She is what I would call a behavioralist, in the sense that she believes that it is environment that creates us. That she wanted to control everything. What is the right sort? What they pick as their best example is French 18th-century furniture. I do admire a lot of Victorian stuff — for instance, some of the Newport cottages, which she revolts against. The dining room of the Breakers — can you get more calories into that interior? But you have to admire the genius of doing that. She would say, my God, no way!
Of course, architects are the most brilliant people on the face of the earth, and they know everything and can design everything. But the fact of the matter is that interiors are frequently not really well thought out. Working from a large scale down to a small scale does not involve two different sides of the brain, but it is different ways of working. Wharton and Codman were very fond of past styles of furniture in comparison with the upstart Victorian furnishings surrounding them. Much preferring simplicity and order in decoration, they warned readers not to mix and match styles of furniture eclectically.
They also preferred the use of less detail, looking down on the Victorian love for clutter and busy wallpapers and fabrics. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Dewey Decimal. Edith Wharton. The Book of the Homeless That cheap originality which finds expression in putting things to uses for which they were not intended is often confounded with individuality; whereas the latter consists not in an attempt to be different from other people at the cost of comfort, but in the desire to be comfortable in one's own way, even though it be the way of a monotonously large majority. It seems easier to most people to arrange a room like some one else's than to analyze and express their own needs.
Men, in these matters, are less exacting than women, because their demands, besides being simpler, are uncomplicated by the feminine tendency to want things because other people have them, rather than to have things because they are wanted. But it must never be forgotten that every one is unconsciously tyrannized over by the wants of others,—the wants of dead and gone predecessors, who have an inconvenient way of thrusting their different habits and tastes across the current of later existences. The unsatisfactory relations of some people with their rooms are often to be explained in this way.
They have still in their blood the traditional uses to which these rooms were put in times quite different from the present. It is only an unconscious extension of the conscious habit which old-fashioned people have of clinging to their parents' way of living. The difficulty of reconciling these instincts with our own comfort and convenience, and the various compromises to which they lead in the arrangement of our rooms, will be more fully dealt with in the following chapters. To go to the opposite extreme and discard things because they are old-fashioned is equally unreasonable.
The golden mean lies in trying to arrange our houses with a view to our own comfort and convenience; and it will be found that the more closely we follow this rule the easier our rooms will be to furnish and the pleasanter to live in. In the Anglo-Saxon mind beauty is not spontaneously born of material wants, as it is with the Latin races.
We have to make things beautiful; they do not grow so of themselves. The necessity of making this effort has caused many people to put aside the whole problem of beauty and fitness in household decoration 19 as something mysterious and incomprehensible to the uninitiated. The architect and decorator are often aware that they are regarded by their clients as the possessors of some strange craft like black magic or astrology.
This fatalistic attitude has complicated the simple and intelligible process of house-furnishing, and has produced much of the discomfort which causes so many rooms to be shunned by everybody in the house, in spite or rather because of all the money and ingenuity expended on their arrangement. Yet to penetrate the mystery of house-furnishing it is only necessary to analyze one satisfactory room and to notice wherein its charm lies. To the fastidious eye it will, of course, be found in fitness of proportion, in the proper use of each moulding and in the harmony of all the decorative processes; and even to those who think themselves indifferent to such detail, much of the sense of restfulness and comfort produced by certain rooms depends on the due adjustment of their fundamental parts.
Different rooms minister to different wants and while a room may be made very livable without satisfying any but the material requirements of its inmates it is evident that the perfect room should combine these qualities with what corresponds to them in a higher order of needs. At present, however, the subject deals only with the material livableness of a room, and this will generally be found to consist in the position of the doors and fireplace, the accessibility of the windows, the arrangement of the furniture, the privacy of the room and the absence of the superfluous.
The position of doors and fireplace, though the subject comes properly under the head of house-planning, may be included in this summary, because in rearranging a room it is often possible 20 to change its openings, or at any rate, in the case of doors, to modify their dimensions. The fireplace must be the focus of every rational scheme of arrangement. Nothing is so dreary, so hopeless to deal with, as a room in which the fireplace occupies a narrow space between two doors, so that it is impossible to sit about the hearth.
