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Principles of Home Decoration 

By the same author 

Decorators and Decorating 

" Content in a Garden " 

" How to Make Rugs " 
















Principles of 
Home Decoration 

With Practical Examples 

vAvs Candace Wheeler 

New York 

Doubleday, Page & Company 


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_R ^903. L 

Copyright, igo3, by 

DouBLEDAY, Page & Compant 

Published February igo3 




Decoration as an Art. 
Decoration in American Homes. 
Woman's Influence in Decoration. 


Character in Homes. 


Builders' Houses. 


Colour in Houses. 
Colour as a Science. 
Colour as an Influence. 


The Law of Appropriateness. 
Cleanliness and Harmony Tastefully Combined. 
Bedroom Furnished in Accordance with Individual 



Treatment of Walls from a Hygienic Point of View. 


Colour with Reference to Light. 

Examples of the EflFects of Light on Colour. 

Gradation of Colour. 




Walls, Ceilings and Eloors. 
Treatment and Decoration of Walls. 
Use of Tapestry, Leather and Wali-Papers. 
Panels of Wood, Painted Walls, Textiles. 


Location of the House. 

Decoration Influenced by Situation. 



Decorations in Harmony with Walls. 

Treatment in Accordance with Size of Room. 


Floors and Floor Coverings. 

Treatment of Floors — Polished Wood, Mosaics. 

Judicious Selection of Rugs and Carpets. 



Importance of Appropriate Colours. 

Importance of Appropriate Textures. 



Character in Rooms. 

Harmony in Furniture. 

Comparison Between Antique and Modern Furniture. 

Treatment of the Different Rooms. 


Dining-room in "Penny-royal" (Mrs, Boudinot Keith's 

cottage, Onteora) ..... Frontispiece 


Hall in city house, showing effect of staircase divided and 

turned to rear ........ 3° 

Stenciled borders for hall and bathroom decorations . . 50 

Sitting-room in "Wild Wood," Onteora (belonging to 

Miss Luisita Leland) ...... 80 

Large sitting-room in "Star Rock" (country house of 

W. E. Connor, Esq., Onteora) .... 92 

Painted canvas frieze and buckram frieze for dining-room 106 

Square hall in city house . . . . . .130 

Colonial chairs and sofa (belonging to Mrs. Ruth McEnery 

Stuart) 160 

Colonial mantel and English hob-grate (sitting-room in 

Mrs. Candace Wheeler's house) .... 168 

Sofa designed by Mrs. Candace Wheeler, for N. Y. Library 

in "Woman's Building," Columbian Exposition . 176 

Rustic sofa and tables in "Penny-royal" (Mrs. Boudinot 

Keith's cottage, Onteora) 188 

Dining-room in "Star Rock" (country house of W. E. 

Connor, Esq., Onteora) ...... 198 


PACINf. rAr.K 

Dining-room in New York house showing Icadcd-glass 

windows . . . . . . . .212 

Dining-room in New York home showing carved wains- 
coting and painted frieze . . . , .216 

Screen and glass windows in house at Lakewood 

(belonging to Clarence Root, Esq.) . . , 222 

Principles of Home Decoration 

Principles of Home Decoration 



"Who creates a Home, creates a potent spirit luhich in turn 
doth fashion him that fashioned. ^^ 

pROBABLY no art has so few 
-■■ masters as that of decoration. In 
England, Morris was for many years the 
great leader, but among his followers 
in England no one has attained the 
dignity of unquestioned authority; and 
in America, in spite of far more general 
practice of the art, we still are without a 
leader whose very name establishes law. 
It is true we are free to draw inspi- 
ration from the same sources which 
supplied Morris and the men associated 
with him in his enthusiasms, and in fact 
we do lean, as they did, upon English 
eighteenth -century domestic art — and 
derive from the men who made that 
period famous many of our articles of 


faith ; but there are almost no authorita- 
tive books upon the subject of appro- 
priate modern decoration. Our text 
books are still to be written ; and one 
must glean knowledge from many 
sources, shape it into rules, and test 
the rules, before adopting them as safe 

Yet in spite of the absence of authori- 
tative teaching, we have learned that an 
art dependent upon other arts, as deco- 
ration is upon building and architecture, 
is bound to follow the principles which 
govern them. We must base our work 
upon what has already been done, select 
our decorative forms from appropriate 
periods, conform our use of colour to 
the principles of colour, and be able 
to choose and apply all manufactures in 
accordance with the great law of appro- 
priateness. If we do this, we stand upon 
something capable of evolution and the 
creation of a system. 

