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Home Embellishments

A discussion of the objects by way of embellishment, which may be required to give character and effect to a country residence, would embrace a range too wide, in all its parts, for a simply practical treatise like this; and general hints on the subject are all indeed, that will be required, as no specific rules or directions can be given which would be applicable, indiscriminately, to guide the builder in the execution of his work. A dwelling house, no matter what the style, standing alone, eit
er on hill or plain, apart from other objects, would hardly be an attractive sight. As a mere representation of a particular style of architecture, or as a model of imitation, it might excite our admiration, but it would not be an object on which the eye and the imagination could repose with satisfaction. It would be incomplete unless accompanied by such associates as the eye is accustomed to embrace in the full gratification of the sensations to which that organ is the 33 conductor. But assemble around that dwelling subordinate structures, trees, and shrubbery properly disposed, and it becomes an object of exceeding interest and pleasure in the contemplation. It is therefore, that the particular style or outward arrangement of the house is but a part of what should constitute the general effect, and such style is to be consulted only so far as it may in itself please the taste, and give benefit or utility in the purposes for which it is intended. Still, the architectural design should be in harmony with the features of the surrounding scenery, and is thus important in completing the effect sought, and which cannot be accomplished without it.

A farm with its buildings, or a simple country residence with the grounds which enclose it, or a cottage with its door-yard and garden, should be finished sections of the landscape of which it forms a part, or attractive points within it; and of consequence, complete each within itself, and not dependent upon distant accessories to support it—an imperium in imperio, in classic phrase. A tower, a monument, a steeple, or the indistinct outline of a distant town may form a striking feature in a pictorial design and the associations connected with them, or, the character in which they are contemplated may allow them to stand naked and unadorned by other objects, and still permit them to fill up in perfect harmony the picture. This idea will illustrate the importance of embellishment, not only in the substitution of trees as necessary appendages to a complete rural establishment, but in the erection of all the buildings necessary for occupation 34 in any manner, in form and position, to give effect from any point of view in which the homestead may be seen. General appearance should not be confined to one quarter alone, but the house and its surroundings on every side should show completeness in design and harmony in execution; and although humble, and devoted to the meanest purposes, a portion of these erections may be, yet the character of utility or necessity which they maintain, gives them an air of dignity, if not of grace. Thus, a house and out-buildings flanked with orchards, or a wood, on which they apparently fall back for support, fills the eye at once with not only a beautiful group, in themselves combined, but associate the idea of repose, of comfort, and abundance—indispensable requisites to a perfect farm residence. They also seem to connect the house and out-buildings with the fields beyond, which are of necessity naked of trees, and gradually spread the view abroad over the farm until it mingles with, or is lost in the general landscape.

These remarks may seem too refined, and as out of place here, and trenching upon the subject of Landscape Gardening, which is not designed to be a part, or but an incidental one of the present work, yet they are important in connection with the subject under discussion. The proper disposition of trees and shrubbery around, or in the vicinity of buildings is far too little understood, although tree planting about our dwellings is a practice pretty general throughout our country. Nothing is more common than to see a man build a house, perhaps in most elaborate and expensive 35 style, and then plant a row of trees close upon the front, which when grown will shut it almost entirely out of view; while he leaves the rear as bald and unprotected as if it were a barn or a horse-shed—as if in utter ignorance, as he probably is, that his house is more effectively set off by a flanking and background of tree and shrubbery, than in front. And this is called good taste! Let us examine it. Trees near a dwelling are desirable for shade; shelter they do not afford except in masses, which last is always better given to the house itself by a veranda. Immediately adjoining, or within touching distance of a house, trees create dampness, more or less litter, and frequently vermin. They injure the walls and roofs by their continual shade and dampness. They exclude the rays of the sun, and prevent a free circulation of air. Therefore, close to the house, trees are absolutely pernicious, to say nothing of excluding all its architectural effect from observation; when, if planted at proper distances, they compose its finest ornaments.

If it be necessary to build in good taste at all, it is quite as necessary that such good taste be kept in view throughout. A country dwelling should always be a conspicuous object in its full character and outline, from one or more prominent points of observation; consequently all plantations of tree or shrubbery in its immediate vicinity should be considered as aids to show off the house and its appendages, instead of becoming the principal objects of attraction in themselves. Their disposition should be such as to create a perfect and agreeable whole, when seen in connection with the 36 house itself. They should also be so placed as to open the surrounding landscape to view in its most attractive features, from the various parts of the dwelling. Much in the effective disposition of trees around the dwelling will thus depend upon the character of the country seen from it, and which should control to a great extent their position. A single tree, of grand and stately dimensions, will frequently give greater effect than the most studied plantations. A ledge of rock, in the clefts of which wild vines may nestle, or around which a mass of shrubbery may cluster, will add a charm to the dwelling which an elaborate cultivation would fail to bestow; and the most negligent apparel of nature in a thousand ways may give a character which we might strive in vain to accomplish by our own invention. In the efforts to embellish our dwellings or grounds, the strong natural objects with which they are associated should be consulted, always keeping in view an expression of the chief character to which the whole is applied.