In town houses especially, where there is so little light that every ray is precious to the reader or worker, window-space is invaluable. Yet in few rooms are the windows easy of approach, free from useless draperies and provided with easy-chairs so placed that the light falls properly on the occupant's work. It is no exaggeration to say that many houses are deserted by the men of the family for lack of those simple comforts which they find at their clubs: windows unobscured by layers of muslin, a fireplace surrounded by easy-chairs and protected from draughts, well-appointed writing-tables and files of papers and magazines.
Who cannot call to mind the dreary drawing-room, in small town houses the only possible point of reunion for the family, but too often, in consequence of its exquisite discomfort, of no more use as a meeting-place than the vestibule or the cellar? The windows in this kind of room are invariably supplied with two sets of muslin curtains, one hanging against the panes, the other fulfilling the supererogatory duty of hanging against the former; then come the heavy stuff curtains, so draped as to cut off the upper light of the windows by day, while it is impossible to drop them at night: curtains that have thus ceased to serve the purpose for which they exist.
The writing-table might find place against the side-wall near either window; but these spaces are usually sacred to the piano and to that modern futility, the silver-table. Thus of necessity the writing-table is either banished or put in some dark corner, where it is little wonder that the ink dries unused and a vase of flowers grows in the middle of the blotting-pad. The hearth should be the place about which people gather; but the mantelpiece in the average American house, being ugly, is usually covered with inflammable draperies; the fire is, in consequence, rarely lit, and no one cares to sit about a fireless hearth.
Besides, on the opposite side of the room is a gap in the wall eight or ten feet wide, opening directly upon the hall, and exposing what should be the most private part of the room to the scrutiny of messengers, servants and visitors. This opening is sometimes provided with doors; but these, as a rule, are either slid into the wall or are unhung and replaced by a curtain through which every word spoken in the room must necessarily pass.
In such a room it matters very little how the rest of the furniture is arranged, since it is certain that no one will ever sit in it except the luckless visitor who has no other refuge. Even the visitor might be thought entitled to the solace of a few books; but as all the tables in the room are littered with knick-knacks, it is difficult for the most philanthropic hostess to provide even this slight alleviation.
When the town-house is built on the basement plan, and the drawing-room or parlor is up-stairs, the family, to escape 22 from its discomforts, habitually take refuge in the small room opening off the hall on the ground floor; so that instead of sitting in a room twenty or twenty-five feet wide, they are packed into one less than half that size and exposed to the frequent intrusions from which, in basement houses, the drawing-room is free.
But too often even the "little room down-stairs" is arranged less like a sitting-room in a private house than a waiting-room at a fashionable doctor's or dentist's. It has the inevitable yawning gap in the wall, giving on the hall close to the front door, and is either the refuge of the ugliest and most uncomfortable furniture in the house, or, even if furnished with taste, is arranged with so little regard to comfort that one might as well make it part of the hall, as is often done in rearranging old houses. This habit of sacrificing a useful room to the useless widening of the hall is indeed the natural outcome of furnishing rooms of this kind in so unpractical a way that their real usefulness has ceased to be apparent.
The science of restoring wasted rooms to their proper uses is one of the most important and least understood branches of house-furnishing. Privacy would seem to be one of the first requisites of civilized life, yet it is only necessary to observe the planning and arrangement of the average house to see how little this need is recognized. Each room in a house has its individual uses: some are made to sleep in, others are for dressing, eating, study, or conversation; but whatever the uses of a room, they are seriously interfered with if it be not preserved as a small world by itself.
If the drawing-room be a part of the hall and the library a part of the drawing-room, all three will be equally unfitted to serve their special purpose. The indifference to privacy which has sprung up in modern times, and which in France, for instance, 23 has given rise to the grotesque conceit of putting sheets of plate-glass between two rooms, and of replacing doorways by openings fifteen feet wide, is of complex origin. It is probably due in part to the fact that many houses are built and decorated by people unfamiliar with the habits of those for whom they are building.
