Keep cool and beat the heat – how Edwardians kept their home cool in the summer!
‘The woman who must stay in the city all summer, or can leave town for a bare two weeks when her husband gets his vacation, should put her wits to work to make her house or her apartment look as cool as possible – for the appearance of coolness leads us to imagine that the thermometer is really lower than it is.’ (Chicago Tribune, July 1909)
Keep Your Home Cool In The Summer Heat – Edwardian Decor Ideas
Remove Heavy Curtains & Large Pictures
‘Of course, she has put away her heavy draperies and curtains and in all probability has covered the upholstered furniture with slip covers of neutral tinted linen or light flowered cretonne. But that has not made things so much cooler looking.
The first to do is to take down all the large pictures, especially those with heavy gilt frames or particularly vivid colorings. Put them in the closet or the store room. Get them out of sight and arrange in their places a few delicate water colors or brown photographs.
Next, clear the piano top and the mantel shelf and the bookcase of bric-à-brac, except a few pieces in cool colorings. Get everything gilt and glittering out of sight. Give the appearance of simplicity and spaciousness – it wont seem bare as soon as you get used to it.’ (Chicago Tribune, July 1909)
‘One should also notice that a look of being upholstered is everywhere avoided in the room. One sees this in the small sofa in the bedroom, and again in the seat under the mirror, which, though cushioned in chintz, is not curtained, in this way preserving the sense of airiness and freshness before referred to, without sacrificing comfort.’ (Homes And Their Decoration, 1903)
White Furniture, Wallpaper & White Cotton Fabric
‘The aim even of the opulent in these days is to use inexpensive wash materials in the parlors of their summer cottages. I know no instance in which such happy results have been attained as in a house on the Maine coast rented by a New Yorker. When she took it, it was probably the ugliest cottage to be found on the island. This is what she did with the bare, long, and narrow parlor, having a fireplace at one end, and a bay-window on the side opposite a pair of big ungainly folding doors.
She painted the wood-work white, and covered the walls with a paper showing pink roses on a white ground; made her curtains of white dotted muslin ruffled with lace, tying them at the windows, and the folding doors with big bows of soft pink cheesecloth, matching in color the roses on the paper. She painted the ugly furniture white, covering the chairs and sofas with a white cotton material showing a tiny stripe. The only silk permitted in the room was in the linings of the lamp-shades and on the cushions everywhere distributed – she is a woman who understands the art of cushions, the value of those civilizing touches which soft down sofa pillows lend the barest room.’ (Homes And Their Decoration, 1903)
Polished Wood Tables
‘Take the table covers off and polish the table top. Leave a square of white linen on it if you like to protect it from scratching if you must set things on it, but leave the most of it bare, for polished wood is always attractive.
This holds good, too, for the dining room table. Here, after you have packed away most of the silver and china and taken out any superfluous furnishings, you can have your meals in peace, using the table bare with nothing but a couple of table runners or a few doilies. If the wood gets a few blemishes, don’t mind. You are saving wear on your table linen, and laundry bills as well, and if you use paper napkins you are merely living the simple life and not disgracing as a housekeeper.’ (Chicago Tribune, July 1909)
Decorate With Ferns & Leaves
A ‘whitewashed room in a country place designed by young artists who could not afford paper – the most restful, the most delightful, and certainly the most refreshing room on a warm summer day to be found anywhere along our coast. And what had these young girls done to make it so? Nothing but to introduce flowers and greens everywhere – ferns and blossoms in glass bowls on the ample pine tables; bunches of laurel in pots on pedestals in the corners; branches of maple on the mantel, green awnings at the windows, boxes of flowers on the sills.
No one need suffer, therefore, who cannot emulate a neighbor’s costly appointments. The privilege of extravagance belongs to the few, but the right to refinement is a legacy to us all.’ (Homes And Their Decoration, 1903)
‘There should be a fern dish on your dining room mantel shelf and a box of growing plants on the sill. No matter if you can’t afford to buy such things of a florist, you can afford to take a trolley ride out into the country and dig up some of the flowers and ferns that are growing wild out there. When they die go out and get more. They will, more than anything else, give your apartment or house an air of coolness in summer. […]
There should be a big vase or jar or two in every room in the house, and when you make your pilgrimages to the country bring back with you leafy boughs, or even pine boughs, to fill these vases and give a green refreshing hint of nature to the city dwellers. Leaves are even more beautiful than flowers, once you come to study them, and they do not wither one-half so quickly.’ (Chicago Tribune, July 1909)
Keep the Bedrooms Darkened
‘In the bedrooms take out half the pictures and every piece of furniture that can be spared. Be sure that there are dark inside blinds in order that the impertinent sunlight may not disturb and waken you from your 6 to 7 o’clock nap. The inner curtains should be light and transparent. Cheese cloth in straight lengths is satisfactory. […]
Keep all the windows open, but shaded, all day long when the days are hot. Leave doors open all through the house to get the benefit of any draft of air.
Cooking & The Fireless Cooker
Plan to have the cooking done for the most part in the cool hours of the morning, then do not light the stove again all day.
If you have no fireless cooker, extemporize one with two closely covered kettles, one con- siderably smaller than the other. The food is put in the smaller kettle, brought to the boiling point, and allowed to cook from ten to twenty minutes. Water is boiling in the larger kettle, and into this the hot smaller kettle is put, with the cover on tight. The two kettles are now allowed to boil a few minutes, then are taken from the stove, the cover put on the larger kettle, and set on a heavy pad of folded newspaper, and more newspapers or an old blanket are thrown over them. At the end of three or four hours the food is cooked and ready for a final heating.
To keep the house cool in summer, summing it all up, may be achieved by banishing the superfluous, giving the air a chance to circulate and minimizing the work.’ (Chicago Tribune, July 1909)
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