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How To Be A Decorator:
Principles Of Decoration
Colonial Living Rooms
The English Room
Spanish-Italian Living Rooms
The Living Room Without A Mantel
Living Room Points
Dining Rooms Points
Combination Living Room - Dining Room
Living Room - Dining Room Points
Halls, Sun Rooms And Porches
Points For Halls, Sun Rooms And Porches
Colonial And Modern Bedrooms
Colorful, Comfortable Nurseries
New Fashions In Draperies
How To Make Curtains And Draperies
Slip Cover Points
How To Make Slip Covers
How To Paint Furniture
Finishes For Natural Wood Furniture
( Originally Published 1930's )
Background, Color and Arrangement
There are bedrooms which merely answer the purpose of sleeping and dressing. They have a bed, bureau, and a necessary chair or two. They seem bare of comfort. Then there are bedrooms which not only have the bed, bureau, and chair, but they seem a place in which to live and to rest. The art of putting comfort and an inviting atmosphere into a bedroom is done by considering the many ways in which it will be used, and putting the necessary furniture for these various uses into the room in a way that charms.
This theory applies to every type of room-a Colonial bedroom, such as that shown on the opposite page, an English bedroom, an Italian bedroom, a modern bedroom with painted furniture, the average bedroom. In fact, very ordinary looking furniture which is conveniently placed, in a very ordinary background, and which is relieved by pretty chintzes, and really nice small accessories, may take on an inviting atmosphere. Color and arrangement, and the choice of attractive small things are matters of taste rather than of expense.
There is a tendency today to go back to the canopied beds of the Colonial period. They are indeed very charming, and it is possible to find good modern reproductions. Where a double bed is not desired in a room, two small single beds, with square tops and square canopies, look very well.
The Colonial Bedroom
In a Colonial house, in a modern adaptation of such a house, or in an apartment, it is possible to create a comfortable bedroom with distinct Colonial feeling. The illustration shows a room built by The Studio. It was not strictly Colonial in size, shape, or furnishing as it had more comfort than the Colonists knew, as a rule, and more furnishings. But it had the atmosphere of such a room, given by using Colonial designs in furniture, chintz, and the contemporary accessories.
If you have a desire to make such a room, you probably have something to serve as a nucleus-a lovely old mantel with Colonial paneling, or one or two good pieces of furniture with the mellow tones that are only acquired with years of hand-rubbing, or possibly only the accessories-the colorful Sandwich glass, hand-made rugs, and quaint paintings. With any one of these things as a beginning, a delightful Colonial room can be evolved, and to it can be added the great essentials of modern comfort.
In many Colonial rooms built prior to 1776, you will find some that are charming, and a few combine comfort with this quality. Our forefathers did not have the comfort we have, but they frequently did have taste, and they lived in an era when furniture, mantelpieces, overdoors, and windows were all charmingly made. So let us take their good points and combine them with our comforts.
One of the first essentials in creating a Colonial atmosphere is to have the height of the ceiling, woodwork, and walls approximately that used in the old houses. The very low ceiling has quaintness, but it does not make a cool room. The houses of the better sort, built late in the eighteenth and the early nineteenth century, had comfortably high ceilings of eight feet or even nine feet, which is the height of our usual modern ceilings and the height of that in The Studio.
Since the old houses had architectural features in the woodwork, follow the old precepts where it is possible. We chose a simple mantelpiece and at small expense paneled over it, finishing the paneling with pilasters, which are repeated on each side of the two doors which complete the wall space on that side of the room. The window frames, doors, door frames, and cornice (the molding finishing the wall where it joins the ceiling) also show simple Colonial lines, and are all procurable in stock sizes from lumber mills through a builder or carpenter. This woodwork, as well as the paneling and the fireplace, we painted a creamy yellow.
Wallpaper of soft, warm gray, with a diamond pattern outlined in yellow, covers the other three walls and is a reproduction of an old wallpaper in Longfellow's house in Portland, Maine. The only note of color in this background is the brick facing around the fireplace opening. This is of old brick laid up with dull-colored cement, not bright white pointings. (Pointing is the term applied to the substance used to hold the bricks together.)
It is the exception rather than the rule for modern houses to have fireplaces in the bedrooms, but if it is possible to put another flue into the chimney, which may also carry a flue from a fireplace on the main floor, do by all means have one. We no longer use such fires as our means of heating, but we need them for their charm-and comfort, too, as nothing warms so pleasantly as a crackling, blazing fire. The Studio room without the fireplace would lose much of its character.