It may be that architect and decorator live in a simpler manner than their clients, and are therefore ready to sacrifice a kind of comfort of which they do not feel the need to the "effects" obtainable by vast openings and extended "vistas. In a handsome house such an observer is attracted rather by the ornamental detail than by the underlying purpose of planning and decoration.
He sees the beauty of the detail, but not its relation to the whole. He therefore regards it as elegant but useless; and his next step is to infer that there is an inherent elegance in what is useless. Before beginning to decorate a house it is necessary to make a prolonged and careful study of its plan and elevations, both as a whole and in detail. The component parts of an undecorated room are its floor, ceiling, wall-spaces and openings. The openings consist of the doors, windows and fireplace; and of these, as has already been pointed out, the fireplace is the most important in the general scheme of decoration.
No room can be satisfactory unless its openings are properly placed and proportioned, and the decorator's task is much easier if he has also been the architect of the house he is employed to decorate; but as this seldom happens his ingenuity is frequently taxed to produce a good design upon the background of a faulty and illogical structure.
Much may be done to overcome this difficulty by making slight changes in the proportions of the 24 openings; and the skilful decorator, before applying his scheme of decoration, will do all that he can to correct the fundamental lines of the room. But the result is seldom so successful as if he had built the room, and those who employ different people to build and decorate their houses should at least try to select an architect and a decorator trained in the same school of composition, so that they may come to some understanding with regard to the general harmony of their work.
In deciding upon a scheme of decoration, it is necessary to keep in mind the relation of furniture to ornament, and of the room as a whole to other rooms in the house. As in a small house a very large room dwarfs all the others, so a room decorated in a very rich manner will make the simplicity of those about it look mean. Every house should be decorated according to a carefully graduated scale of ornamentation culminating in the most important room of the house; but this plan must be carried out with such due sense of the relation of the rooms to each other that there shall be no violent break in the continuity of treatment.
- Mary Anerley : a Yorkshire Tale;
- Your PureLifestyle Plan Permanent Weight Loss & Simple Steps to Nutritional Literacy.
- Catch of the Day;
If a white-and-gold drawing-room opens on a hall with a Brussels carpet and papered walls, the drawing-room will look too fine and the hall mean. In the furnishing of each room the same rule should be as carefully observed. The simplest and most cheaply furnished room provided the furniture be good of its kind, and the walls and carpet unobjectionable in color will be more pleasing to the fastidious eye than one in which gilded consoles and cabinets of buhl stand side by side with cheap machine-made furniture, and delicate old marquetry tables are covered with trashy china ornaments.
It is, of course, not always possible to refurnish a room when it is redecorated. Many people must content themselves with 25 using their old furniture, no matter how ugly and ill-assorted it may be; and it is the decorator's business to see that his background helps the furniture to look its best. It is a mistake to think that because the furniture of a room is inappropriate or ugly a good background will bring out these defects.
It will, on the contrary, be a relief to the eye to escape from the bad lines of the furniture to the good lines of the walls; and should the opportunity to purchase new furniture ever come, there will be a suitable background ready to show it to the best advantage. Most rooms contain a mixture of good, bad, and indifferent furniture. It is best to adapt the decorative treatment to the best pieces and to discard those which are in bad taste, replacing them, if necessary, by willow chairs and stained deal tables until it is possible to buy something better.
When the room is to be refurnished as well as redecorated the client often makes his purchases without regard to the decoration. Besides being an injustice to the decorator, inasmuch as it makes it impossible for him to harmonize his decoration with the furniture, this generally produces a result unsatisfactory to the owner of the house. Neither decoration nor furniture, however good of its kind, can look its best unless each is chosen with reference to the other. It is therefore necessary that the decorator, before planning his treatment of a room, should be told what it is to contain.
