I unearthed an old journal recently and found in it the description of my dream house which follows.
The house was meant to be constructed in an ideal world in which lavish expenditure no longer presented moral difficulties.
If I were to design my dream house today, it would look rather different.
Ovens like this - more or less - actually do exist.
Now then. A kitchen must be primarily warm colors, and there must be much sun. Everything must be eminently cleanable. The oven must be the most efficient thing this side of the Nile. Therefore I shall have, in one corner, a great mud oven like the Tryphillians. It will not be a massive block; it will have nooks and crannies cut into it. So on winter days, one can tuck one's shoes in to dry, and climb on top to sit in a warm seat and smell baking bread and read. There will not be only flat benches. I shall have seats at strangely comfortable angles, and mounds to be used for tables... in fact there will be a pair of seats with a table between them expressly for studying Gemara. And there will be seats where one can easily reach over and adjust the oven without losing one's place in one's book. The inside of the oven will be large enough to bake pies and breads and casseroles and lasagnas and what-have-you, and it will have several doors so that one need not burn oneself to reach the back. In fact – as I don't know the laws of oven kashrut – perhaps we will have two ovens in this mud complex. Never fear, it will be painted with traditional Scandinavian designs, and will not be too large. It will be a thing of beauty and a joy forever and extremely useful. The smoke will go out a chimney from the two ovens and from the fireplace (dear me, we must have a fireplace!). And it will smell so delicious on Friday afternoons that all the hobos and whatnot from miles around will come to the door, and I can feed them my wonderful challah from my large oven, and they if they like can stay for Shabbos and we will have all these yeshiva-bachurs sitting around on the stove learning Gemara in the winter. Our house will be a meeting place for Sages […] Yes, that's what we'll have. A traditional Scandinavian/Ukrainian kitchen, with wonderful Scandinavian/Ukrainian/Italian/Israeli/etc. food, full of Eastern-European etc. yeshiva-bachurs, and they can hang their kapotes or whatever on the oven and they will dry nicely. (There will be stovetops, too.)
I think I will have a mud floor in the kitchen, to reflect the light. In some rooms I shall have mud and in others wood. I shall wax the floors in some rooms (the mud will have a sealant on it) so that we can all go sliding around in our socks.
Hanging from the wood beams on the ceiling of the kitchen, I have drying herbs and my pots and pans, which are copper. If one needs for whatever reason to go atop these beams (for they are sturdy and support weight, being broad) one simply need climb the oven. So I can have all these Gemara-kops sitting on the ceiling, learning – what fun would that be, to learn Gemara on the ceiling, fragrant herbs dangling below? By the way, the mud is a lovely light color. And it is easy to clean, being smooth.
The sink will face a window. And beside it, cut into the wall, I will have cupboards with cute little door in which to store sponges and soap. The doors will be of delicate wood sticks, and they will be sliding doors. There will be no dishwasher if I have anything to say about it. Ah, I know! Some of the people who spend Shabbos with us will stay on and we will teach them a trade, and they will help us if they wish if we have not time to get all the cleaning done. Nor will there be a dryer, though I suppose we must have a washing machine. It will be in a room just off the kitchen so all the soapy water things are in one area. The room will be quite dark, so it will be good for testing flashlights and whatnot. It will have however a powerful bulb with a cord (not a switch; I think cords are more fun) so probably halogen, so that one can easily determine if one's clothes are stained. It will be the ideal room for make-believe for children because of the darkness. We can string clothes from wall to wall, or what-have-you. The washing machine will be something quite small; we will tuck it into a closet with a cute little door. It will be silent.
The floor in this wash-room will be of wood. It will be squares of different colors of wood and each color can be used for a different pile of clothes. Thus one can toss dark clothes on the ebony square, and light clothes on the birch, and extra-hot water on the palm, and delicate on the willow, or whatever woods they use these days. It will be an easy way to teach children to sort clothes. And inlaid in these woods will be pictures of the trees whence they came, so that laundry-sorting will be an aesthetic exercise. There will be a broad swing that can be lowered from the ceiling (exposed beams are not always beautiful, but we can make them so, and they will be wonderfully useful in all things) so that one can sit beside one's laundry pile if one wishes, and swing back and forth above the piles, tossing clothes as one passes.
