Tuesday, June 17, 2008


It was several weeks before the Copley house was finished. Even then there were cushions to make out of old pieces brightened up by the stitches of embroidery or applique work of leaves cut from bits of old velvet. There were rugs to braid out of all the old rags the house afforded and there were endless curtains to wash and hem and hemstitch and stencil and put up. All the family united to make the work as perfect a thing of the kind as could be accomplished. Every evening was spent in painting or papering, or rubbing down some bit of old furniture to make it more presentable, and gradually the house began to assume form and loveliness.

Paint, white paint, had done a great deal toward making another place of the dreary little house. The kitchen was spotless white enamel everywhere, and enough old marble slabs had been discovered to cover the kitchen table and the top of the kitchen dresser, and to put up shelves around the sink and under the windows. Mr. Copley brought home some ball-bearing casters for the kitchen table, and spent an evening putting them on, so it would move easily to any part of the kitchen needed. Cornelia and Louise rejoiced in scrubbing the smooth white surfaces that were going to be so convenient and so easily kept clean. Even the old kitchen chairs had been painted white and enamelled, and Cornelia discovered by chance one day that a wet sponge was a wonderful thing to keep the white paint clean; so therefore Louise spent five minutes after dinner every evening going about with her wet sponge, rubbing off any chance fingermarks of the day before putting the gleaming kitchen in battle-array for the next day.

The dining room had gradually become a place rest and refreshment for the eyes as well as the palate. Soft green was the prevailing color of furniture and floor, with an old grass rug scrubbed back to almost its original color. The old couch was tinkered up and covered with gay cretonne in greens and grays, with plenty of pillows covered with the same material. The curtains were white with a green border of stencilling. The dingy old paper had been scraped from the walls, which had been painted with many coats of white; and a gay green border had been stencilled at the ceiling. The carpenter had found an old plate-rail down in the shop, which, painted white, made a different place of the whole thing, with a few bits of mother's rare old china rightly placed, two Wedgewood plates in dull yellow, another of bright green, a big old blue willow ware plate, some quaint cups hung on brass hooks under a little white shelf. One couldn't ask for a pleasanter dining-room than that. It dawned upon the family anew and joyously every time any of them entered the room, and made them a little better and a little brighter because it spoke "home" so softly and sweetly and comfortingly.....

But the living room was the crown of all, wide and pleasant and many-windowed with its stone fireplace, wide mantle, adorned with a quaint old pair of brass candlesticks that had belonged to the grandmother; the walls covered with pale-yellow felt-paper like soft sunshine; the floor planed down to the natural wood, oiled and treated with shellac; and the old wooled rugs in two tones of gray, which used to be bedroom rugs when Cornelia was a baby, washed and spread about in comfortable places; it no more resembled the stuffy, dark little place they used to call a "parlor" than say resembles night. Soft white sheer curtains veiled the windows everywhere, with over-curtains of yellow cotton crepe; and the sunshine seemed to have taken up its abode in that room even on dark days when there was no sun to be seen. It was as if it had stayed behind from the last sunshiny day, so bright and cheerful was the glow.

The little "bay" was simply overflowing with ferns the children had brought from the woods, set in superfluous yellow and gray bowls from the kitchen accumulation. Harry ran extra errands after hours, and saved enough to buy the yellowest, throatiest canary the city afforded, in a big wicker cage to hang in the window.

Cretonne covers in soft gray tones covered the shabby old chairs and couch, and Cary and his father spent hours with pumice-stone and oil, polishing away at the piano, the bookcase, and the one small mahogany table that was left, while Cornelia did wonderful things in the way of artistic shades for little electric lamps that Cary rigged up in odd, unexpected corners, made out of all sorts of queer things: an old pewter sugar-bowl, this with a shade of silver lace lined with yellow, a relic of some college costume; a tall gray jug with queer blue Chinese figures on it that had been among the kitchen junk for years, this with a dull blue shade; a bright yellow vase with a butterfly-yellow shade; and a fat green jar with willow basket-work around it on which Cornelia put a shade of soft green, with some old brown lace over it.

The room was really wonderful when it was done, with two or three pictures hung in just the right spot, and some photographs and magazines thrown comfortably about. Really one could not imagine a pleasanter or more artistic room,not if one had thousands to spend. The first evening it was all complete the family just sat down and enjoyed themselves in it, talking over each achievement of cushion or curtain or wall as a great connoisseur might have looked over his newly aquired collection and gloated over each specimen with delight.

~ an excerpt from Re-Creations
by Grace Livingston Hill

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