In so far as the principles of decoration 
are derived from other arts, they can be 


acquired by every one, but an exquisite 
feeling in their application is the distin- 
guishing quality of the true decorator. 

There is quite a general impression 
that house-decoration is not an art which 
requires a long course of study and 
training, but some kind of natural knack 
of arrangement — a faculty of making 
things " look pretty," and that any one 
who has this faculty is amply qualified 
for ** taking up house - decoration." 
Indeed, natural facility succeeds in satis- 
fying many personal cravings for beauty, 
although it is not competent for general 

Of course there are people, and many 
of them, who are gifted with an inherent 
sense of balance and arrangement, and 
a true eye for colour, and — given the 
same materials — such people will make 
a room pleasant and cozy, where one 
without these gifts would make it posi- 
tively ugly. In so far, then, individual 
gifts are a great advantage, yet one pos- 
sessing them in even an unusual degree 


may make great mistakes in decoration. 
What not to do, in this day of almost 
universal experiment, is perhaps the most 
valuable lesson to the untrained deco- 
rator. Many of the rocks upon which 
he splits are down in no chart, and lie in 
the track of what seems to him perfectly 
plain sailing. 

There are houses of fine and noble 
exterior which are vulgarized by unedu- 
cated experiments in colour and orna- 
ment, and belittled by being filled with 
heterogeneous collections of unimpor- 
tant art. Yet these very instances serve 
to emphasize the demand for beautiful 
surroundings, and in spite of mistakes 
and incongruities, must be reckoned as 
efforts toward a desirable end. 

In spite of a prevalent want of train- 
ing, it is astonishing how much we have 
of good interior decoration, not only in 
houses of great importance, but in those 
of people of average fortunes — indeed, 
it is in the latter that we get the general 
value of the art. 


This comparative excellence is to be 
referred to the very general acquirement 
of what we call **art cultivation " among 
American women, and this, in conjunc- 
tion with a knowledge that her social 
world will be apt to judge of her 
capacity by her success or want of suc- 
cess in making her own surroundings 
beautiful, determines the efforts of the 
individual woman. She feels that she is 
expected to prove her superiority by 
living in a home distinguished for beauty 
as well as for the usual orderliness and 
refinement. Of course this sense of ob- 
ligation is a powerful spur to the exercise 
of natural gifts, and if in addition to 
these she has the habit of reasoning 
upon the principles of things, and is 
sufficiently cultivated in the literature of 
art to avoid unwarrantable experiment, 
there is no reason why she should not 
be successful in her own surroundings. 

The typical American, whether man 
or woman, has great natural facility, and 
when the fact is once recognized that 


beauty — like education — can dignify any 
circumstances, from the narrowest to the 
most opulent, it becomes one of the 
objects of life to secure it. How this 
is done depends upon the talent and 
cultivation of the family, and this is 
often adequate for excellent results. 

It is quite possible that so much 
general ability may discourage the study 
of decoration as a precise form of art, 
since it encourages the idea that The 
House Beautiful can be secured by any 
one who has money to pay for pro- 
cesses, and possesses what is simply 
designated as " good taste." 

We do not find this impulse toward 
the creation of beautiful interiors as 
noticeable in other countries as in 
America. The instinct of self-expres- 
sion is much stronger in us than in 
other races, and for that reason we can- 
not be contented with the utterances of 
any generation, race or country save our 
own. We gather to ourselves what we 
personally enjoy or wish to enjoy, and 


will not take our domestic environment 
at second hand. It follows that there is 
a certain difference and originality in 
our methods, which bids fair to acquire 
distinct character, and may in the 
future distinguish this art-loving period 
as a maker of style. 