Another room off the kitchen is the parlor/living room/dining room. Perhaps the Remarkable Oven forms part of the wall between them, if there is one, so one may have the fireplace in the parlour. It is exceedingly Scandinavian, with built-in benches. It is a wood room, with many windows. We will eat in this room. Inside the built-in seats is storage space.
Two rooms open off this humble room; both are for entertainment. One is the spare room with no ostensible purpose. It is all Middle Eastern à la Sheharazad. Brilliant colors of tapestries, and silks, and all other exotic materials (all, I assure you, from fairly-paid workers!) adorn the walls; the floor is piled high with pillows. There are low tables here. Some of the furniture – though there is very little – is made from the odd materials people make things out of on islands (but of course none of it comes from animals that died anything but a natural death). There is mother-of-pearl, and horn, and coconut-shell, and quill, and shell. It is a lovely room. When we have lots of guests we use both it and the parlour. For both are parlours.
The other room opening off these parlours is the fancy-shmancy room. It is large, for when we host dancing events or NCSY parties or what-have-you, it is here. This is the only room of the house with a Versailles/Winter Palace-ish theme, and even that is restrained to be tasteful. As you ought to have figured out, the rest of the house is vegetable. This room is mineral. The floor is of black-and-white stone à la Delft, in checks. The walls, I must confess, are gilded BUT ONLY HERE AND THERE, FOR I AM NOT A ROMANOV. They are wood, with twining inlays of flora and fauna, and many mirrors. There are great sweeping draperies. Inlaid into the inlays are precious stones, in the most tasteful places. In short, it is the royal ballroom, a sight for sore eyes, and the place of elegance.
Let me see. The kitchen is fire. The Scandinavian parlour is earth. The Sheharazade parlour is water. The grand ballroom is air. Perhaps I ought to do solid, liquid, gas, plasma... or the four humours. Hee hee hee.
Adjoining the grand ballroom is the library, and it is breathtaking. Its wood is more refined than the rough lumber of the Scandinavian parlour, but it is still a dark color. There is inlay in places, but it lacks the jewels of the sweeping ballroom. And it does not twine quite so much. Think not grapevine but sealing wax. The library is full to the brim of books. It is a most amazing sight. The banisters leading up to the second level – for it is a two-level room – are perfectly polished and curved to effect a most enjoyable ride. Velvet couches are placed here and there on which to sprawl and read. There is one of those funny round chairs as well, and a porch swing beneath the stairs. If necessary, the doors can be opened so that the library adjoins the ballroom. It has high, tall windows, with the draperies to match. It is a room full of light. It opens onto the gardens, which I shall get to later, about the time I assign a color scheme to everything. Or perhaps it is in the center of the house. I shall decide later.
Somewhere in this house there are bedrooms and bathrooms. I think all these rooms shall be on the second floor. So let me first put a ground-floor bathroom in place. It is a sensible guest-bathroom, with a toilet and sink. And a mirror, of course. The floor is of the same black and white check as the ballroom, but the bathroom is small. Tapers frame the mirror above the sink. The counter is generous, so guests preparing to dance can dump all their makeup on it.
As the guest bathroom is downstairs, I suppose the guest bedroom had better be as well. It is a sweet, homey thing. It is a sunny room.
O, I nearly forgot part of the ballroom! Cut into the outside wall – if there is one; if not I will move it elsewhere – is a clear glass case. In it, each in its own tiny pigeonhole, is a collection of clear glass marbles. So we can take them out and play marbles on the vast marble floor, and the rest of the time the light shines through their many colors.
Now can I go upstairs? Yes. The children's rooms will be connected to each other with sliding walls à la Japan that can be locked on either side. So that when everyone is in a good mood, the rooms are really one long row of beds in a long room. They are all of birch wood and are well-lit.