If a gilt set is put in a room the walls of which are treated in low relief and painted white, the high lights of the gilding will destroy the delicate values of the mouldings, and the walls, at a little distance, will look like flat expanses of whitewashed plaster. When a room is to be furnished and decorated at the smallest possible cost, it must be remembered that the comfort of its occupants depends more on the nature of the furniture than of the 26 wall-decorations or carpet.
In a living-room of this kind it is best to tint the walls and put a cheerful drugget on the floor, keeping as much money as possible for the purchase of comfortable chairs and sofas and substantial tables. If little can be spent in buying furniture, willow arm-chairs  with denim cushions and solid tables with stained legs and covers of denim or corduroy will be more satisfactory than the "parlor suit" turned out in thousands by the manufacturer of cheap furniture, or the pseudo-Georgian or pseudo-Empire of the dealer in "high-grade goods.
It is to be regretted that, in this country and in England, it should be almost impossible to buy plain but well-designed and substantial furniture. Nothing can exceed the ugliness of the current designs: the bedsteads with towering head-boards fretted by the versatile jig-saw; the "bedroom suits" of "mahoganized" cherry, bird's-eye maple, or some other crude-colored wood; the tables with meaninglessly turned legs; the "Empire" chairs and consoles stuck over with ornaments of cast bronze washed in liquid gilding; and, worst of all, the supposed "Colonial" furniture, that unworthy travesty of a plain and dignified style.
All this showy stuff has been produced in answer to the increasing demand for cheap "effects" in place of unobtrusive merit in material and design; but now that an appreciation of better things in architecture is becoming more general, it is to be hoped that the "artistic" furniture disfiguring so many of our shop-windows will no longer find a market. There is no lack of models for manufacturers to copy, if their customers will but demand what is good. France and England, in the eighteenth century, excelled in the making of plain, inexpensive furniture of walnut, mahogany, or painted beechwood see Plates VII - X.
Ebook The decoration of houses by Edith Wharton - read online or download for free
Simple in shape and substantial in construction, this kind of furniture was never tricked out with moulded bronzes and machine-made carving, or covered with liquid gilding, but depended for its effect upon the solid qualities of good material, good design and good workmanship. The eighteenth-century cabinet-maker did not attempt cheap copies of costly furniture; the common sense of his patrons would have resented such a perversion of taste.
Were the modern public as fastidious, it would soon be easy to buy good furniture for a moderate price; but until people recognize the essential vulgarity of the pinchbeck article flooding our shops and overflowing upon our sidewalks, manufacturers will continue to offer such wares in preference to better but less showy designs. The worst defects of the furniture now made in America are due to an Athenian thirst for novelty, not always regulated by an Athenian sense of fitness.
No sooner is it known that beautiful furniture was made in the time of Marie-Antoinette than an epidemic of supposed "Marie-Antoinette" rooms breaks out over the whole country. Neither purchaser nor manufacturer has stopped to inquire wherein the essentials of the style consist. They know that the rooms of the period were usually painted in light colors, and that the furniture in palaces was often gilt and covered with brocade; and it is taken for granted that plenty of white paint, a pale wall-paper with bow-knots, and fragile chairs dipped in liquid gilding and covered with a flowered silk-and-cotton material, must inevitably produce a "Marie-Antoinette" 28 room.
According to the creed of the modern manufacturer, you have only to combine certain "goods" to obtain a certain style. This quest of artistic novelties would be encouraging were it based on the desire for something better, rather than for something merely different. The tendency to dash from one style to another, without stopping to analyze the intrinsic qualities of any, has defeated the efforts of those who have tried to teach the true principles of furniture-designing by a return to the best models.
If people will buy the stuff now offered them as Empire, Sheraton or Louis XVI, the manufacturer is not to blame for making it. It is not the maker but the purchaser who sets the standard; and there will never be any general supply of better furniture until people take time to study the subject, and find out wherein lies the radical unfitness of what now contents them.
See a Problem?
Until this golden age arrives the householder who cannot afford to buy old pieces, or to have old models copied by a skilled cabinet-maker, had better restrict himself to the plainest of furniture, relying for the embellishment of his room upon good bookbindings and one or two old porcelain vases for his lamps. Concerning the difficult question of color, it is safe to say that the fewer the colors used in a room, the more pleasing and restful the result will be. A multiplicity of colors produces the same effect as a number of voices talking at the same time.
