Decorating And Decoration
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
With special reference to walls, floors, and furniture.
It is always best to begin by first considering those things in which we have least room for choice. On account of the change and want of aim of fashion," the least variety is to be found in floor covering, and the greatest in wall covering-- supposing we use wall paper, which is almost always the best where economy is a motive.
The first step, it is true, that time dictates in preparing the house, is to color the wood-work and the walls. But this being done to suit the taste as far as it alone is concerned, trouble is apt to come in finding carpets to correspond. As the accessible variety of wall paper and tints for painting is so much greater than that of upholstery and carpets, it is best to select the carpets at the very outset. Then it will be comparatively easy to find appropriate furniture and, that being selected, to find appropriate wall paper and to paint appropriately, if the woodwork is to be painted. One strong argument in favor of unpainted woodwork, especially as compared with that painted white, is that it will tone in with a variably greater variety of carpets and wall decorations. White woodwork is constantly bringing to grief the best laid plans of wall and floor decoration. Pretty papers and car-pets have more than once been sent home, and even put in place, before it has been realized that the uncompromising woodwork must kill them.
For the floor of the entrance or hall, encaustic tiles are best in durability as well as in appearance. Combinations of these may be made good and harmonious in color if we will but be simple and not attempt display. Marble tiling, to be satisfactory, must be expensive, and demands the exercise of great taste and judgment. Next to tiling, hard wood, paint, or even oilcloth, if it can be had of moderately fair design and color, should be preferred to carpet.
For other floors in the house a large rug, reaching to within about a foot and a half or two feet of the walls, is, for many reasons, to he preferred to a nailed-down carpet covering the entire floor. This may be made up of carpeting sold by the yard, with a border ; or may be an Eastern carpet in one piece, which of course is very greatly to be preferred. For the floor itself hard wood is best. If it have a border, one of simple design should he chosen, avoiding conspicuous spots or zigzags, or sharply contrasted stripes. if it is to be painted, the carpet, furniture, and wall paper should first be chosen, then the floor color agreeably to all of these, contrasting not too strongly with the carpet, or the effect of breadth over the whole floor maybe destroyed.
In the carpet the contrasts and colors should generally be not too striking, because it is the thing most under our eyes when they often need rest. If the texture l a deep velvety pile, the contrasts of lights and darks and separate colors may be greater. Generally, it had better be inclined to the dark and warm in tone. Aggravating lessons in geometry, as well as roses, scroll, and pictures, as subjects of design in carpet, are things to be tabooed. There are to he found carpets of fair design copied from Eastern patterns, but their over preciseness and painfully small accuracies, and their inferiority of color, leave them far be-hind a genuine Oriental carpet, with its slight pleasing waywardness.
In choosing furniture, consider the colors of the woods. Against a wall of dull red, black or (lark oak will generally look well. And with a wall of sage or olive green, greenish blue or dull gray blue ; mahogany, oak, walnut, or rosewood. Yellow with black and some kinds of gray always looks well. Rarely choose any wood lighter than oak. If the articles be of somewhat light construction, they may contrast rather strongly with the floor and walls ; if large enough to make important masses iii the room, the contrast should not be of a sudden and violent kind. The introduction of black in furniture is often of great value. Generally take the plainest and most reasonably constructed furniture that you can find. Avoid in it extravagance of shape ; curving fronts to drawers, things made to imitate drawers, and doors, and lumps of carving glued on. Do not lightly, and without consideration, choose adjustable chairs, extension tables, and shutting beds. Avoid having a piece of furniture which is not quite sufficient for its uses, and so has to be eked out by other insufficient things; such as two or three inconvenient makeshifts for book-cases, cabinets, etc.