Practical Decoration and Furnishing
( Originally Published 1919 )
IT would be a comparatively easy task for the writers to lay down an accumulation of abstract principles governing the different phases of Interior Decoration. They hope, however, to do much more than this ; and, fully recognising the many varying conditions under which the decorator—either professional or amateur—must work, to cover these conditions in such a practical way as to afford the greatest aid in the simplest and most systematic manner. Needless to say the salesman will similarly be able to derive much aid in intelligently advising his customers.
Part I of this book has dealt with the various Period styles in their purity in which anyone may gather many hints for present-day usage of the same. The present portion of the work treats in detail of the fitting up of our modern houses and apartments and will afford help to those who can make but a limited expenditure in the improvement of their homes as well as to those who are financially so situated as to be able to carry out such plans as they may wish.
Notwithstanding the great improvement made in the decoration of the interior during recent years, a fault continually manifest is the failure in many instances to consider the house or apartment as a whole. Instead of the clean, coherent effect which should everywhere be evident as the result of a well-mapped decorative campaign—be the property large or small—is felt a fit-fulness of purpose, a lack of grasp. The individual rooms may be charming, but the, fact that they have been separately considered, strung like beautiful but incongruous beads upon a string, is often but too plain.
So far are our best architects and decorators from erring in this respect that their first and guiding principle is unity, but—not always through their own fault as we shall see—the want of architectonic quality is frequently manifest in the work of clever and competent people, not to mention that of those decorators who are simply tradesmen, while houses which are furnished by their owners are seldom free from this defect.
The temporary craze for some particular style is responsible for much of this : the householder furnishes a room or two in the manner then in special fashion, or commissions a decorator to do it, and a year or two thereafter, that vogue having had its little day, other rooms are done, also in the style which is then "just the thing," but in a style which is likely to be totally at variance with the first. Do not householders know that such crazes are fostered by manufacturers and dealers for trade purposes, that art is a matter of sanity and equilibrium, and that worthy interior decoration recognises no such thing as the fad's ?
There may be choice and preference, and it is the aim of this book to lay before the householder and the decorator facts and principles that will enable choice and preference to be arrived at intelligently; so that they shall be the honest expression of the individual temperament, and not mere whim or a temporary "liking," to be effaced by the next attraction that grasps the attention.
As such an intelligent choice and appreciation must be based on knowledge, and as decoration by any method or in any style is a whole, its parts being intimately related and inseparable, it is urged that no decision be made or work begun until that knowledge be made one's own. Special attention has here been given to making its acquirement easy through simple, systematic and logical arrangement and treatment, but the contents of one chapter should not be acted upon until the others also have been studied. If a window cannot be curtained without reference to the other furnishings of the room, to the room itself, the others in the house, and the exterior of that house—and it cannot—then it is plain that these other things should be taken into account before we curtain the window.
The basis of all good decoration is plan well selected and adhered to; and as there are four methods of furnishing these will forthwith be stated.
The instances in which an entire house (or apartment) is newly decorated and supplied with new furniture throughout are few in comparison with those in which already acquired possessions are used at least to a partial extent: these possessions will naturally therefore have their influence in the selection of a style of furnishing. But it is advisable to see that they do not have too great an influence, and to remember that improvement can gradually be carried out. The plan may therefore be built upon future rather than existing conditions. It is possible even with limited means to change the whole character of an interior during the course of a few years, and each of these years may be marked by constant interest and pleasure. It is questionable if such gradual development worked out by the house-holder himself does not give quite as keen and solid satisfaction as the placing of a large commission with a professional decorator may give his wealthy neighbour. For those of abundant means to allow the possession of certain bad furnishings to hamper and mar right planning would be poor policy indeed—it is better to rid oneself of the incubus and have done with it.
FOUR METHODS OF FURNISHING
I. INTERNATIONAL-INTER PERIOD DECORATION
By far the most satisfactory method of furnishing, either for the elaborate or the simple house or apartment, is that combining nationalities and periods which properly accompany each other as under sufficiently close decorative influences. Of such importance is this plan that it has been fully developed and exemplified in Part III. Its title indicates the scope of this method, its infinite variety, and its freedom from all narrowness of view.
Full provision is also there made for period furnishing where the walls must necessarily be simple, owing to the property being rented, or for other reasons. Many new houses and apartments are finished interiorly with wood-work of simple, classical design appropriate to almost any epoch. Doors and windows are usually in good proportion, the former being simply panelled. These features are so unobtrusive and non-committal that they may be left as they are, and with a treatment of the walls either in simple, tasteful style, or adapted more closely to the period chosen, furnishing may be in accordance with almost any period style. In many conditions and for non-plethoric purses this is an excellent method.
II. THE ONE-PERIOD METHOD
This method with its limitations is also mentioned in Part III, which see.
III. THE "MODERN" METHOD, OR THE "NEWER DECORATION"
This is a various, adaptable, and inexpensive style of decoration enabling those occupying small houses or apartments, if possessed of taste and judgment, to secure excellent and artistic results by simple means. It is fully described in. Part I, Chapter IX, and details for its carrying out are provided in the various chapters of Part II.
IV. THE NON-COMMITTAL METHOD
In many cases families possess much modern furniture, including wicker, of various kinds and of no particular style, and there is no alternative to using it. While it is not an advisable method of furnishing to be deliberately chosen, where it already exists and the owners have taste the results may be very charming and homelike.
Frequently it is possible to weed out gradually the less desirable pieces and substitute more desirable things. Many hints may be taken from the 'Modern Method," or a transformation effected by easy stages to Inter-period style. If either is done the decision made should be adhered to, as a fluctuating policy hinders good results here as elsewhere.
The improvement of our home-life and surroundings throughout the country, on the farm, and in remote districts as well as in the centres of civilisation should be a purpose dear to all of us. On holidays and anniversaries no better gift to relatives and intimate friends could be found than pieces of furniture or furnishings which are good in themselves and appropriate to the surroundings of those receiving them. As it is to the rising generation that we must look for improvement, so every boy and girl should be encouraged to take pride in the rooms they occupy and be helped in their development.
Great insistence has been laid upon the need of " expressing one's own personality in one's surroundings." The counsel when so baldly stated is apt to lead to self-consciousness, artificiality and a false striving to be different, resulting merely in freakishness of effect. If, with sincerity, we endeavour simply to make our surroundings as beautiful as in us lies, as homelike, as consistent with our needs and our social standing, we shall in the end find that we have expressed ourselves—as we are, and not according to some vain imagining of what our personality is.
Of the four methods of furnishing above described it will be seen that two contemplate the use of Period Furniture. There seems to be an impression among many who have given no particular attention to the subject that there is something esoteric about Period Furniture, that it is beyond their comprehension—and also that the furniture itself is beyond their pocketbooks. Both suppositions are probably wrong for readers of this book. Half the time spent on bridge, motors or "movies" for a few weeks would give them much valuable information, and for those who cannot afford genuine antiques there are always faithful reproductions.
"But why should I trouble myself about the styles of the past?" may be asked. Because there we find a beauty unapproached by modern designers. With the decadence of the Empire style the art of great furniture-design died, and we still await its resurrection.