Reproduction of Old Furniture
But it is the furniture which really gives the room its atmosphere. The four-poster with its curved tester top, the desk, the highboy, the butterfly table-all reproduce, if not with exactness, at least with a delightful spirit, the feeling of the old pieces. The bed, desk, table, and chairs are especially good in proportion. This furniture can be bad in either walnut or maple. We used the maple for this room because the soft finish, which imitates and suggests the antique, blends nicely with our color scheme: warm gray-yellow walls, cream woodwork, brown floor, draperies with green ground and tiny red flowers with an accent of the red in the pipings, and a glazed chintz slip cover for the wing chair. The window curtains with their simple, full valances, like the bed curtains, are looped back with red tie-backs.
Over a plain brown rug, or a bare floor, braided rugs of different sizes are placed where convenience dictates-in front of the bureau, by the bedside, and in front of the fireplace.
We find modem comfort in this room in the easy chair by the fireplace, the desk, the position of the bed-not facing windows where the light wakes you up, but facing into the room. The highboy is convenient, with its many drawers far holding clothes. At the opposite end of the room is a commodious bureau with a mirror above it. A lowboy (a table with three drawers) is used here as a table between the bed and window, exactly facing the desk.
For light, instead of the candles of Colonial days, or oil lamps almost as dim, tall glass candlesticks, with pleasantly shaded electric bulbs, are used. Quaint, old pewter sidelights, with shields to prevent the candles from smoking the wall, are on either side of the fireplace, but are conveniently wired for electricity. The lamp of Sandwich glass, closely imitating that made at Sandwich on Cape Cod in the old days, has not a feeble oil light, but a, strong electric bulb which gives good light through a parchment shade, decorated with a Godey print. The banjo clock, the bit of luster, the silhouettes, and last but not least, the really old pastel portraits-each adds its bit to the atmosphere.
Draping Canopy Beds
There are many types of beds that are suitable for use in Colonial bedrooms, but four-posters are especially popular. With the very high posts they often support a canopy or tester which may be draped in many different ways.
The maple four-poster used is draped with a quaint percale matching the window curtains. The outside top is covered with a plain cream-colored percale and the underside, made of the same material, lies in soft folds which are tacked in place. The narrow valance or ruffle around the top is put on a gathering tape with a heading, and sewed to the stretched piece which covers the top.
The side curtains at the head of the bed are fastened to the top under the valance. The plain percale, laid in folds, was also used for the backing at the head of the bed. This piece extends down from the tester and is fastened to the lower edge of the head board. The spread is straight (two widths joined invisibly in the center) and bound, as are all the edges, with a narrow piping of red to match the rose-bud in the print. The valance around the bottom is made with a casing through which a brass rod is run. This rod (like a curtain rod) is screwed into the posts of the bed. This method of handling the lower valance is more practical than having the valance tacked to the side rails, for it will need to be cleaned frequently. This ruffle or valance should be made long enough just to clear the rugs, and the bedspread must cover the rod or rails to which it is fastened.
In the early Colonial days, beds were draped and curtains hung from the tester so that they could be drawn to shut out the chill night air. Today we can copy the spirit of these draped beds and yet not shut out any of the air which we find so essential.
Now that we are enjoying the simplicity of the furniture of our forefathers, the maple dressing table becomes a feature in a guest room done in the early American or Colonial style. There are many charming odd tables or lowboys which can be so adapted. A little maple powder table is really quite adequate in such a room. One with gracefully curved legs could be lined with a chintz to match the curtains at the windows. Plaited chintz shades on the lamps can be of a different pattern, though they carry out the general color scheme, and by being different, will avoid monotony. The lamps themselves can be good copies of old Sandwich glass in a clear green.
The maple low-boy on the previous page is very decorative with its graceful cabriole legs and delicately arched apron. A piece of this type is especially practical in a bedroom for it has more storage space than the ordinary dressing-table. It may be used, too, as the occasional table or sewing-table. The maple ladder-back chair with hand-woven rush seat is earlier in style, but is correct to use with this low-boy. The gay hooked rug adds a pleasant color note.
The Modern Bedroom
As a general rule the background of bedrooms is wallpaper, paint, or wall covering of a more informal character than that in the rooms downstairs. Today there is not much difference in color, as the pale tones, tan, gray, blue, green and peach, are all used, but blue and peach are particularly nice for bedrooms, while parchment, gray-green and gray suit living-room, diningroom and hall. If the walls of the living-room, for instance, are paneled (with wood or applied molding), it is unlikely that the bedrooms will be treated in the same way in the moderatesized house.
