Floors And Floor Coverings
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
In planning a room the color values should be divided into the natural divisions of the heaviest, or darkest, part at the bottom, which is the floor; the medium color tone in the middle, which is the wall; and the lightest at the top, which is the ceiling. This keeps the room from seeming top-heavy and gives the necessary feeling of support for the wall and ceiling. The walls and floor serve as a background and should not be insistant or startling in color; and the size and height of the room, the amount of wall space, the position of doors, windows and fireplace, the quantity and quality of the light, and the connecting rooms will all be factors in the color scheme and materials chosen.
The floor of a room must be right or all the character of the furnishings will be lost. One should first see that it is in perfect condition. If it is a hardwood or parquetry floor it should not be finished the bright and glaring yellow which is sometimes seen, but should be slightly toned down before the finish is put on. Samples of different tones should be submitted to be tried with samples of the rug and stuffs to be used before the decision is made. A wax finish is better than the usual coats of shellac, for the wax has a soft and beautiful glow, while shellac has a hard commercial glare.
A waxed floor, if properly taken care of, which is not difficult, wears extremely well and does not have the distressingly shabby appearance of a partly worn shellaced floor. If the floor is old and worn and is to be painted or stained all cracks should be filled, and the color chosen should be a neutral color in harmony with the rest of the room, the wood shades usually being the best, with the exception of cherry and the red tones of mahogany. Teak is a good tone for hard wood. Soft wood floors of such woods as pine, fir, and cypress can be made to have the appearance of hardwood if first scraped or sandpapered and then stained with an oil stain and finished with a thin coat of shellac and two coats of prepared floor wax.
The usual ways of using floor covering are : one large rug which leaves a border of hard wood floor of about a foot all around it; several small rugs placed with a well balanced plan upon the floor; and carpet, either seamless or of strips sewed together, made into one rug or entirely covering the floor.
In the majority of cases the use of a single large plain rug is by far the best plan, for it gives the feeling of an unobtrusive background whose beauty of color serves to bind the room in the unity of a well planned scheme ; and this sense of dignity and solidity goes a long way on the road to success. It is one of the most satisfactory methods of covering a floor imaginable. These plain carpets come in several grades and many colors and are woven in widths from nine to thirty feet which can be cut in any desired length. This makes it possible to have a rug which will be a suitable size for a room. The colors are very good, especially the soft grays, tans, putty color, and taupe. There are also some good blues and greens, a very beautiful dark blue having great possibilities. There are also, besides these wide carpets, narrow carpets from twenty-seven inches to four feet wide which can be sewed together and made into rugs, or the carpet can cover the entire floor. In some cases this is the most attractive thing to do, for it will make a room seem larger by carrying the vision all the way to the wall without the break of a border ; and it also covers a multitude of sins in the way of a rough floor. In these days of vacuum cleaners the old terrors of dust have lost their sting.
A plain carpet or rug may be used with propriety in any room in the house, provided the right color is chosen for the surroundings. Some people, however, prefer a figured carpet in the dining-room on account of the wear and tear around the table. This risk is not very great if the rug is of good quality in the first place. A two-toned all-over design is often chosen for halls and stairs because of the special wear which they receive, and a Chinese rug is a good selection to make with a stair carpet of soft blue and yellow Chinese design to match. A small, figured, all-over design is a good choice for a nursery.
Bedrooms may have either one large rug or be covered entirely with carpet, or have several rugs so placed that the floor is practically covered but is easily kept clean. Plain rugs are more restful in effect in bedrooms than figured rugs, and with plain walls and chintz are fresh and charming. These carpet rugs should be made with a flat binding which turns under and is sewed down, as this looks far better and lies flatter on the floor than the usual over-and-over finish, which is apt to stretch. All rugs should be thoroughly stretched before they are delivered as otherwise they will not lie flat.