The voices may not be discordant, but continuous chatter is fatiguing in the long run. Each room should speak with but one voice: it should contain one color, which at once and unmistakably asserts its predominance, in obedience to the rule that where there is a division of parts one part shall visibly prevail over all the others. To attain this result, it is best to use the same color and, if 29 possible, the same material, for curtains and chair-coverings. This produces an impression of unity and gives an air of spaciousness to the room.
When the walls are simply panelled in oak or walnut, or are painted in some neutral tones, such as gray and white, the carpet may contrast in color with the curtains and chair-coverings. For instance, in an oak-panelled room crimson curtains and chair-coverings may be used with a dull green carpet, or with one of dark blue patterned in subdued tints; or the color-scheme may be reversed, and green hangings and chair-coverings combined with a plain crimson carpet. Where the walls are covered with tapestry, or hung with a large number of pictures, or, in short, are so treated that they present a variety of colors, it is best that curtains, chair-coverings and carpet should all be of one color and without pattern.
Graduated shades of the same color should almost always be avoided; theoretically they seem harmonious, but in reality the light shades look faded in proximity with the darker ones. Though it is well, as a rule, that carpet and hangings should match, exception must always be made in favor of a really fine old Eastern rug. The tints of such rugs are too subdued, too subtly harmonized by time, to clash with any colors the room may contain; but those who cannot cover their floors in this way will do well to use carpets of uniform tint, rather than the gaudy rugs now made in the East.
The modern red and green Smyrna or Turkey carpet is an exception. Where the furniture is dark and substantial, and the predominating color is a strong green or crimson, such a carpet is always suitable. These Smyrna carpets are usually well designed; and if their colors be restricted to red and green, with small admixture of dark blue, they harmonize with almost any style of decoration. It is well, as a rule, to shun the decorative schemes 30 concocted by the writers who supply our newspapers with hints for "artistic interiors.
The arrangements suggested are usually cheap devices based upon the mistaken idea that defects in structure or design may be remedied by an overlaying of color or ornament. This theory often leads to the spending of much more money than would have been required to make one or two changes in the plan of the room, and the result is never satisfactory to the fastidious. There are but two ways of dealing with a room which is fundamentally ugly: one is to accept it, and the other is courageously to correct its ugliness. Half-way remedies are a waste of money and serve rather to call attention to the defects of the room than to conceal them.
P roportion is the good breeding of architecture. It is that something, indefinable to the unprofessional eye, which gives repose and distinction to a room: in its origin a matter of nice mathematical calculation, of scientific adjustment of voids and masses, but in its effects as intangible as that all-pervading essence which the ancients called the soul. It is not proposed to enter here into a technical discussion of the delicate problem of proportion. The decorator, with whom this book is chiefly concerned, is generally not consulted until the house that he is to decorate has been built—and built, in all probability, quite without reference to the interior treatment it is destined to receive.
All he can hope to do is, by slight modifications here and there in the dimensions or position of the openings, to re-establish that harmony of parts so frequently disregarded in modern house-planning. It often happens, however, that the decorator's desire to make these slight changes, upon which the success of his whole scheme depends, is a source of perplexity and distress to his bewildered client, who sees in it merely the inclination to find fault with another's work.
Nothing can be more natural than this attitude on the part of the client. How is he to decide between the architect, who has possibly disregarded 32 in some measure the claims of symmetry and proportion in planning the interior of the house, and the decorator who insists upon those claims without being able to justify his demands by any explanation comprehensible to the unprofessional?
It is inevitable that the decorator, who comes last, should fare worse, especially as he makes his appearance at a time when contractors' bills are pouring in, and the proposition to move a mantelpiece or change the dimensions of a door opens fresh vistas of expense to the client's terrified imagination.
