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Recent successful interiors in this composite mode suggest that no definite rules can take the place of trained taste and intimate understanding of the different kinds of furnishings and their respective decorative values. Some general considerations are, however, useful factors in achieving a satisfactory result. A diversified effect may be obtained by combining furniture of different nationalities that in structural lines or decoration are similar in spirit. There is a close family relation, for instance, between some Queen Anne and some Venetian chairs, for the Venetians borrowed from many sources when they were making and decorating their famous furniture.
Pieces of furniture even more diverse in design may be combined when there is such kinship between them as comes from the influence of the great art periods such as the Gothic or the Renaissance, as Eberlein has pointed out in that excellent volume, "The Practical Book of Interior Decoration." The characteristics of the Italian Renaissance, found not only in Italian but also in Spanish, French and English furniture, may permit an Italian table to be used with some of the seventeenth century English chairs such as the carved Yorkshires. The baroque red and gold lacquered chairs of Spain, or Restoration chairs and settees with their flamboyant curves and carvings, might be selected to form a decorative ensemble with a lacquered Venetian commode. Not every piece may thus be successfully combined with others, for line, scale, wood and ornament must be carefully considered.
Almost any piece of furniture may be introduced into a room, provided it be distinctive and the only one of its style displayed. Especially is this contrast method of association successful where the general background of the room is suggestive of a definite period. One's prized Italian credenza, picked up because of its beautiful walnut and its Renaissance carving, may in this manner become the unusual note in an Elizabethan or modern interior. Lacquered cabinet work, because of its pronounced individuality, may be made the accent of a room with diverse furnishings. Sometimes it is necessary to increase the dignity of the pieces by the use of accessories, such as a pair of Italian side chairs with a credenza or some Oriental bibelots with lacquered furniture.
Similarity of woods will sometimes reconcile different period types of furniture. The walnut of Italy will often group well with Louis XIV furniture, French provincial pieces or even with walnut of the time of Charles II, William and Mary, or Queen Anne. Old oak pieces also occasionally go well with walnut.
A method much in vogue today to harmonize furniture of different periods in a room is the employment of uniform upholstery patterns. Chintz-so popular today that it is as modern as it is eighteenth century-may be used as a bed hanging and spread to help an Empire bed harmonize with a Sheraton side chair and a modern wicker easy chair upholstered in the same pattern. The use of bright modern coverings on Victorian furniture gives the pieces a gayer appearance than they had in the days of horsehair uphostery and permits them to fit quaintly into a room with modern chairs and tables. The fashion of combining varied upholstery textiles, as damask with chintz, is sanctioned today and also helps the decorative assembling of different furniture styles.
Accessories such as pictures, pottery ornaments, lamp shades and window draperies all play their part in echoing or foiling the effect of furniture introduced into a room with pieces from other times or nationalities. Thus in a boudoir whose painted and paneled walls, chaise longue and footstool suggest the Louis XVI period, an exotic William and Mary desk and a chair in lacquer may be introduced along with a Chinese pottery statuette on the mantel, a lamp with an Oriental stand and shade and other small bits of decoration in the Oriental mode at points carefully selected.
The simpler forms of furniture are the easiest to combine, for they have often a similarity of scale and structural line. Colonial wooden chairs, such as the ladder back and Windsor, may be combined with peasant furniture of Italy or the lighter provincial pieces of French countrysides. "If one knows thoroughly," says Frank Alvah Parsons, "the exact meaning and power of a Louis XVI chair, an Elizabethan table, an Italian console or a William and Mary bookcase, there is no doubt that these may be used successfully in one room."