There is a kind of plain woven linen rug, with a different colored border if desired, which is very good to use in many country houses. These rugs come in a large assortment of colors and sizes, and, when sufficient time is allowed, they can be made in special sizes. Old-fashioned woven and hooked rag rugs are not appropriate in all kinds of rooms, even in the country. They should only be used in the simple farm house type and in some bungalows, and should be used with the simple styles of old furniture and never with fine examples, whether copies or originals.
The light in a room must be taken into account in choosing a rug, and cold colors should not be used in north or cheerless rooms. The theory of color in regard to light has been explained in other chapters, very fully in the chapter on wallpapers, and its principles should be applied to all questions of furnishing, or disappointment will be the result.
The question of whether to use Oriental rugs or plain rugs is one which many people find hard to solve. One of the deciding factors is often finding just what is right for the room, for really beautiful Oriental rugs in large or carpet size are rare and also expensive, but soft-toned Persian rugs with their interesting floral designs, and Chinese rugs with their wonderful tones of blue and yellow are works of art and well worth the trouble necessary to discover them and the price asked. They are best adapted to some libraries and halls and some dining-rooms, but they should not be startling in either design or color. To my mind Oriental rugs are not well suited to the majority of living-rooms and bedrooms because of the constant and varied use of these rooms. When Oriental rugs are used there should be plenty of plain effect in the room; the walls, for instance, should be plain. I have never seen a room which was successful if both walls and rug were figured. A fine tapestry may be used with Oriental rugs, but that is quite different from a figured wall. If several rugs are to be used in one room they must be of the same color value and the same general color tone or the floor will appear uneven. One does not wish to have a room give the uncomfortable effect of "the rocky road to Dublin." A rug with a general blue tone must not be put with other rugs of many colors or an overpowering amount of red, but should be matched in color by having blue the chief color of the other rugs also. The color value, too, must be even, for a light rug next to a dark has the same disagreeable effect. It is impossible to have a beautiful room if the rug seems to rise up and smite you as you enter. Persian rugs with their conventional floral designs should not be used with the marked color and geometrical designs of Caucasian rugs. These points are important to remember and follow, for otherwise unity of scheme for the room will be impossible.
If one has several fine rugs well matched in color value and design they should be placed with a due regard to the shape of the room and the position of the furniture. A rug placed cat-a-cornered breaks up the structural plan of the room and makes it appear smaller than it really is. The new lines formed are at odds with the lines of the walls and interfere with the sense of space by stopping the eye in its instinctive journey to the boundary of things. Oriental rugs should be tried if possible in the rooms in which they are to be used before the final choice is made, and one must always try the rug with the light falling across the nap and also with the nap, for one way makes the rug lighter and the other darker, and one of the two may be just what is wanted.
If one owns a rug which seems far too bright to use it can be toned down, but the owner must take the risk of its being spoiled in the process. To me it does not seem a great risk, because if the rug is so bright that it is absolutely nerve-destroying and useless, and there is a chance that for a small sum it can be made charming, why not take it? I have never heard of one failing, but I suppose some of them must or the stipulation would not be made.
If an Oriental rug is used it should give the keynote for the color scheme, and the design of the rug will decide whether there can be any figured material used in the room. It is far easier to build up a scheme from a satisfactory rug than it is to try to fit one into a room which is otherwise finished. One's field of choice is much wider. Samples of wallpaper, curtain material and furniture coverings should always be tried with the rugs, whether Oriental or plain in color, for the scheme of a room must be worked out as a whole, not piece-meal. Each room must be considered in relation to the other rooms near it, because, although it may be beautiful in itself, if it does not harmonize with the connecting rooms the whole effect will be a failure. Vistas from one room to another should be alluring and charming; there should be no violent and clashing contrasts of color or styles of furniture or sudden change in the scale of furnishings. One room cannot shake off its relationship to the rest of the house and be a success, and floor coverings must bear their full share of responsibility in making the whole house beautiful.