Undoubtedly these difficulties have diminished in the last few years. Architects are turning anew to the lost tradition of symmetry and to a scientific study of the relation between voids and masses, and the decorator's task has become correspondingly easier. Still, there are many cases where his work is complicated by some trifling obstacle, the removal of which the client opposes only because he cannot in imagination foresee the improvement which would follow.
If the client permits the change to be made, he has no difficulty in appreciating the result: he cannot see it in advance. A few words from Isaac Ware's admirable chapter on "The Origin of Proportions in the Orders"  may serve to show the importance of proportion in all schemes of decoration, and the necessity of conforming to certain rules that may at first appear both arbitrary and incomprehensible. This is an happiness to the person of real genius; If to these words be added his happy definition of the sense of proportion as "fancy under the restraint and conduct of judgment," and his closing caution that "it is mean in the undertaker of a great work to copy strictly, and it is dangerous to give a loose to fancy without a perfect knowledge how far a variation may be justified ," the unprofessional reader may form some idea of the importance of proportion and of the necessity for observing its rules.
If proportion is the good breeding of architecture, symmetry, or the answering of one part to another, may be defined as the sanity of decoration. The desire for symmetry, for balance, for rhythm in form as well as in sound, is one of the most inveterate of human instincts. Yet for years Anglo-Saxons have been taught that to pay any regard to symmetry in architecture or decoration is to truckle to one of the meanest forms of artistic hypocrisy. As a guide through the byways of art, Mr. Ruskin is entitled to the reverence and gratitude of all; but as a logical exponent of the causes and effects of the beauty he discovers, his authority is certainly open 34 to question.
For years he has spent the full force of his unmatched prose in denouncing the enormity of putting a door or a window in a certain place in order that it may correspond to another; nor has he scrupled to declare to the victims of this practice that it leads to abysses of moral as well as of artistic degradation. Time has taken the terror from these threats and architects are beginning to see that a regard for external symmetry, far from interfering with the requirements of house-planning, tends to produce a better, because a more carefully studied, plan, as well as a more convenient distribution of wall-space; but in the lay mind there still lingers not only a vague association between outward symmetry and interior discomfort, between a well-balanced facade and badly distributed rooms, but a still vaguer notion that regard for symmetry indicates poverty of invention, lack of ingenuity and weak subservience to a meaningless form.
What the instinct for symmetry means, philosophers may be left to explain; but that it does exist, that it means something, and that it is most strongly developed in those races which have reached the highest artistic civilization, must be acknowledged by all students of sociology. It is, therefore, not superfluous to point out that, in interior decoration as well as in architecture, a regard for symmetry, besides satisfying a legitimate artistic requirement, tends to make the average room not only easier to furnish, but more comfortable to live in.
As the effect produced by a room depends chiefly upon the distribution of its openings, it will be well to begin by considering the treatment of the walls.
Free ebook download
It has already been said that the decorator can often improve a room, not only from the artistic point of view, but as regards the comfort of its inmates, by 35 making some slight change in the position of its openings. Take, for instance, a library in which it is necessary to put the two principal bookcases one on each side of a door or fireplace. If this opening is in the centre of one side of the room, the wall-decorations may be made to balance, and the bookcases may be of the same width,—an arrangement which will give to the room an air of spaciousness and repose.
Should the wall-spaces on either side of the opening be of unequal extent, both decorations and bookcases must be modified in size and design; and not only does the problem become more difficult, but the result, because necessarily less simple, is certain to be less satisfactory. Sometimes, on the other hand, convenience is sacrificed to symmetry; and in such cases it is the decorator's business to remedy this defect, while preserving to the eye the aspect of symmetry. A long narrow room may be taken as an example. If the fireplace is in the centre of one of the long sides of the room, with a door directly opposite, the hearth will be without privacy and the room virtually divided into two parts, since, in a narrow room, no one cares to sit in a line with the doorway.
