. This will make it hard, durable, and dry. It may then be washed and scrubbed off as easily as an upper floor. If the building site be high, and in a gravelly, or sandy soil, neither drain nor flooring will be required. The cellar may be used for the storage of root crops, apples, meats, and household vegetables. A partitioned room will accommodate either a summer or a winter dairy, if not otherwise provided, and a multitude of conveniences may be made of it in all well arranged farmeries. But in all cases the cellar should be well lighted, ventilated, and dry. Even the ash-house and smoke-house may be made in it with perfect 100 convenience, by brick or stone partitions, and the smoke-house flue be carried up into one of the chimney flues above, and thus make a more snug and compact arrangement than to have separate buildings for those objects. A wash-room, in which, also, the soap may be made, the tallow and lard tried up, and other extraordinary labor when fire heat is to be used, may properly be made in a cellar, particularly when on a sloping ground, and easy of access to the ground level on one side. But, as a general rule, such room is better on a level with the main floor of the dwelling, and there are usually sufficient occupations for the cellar without them.
All cellar walls should be at least 18 inches thick, for even a wooden house, and from that to 2 feet for a stone or brick one, and well laid in strong lime-mortar. Unmortared cellar walls are frequently laid under wooden buildings, and pointed with lime-mortar inside; but this is sometimes dug out by rats, and is apt to crumble and fall out otherwise. A complete cellar wall should be thoroughly laid in mortar.
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