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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 )
Should Be Used Only In Appropriate Settings
The interest all over the country in rooms of Spanish or Italian character may perhaps be traced to the very charming houses of this sort in Florida and along the Pacific coast. In such an environment they are proper, but a word of warning must be given to consider the setting before making such rooms. They settle rightly into rather large town houses, and if restraint is used, are also appropriate in the small as well as the large country or suburban house, when the architectural feeling is in sympathy.
The appeal of such rooms lies somewhat in their restraint, in the placement of furnishings and the austerity of the background.
In furnishing a room of this type, which is in a sense a period room, certain concessions must be made to modern comfort-by the use of one or two overstuffed pieces for instance-but the background should be restricted to the treatment of the period. The furniture may be of either walnut or oak and the draperies and wall hangings, textiles of red, yellow, green and blue in bold design.
Italian and Spanish Backgrounds
To begin once more where all decorating begins, with the background, remember that it probably must be built into the house. Both Spanish and Italian rooms have high ceilings and rough-plastered walls, and the ceilings, as a rule, are decorated. Walls should be left sufficiently bare to give a feeling of strength, restraint and restfulness, if a characteristic Latin interior is to be created. Dark woods, carved and decorated, colorful fabrics and rich embroideries give color to the room, and are a foil for the background.
The rough plaster used by the Italians, and by the Spaniards in connection with vivid colored tiles, is today being imitated most successfully by surprisingly simple processes, applied as paint is applied. The walls may be a cement or cream color, or two or three colors may be blended together, such as blue, green and yellow. After the rough plaster surface has been applied to the ordinary wall, the color is put over it. Have three buckets of oil paint, one of each color. First apply a brushful of blue, and while it is still wet, one of yellow and then one of green near it, so that one will run into the other. In some places splotches of the green will have more effect, and in other places the blue or the yellow.
Before leaving the background, mention should be made of the use of the arch, which it is well to have if possible. The opening between two rooms could be arched with an iron grille set in it; or use an arch in which to set a solid wood door without a frame. Carved or deeply-paneled wood doors are set right into the stone masonry. The doors, as well as the iron grilles, are very decorative. They are usually of dark walnut, of oak, or of what the Italians called Pino wood, with great ornamental hinges of wrought iron, wrought iron latches and bolts to hold them in place.
Iron is also used for the side lights and torcheres, either for the floor or the table. These give the best effect when holding real candles.
If books are to be set into the wail spaces, a pretty arrangement for their use is to adapt the niche, so frequent in rooms of this type, as a book case. This would be about as deep as the usual book case, painted vermillion or green, and of the shape shown in the illustration on page 63.
Many of the old floors in Italy and Spain were of stone, so today tiling or stone composition is replacing stone flagging. Small vivid rugs or Oriental rugs should be placed where furniture is grouped. But, keep the effect of bare floor space.
Character as well as color can be given by curtains of damask, or silk and cotton materials in damask patterns. By the way, the curtains should be hung on an iron rod with a metal spear head as a finial at each end. Iron rings should be attached to the curtains for the rod to pass through. Red, yellow and green, in rather strong tones, suit the plain background and the dark tones of the oak, and the rusty iron finish of the grille, metal candlesticks, candelabrum or side lights which are used in the room.
Italian and Spanish Furniture
The distinction between Italian furniture and Spanish furniture is that the Italians made most of their pieces entirely of wood, while the Spaniards in their tables combined wood with wrought iron. In the illustration on the opposite page the metal brace in a graceful curve extends from one end to the other below the table top. The wood construction of Spanish tables is somewhat lighter than that of Italian ones. Instead of four legs of a later period, the Italian Renaissance table had two massive ends with a stretcher between them. The Spaniards lightened these ends and made the stretcher of metal instead of wood. The chairs are a good deal alike, but the Italian chairs are heavier and more apt to be carved ornately. The arm chairs have high backs and usually have the backs and the seats upholstered in velvet or damask with the wood arms exposed. One type of Spanish chair shows studding; that is, the upholstery is put on with large ornamental tacks. Both Italians and Spaniards use leather for chair coverings.
Keep a Bare Effect
Many of the so-called Italian and Spanish rooms which are being made today, fail of effect because they are overcrowded. A few pieces placed against the wall, with great restraint shown in what is put on them, produces the austerity of their prototype. This is offset by the warm rich colors of the fabrics used in the draperies and the upholstery. It is this combination of austerity and deep coloring which makes the charm of these rooms. However, if a comfortable living room is to be made, some liberties must be taken. A comfortable group around a fireplace is almost a necessity. To get this, a sofa or davenport in an Italian or Spanish type can be found. But, instead of that sofa being pushed flat against the wall, it may be comfortably placed facing the fireplace. Besides the soft upholstered modern chair at the other side of the fireplace, somewhere near by in the group have the more formal austere Spanish or Italian arm or side chair.
But, having taken these liberties, do not take others. A leather screen may be used most effectively in a room of this sort to give both color and the upright motif where it is needed. Wail hangings in damasks, tapestries, and vivid velvets of all sorts, are preeminently suitable. Against the vermillion of recessed book shelves a porcelain figure of A Madonna could be used as could carved and inlaid wooden boxes. On another wall space use a massive chest as they are most characteristic.
If potted plants are used in the room, and the Italians and Spaniards used them extensively, they may be set in either the usual flower-pot, as the soft terra-cotta is an excellent color, or in the vivid pottery jars. The andirons are quite different from those used in an English room. Choose wrought iron such as that illustrated. The logs for the fire would be put in a large holder, also of wrought iron.