This division of the room makes it more difficult to furnish and less comfortable to live in, besides wasting all the floor-space between the chimney and the door. One way of overcoming the difficulty is to move the door some distance down the long side of the room, so that the space about the fireplace is no longer a thoroughfare, and the privacy of the greater part of the room is preserved, even if the door be left open. The removal of the door from the centre of one side of the room having disturbed the equilibrium of the openings, this equilibrium may be restored by placing in a line with the door, at the other end of the same side-wall, a piece of furniture corresponding as nearly as possible in height and width to the door.
This 36 will satisfy the eye, which in matters of symmetry demands, not absolute similarity of detail, but merely correspondence of outline and dimensions. It is idle to multiply examples of the various ways in which such readjustments of the openings may increase the comfort and beauty of a room. Every problem in house decoration demands a slightly different application of the same general principles, and the foregoing instances are intended only to show how much depends upon the placing of openings and how reasonable is the decorator's claim to have a share in planning the background upon which his effects are to be produced.
It may surprise those whose attention has not been turned to such matters to be told that in all but the most cheaply constructed houses the interior walls are invariably treated as an order.
Classical Principles for Modern Design
In all houses, even of the poorest kind, the walls of the rooms are finished by a plain projecting board adjoining the floor, surmounted by one or more mouldings. This base, as it is called, is nothing more nor less than the part of an order between shaft and floor, or shaft and pedestal, as the case may be. If it be next remarked that the upper part of the wall, adjoining the ceiling, is invariably finished by a moulded projection corresponding with the crowning member of an order, it will be clear that the shaft, with its capital, has simply been omitted, or that the uniform wall-space between the base and cornice has been regarded as replacing it.
In rooms of a certain height and importance the column or pilaster is frequently restored to its proper place between base and cornice; but where such treatment is too monumental for the dimensions of the room, the main lines of the wall-space should none the less be regarded as distinctly architectural, and the decoration applied should be subordinate to 37 the implied existence of an order. Where the shafts are omitted, the eye undoubtedly feels a lack of continuity in the treatment: the cornice seems to hang in air and the effect produced is unsatisfactory.
This is obviated by the use of panelling, the vertical lines carried up at intervals from base to cornice satisfying the need for some visible connection between the upper and lower members of the order. Moreover, if the lines of the openings are carried up to the cornice as they are in all well-designed schemes of decoration , the openings may be considered as intercolumniations and the intermediate wall-spaces as the shafts or piers supporting the cornice. In well-finished rooms the order is usually imagined as resting, not on the floor, but on pedestals, or rather on a continuous pedestal.
This continuous pedestal, or "dado" as it is usually called, is represented by a plinth surmounted by mouldings, by an intermediate member often decorated with tablets or sunk panels with moulded margins, and by a cornice. The use of the dado raises the chief wall-decoration of the room to a level with the eye and prevents its being interrupted or concealed by the furniture which may be placed against the walls.
This fact makes it clear that in all well-designed rooms there should be a dado about two and a half feet high. If lower than this, it does not serve its purpose of raising the wall-decoration to a line above the furniture; while the high dado often seen in modern American rooms throws all the rest of the panelling out of scale and loses its own significance as the pedestal supporting an order. In rooms of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, when little furniture was used, the dado was often richly ornamented, being 38 sometimes painted with delicate arabesques corresponding with those on the doors and inside shutters.
As rooms grew smaller and the quantity of furniture increased so much that the dado was almost concealed, the treatment of the latter was wisely simplified, being reduced, as a rule, to sunk panels and a few strongly marked mouldings. The decorator cannot do better than plan the ornamentation of his dado according to the amount of furniture to be placed against the walls.
In corridor or antechamber, or in a ball-room, the dado may receive a more elaborate treatment than is necessary in a library or drawing-room, where probably much less of it will be seen. It was not unusual, in the decoration of lobbies and corridors in old French and Italian houses, to omit the dado entirely if an order was used, thus bringing the wall-decoration down to the base-board; but this was done only in rooms or passage-ways not meant to contain any furniture. The three noblest forms of wall-decoration are fresco-painting, panelling, and tapestry hangings.
In the best period of decoration all three were regarded as subordinate to the architectural lines of the room.
Related The Decoration of Houses
Copyright 2019 - All Right Reserved