Heaven knows what taste the lieutenant could boast of, but even he noticed one characteristic peculiarity about the whole place, which no luxury or style could efface--a complete absence of all trace of womanly, careful hands, which, as we all know, give a warmth, poetry, and snugness to the furnishing of a room. There was a chilliness about it such as one finds in waiting-rooms at stations, in clubs, and foyers at the theatres.
Anton Chekhov – Mire (1886)
Do we say such things today? Or if we do, is it with a hint of embarrassment or defiance? Or like the fabled file in a prisoner’s cake, is it better to slip them in as Chekhov quotes?
I’m sure nobody is unaware of what Chekhov meant by the chilliness of public spaces. As to why they are chilly - moderns are not so likely to borrow his domestic ideal as an evocative contrast.
Yet our homes are not the private and highly personal spaces they were in Chekhov’s day. Corporate and government interests have seen to that.