If the wall is plain, it is doubly important that its color be attractive. There are today plain wallpapers in the solid colors which are most suitable and by trying a sample and determining if it is right, you are sure of the color result. Although pale yellow or tan with white woodwork is in no way objectionable, it has been used extensively and it is seldom as gracious a background as a pale color-a mere tint of a color. Peach, for instance, is a tint, not a strong color. In some lights it looks almost like a pinkish-cream, but nevertheless, the color is there and lends itself to the furnishings. Other contrasting colors bring it out. With this pale peach wall curtains and chair covers are very effective when made of chintz with a pale blue ground and roses of pink and yellow and a binding of deep rose.
Pale blue walls and a chintz with a yellow ground with rose, red and blue in the floral pattern is another good combination. Still another is pale yellow walls and chintz with mauve, green, and yellow in it, with a binding, perhaps, of green. Use at least three colors to complete the color scheme in a bedroom.
The type of chintz to select is one that is less formal than that for a living-room. Floral patterns are particularly good. The scale of the pattern depends on the room. Little sprigged designs and stripes and baskets are better to use upstairs than down.
When no particular period style is chosen for a bedroom, and the furnishings include a pair of twin beds, a bureau; and chest of drawers of walnut or mahogany, study this furniture and see if it falls under any general type. It probably does. Then select rugs, curtains, and lamps to harmonize.
On the other hand, if there is no distinct type, you must depend on color, pretty chintz, a comfortable chaise longue, an overstuffed chair or two, and lamps to get your effect. Many women spend a great deal of money on other things in the house, but never have a comfortable chair, a near-by table, a lamp, and a foot-stool forming a really comfortable group in the room they use most. Pick out a sunny window in a bedroom and put such a group near it. Perhaps you think you have not space for it. Can you move some piece of furniture away and make room? Try it.
If the beds are white iron with brass knobs, try painting them a color. In a room with peach walls, either peach or the pale blue used in the chintz would be a good color to paint the beds. Make coverlets of the chintz with bindings matching the color of the bed, and you will have a charming and harmonious room.
The Young Girl's Room
Every growing girl is anxious to have her own bedroommost girls, as they near sixteen, or even before, show an interest in making their rooms attractive. It is a wise mother who encourages this and helps her daughter form her taste along good lines.
Furthermore, a young girl's room should be of a somewhat different character than that of her elders. It should show daintiness, simplicity, and it may today be as colorful and as expressive of personality as the girl desires. It is wise to discourage the too great use of college pennants, flags, and so forth, although one, perhaps of the girl's own school or college, need not spoil the appearance of the room, and does add to the personality. Fortunately, however, the day of the over-display of such emblems is past.
The Studio made the room for a young girl which is illustrated on the next page. The atmosphere created is due to the painted furniture, the bright coloring of the draperies, the ruffled curtains, and the general air of freshness and simplicity. In planning this bedroom we used furniture of simple Colonial lines which fits into the average American home. It was painted a soft apple-green with gay bouquets of flowers as a decoration and a yellow stripe outlining the edges of the drawers, top surfaces, and bed-posts. By choosing furniture of good lines, curtains of a lovely color, the taste of the girl is trained in the right direction.
With this colorful furniture we chose soft beige with a hint of pink in it for the background. If a girl has a preference for pink, the walls could be pale apricot.
If the background and furniture is already chosen, allow the girl herself to show her own preference in draperies, pillows, lamp shades and pictures. Taste, if good, should be allowed to express itself; if not good, it should be guided towards the best.
Although a room could be furnished with fewer pieces than we used, when possible it is nice to have a small dressing table, like the one illustrated, as well as the bureau and chest of drawers; a desk, even though small, as it induces study and the fast vanishing art of letter writing; and the sewing-table with its convenient drawers. A chaise longue and an easy chair are luxuries that are nice to have. In this case we combined wicker pleasantly with painted furniture.
The floor was covered with a brown carpet made chiefly of linen, while the overdraperies were an inexpensive chintz with a flowered pattern on a cream ground. Instead of side curtains, a valance and tie-backs were used with the curtains themselves of white net finished with a ruffle. The bed-spread was trimmed with the chintz, and the chaise longue had cushions covered with it, with small pillows of contrasting colors.