A successful foreign painter who has 
visited this country at intervals during 
the last ten years said, " There is no such 
uniformity of beautiful interiors any- 
where else in the world. There are 
palaces in France and Italy, and great 
country houses in England, to the em- 
bellishment of which generations of 
owners have devoted the best art of their 
own time ; but in America there is some- 
thing of it everywhere. Many unpre- 
tentious houses have drawing-rooms 
possessing colour - decoration which 
would distinguish them as examples in 
England or France." 

To Americans this does not seem a 
remarkable fact. We have come into a 
period which desires beauty, and each 


one secures it as best he can. We are a 
teachable and a studious people, with a 
faculty of turning " general information " 
to account ; and general information 
upon art matters has had much to do 
with our good interiors. 

We have, perhaps half unconsciously, 
applied fundamental principles to our 
decoration, and this may be as much 
owing to natural good sense as to culti- 
vation. We have a habit of reasoning 
about things, and acting upon our con- 
clusions, instead of allowing the rest of 
the world to do the reasoning while we 
adopt the result. It is owing to this 
conjunction of love for and cultivation 
of art, and the habit of materializing 
what we wish, that we have so many 
thoroughly successful interiors, which 
have been accomplished almost without 
aid from professional artists. It is these, 
instead of the smaller number of costly 
interiors, which give the reputation of 
artistic merit to our homes. 

Undoubtedly the largest proportion 


of successful as well as unsuccessful 
domestic art in our country is due to the 
efforts of women. In the great race for 
wealth which characterizes our time, it is 
demanded that women shall make it 
effective by so using it as to distinguish 
the family ; and nothing distinguishes it 
so much as the superiority of the home. 
This effort adheres to small as well as 
large fortunes, and in fact the necessity 
is more pronounced in the case of medi- 
ocre than of great ones. In the former 
there is something to be made up — some 
protest of worth and ability and intelli- 
gence that helps many a home to become 

As I have said, a woman feels that 
the test of her capacity is that her house 
shall not only be comfortable and at- 
tractive, but that it shall be arranged 
according to the laws of harmony and 
beauty. It is as much the demand of 
the hour as that she shall be able to train 
her children according to the latest and 
most enlightened theories, or that she 


shall take part in public and philan- 
thropic movements, or understand and 
have an opinion on political methods. 
These are things which are expected 
of every woman who* makes a part of 
society; and no less is it expected that 
her house shall be an appropriate and 
beautiful setting for her personality, a 
credit to her husband, and an uncon- 
scious education for her children. 

But it happens that means of educa- 
tion in all of these directions, except 
that of decoration, are easily available. 
A woman can become a member of a 
kindergarten association, and get from 
books and study the result of scientific 
knowledge of child-life and training. 
She can find means to study the ethics of 
her relations to her kind and become an 
effective philanthropist, or join the league 
for political education and acquire a 
more or less enlightened understanding of 
politics; but who is to formulate for her 
the science of beauty, to teach her how 
to make the interior aspect of her home 


perfect in its adaptation to her circum- 
stances, and as harmonious in colour and 
arrangement as a song without words? 
She feels that these conditions create a 
mental atmosphere serene and yet in- 
spiring, and that such surroundings are 
as much her birthright and that of her 
children as food and clothing of a grade 
belonging to their circumstances, but 
how is it to be compassed ? 

Most women ask themselves this 
question, and fail to understand that it 
is as much of a marvel when a woman 
without training or experience creates 
a good interior as a whole, as if an 
amateur in music should compose an 
opera. It is not at all impossible for a 
woman of good taste — and it must be 
remembered that this word means an 
educated or cultivated power of selec- 
tion — to secure harmonious or happily 
contrasted colour in a room, and to select 
beautiful things in the way of furniture 
and belongings ; but what is to save her 
from the thousand and one mistakes 


possible to inexperience in this com- 
bination of things which make lasting 
enjoyment and appropriate perfection 
in a house ? How can she know which 
rooms will be benefited by sombre or 
sunny tints, and which exposure will 
give full sway to her favourite colour 
or colours? How can she have learned 
the reliability or want of reliability in 
certain materials or processes used in 
decoration, or the rules of treatment 
which will modify a low and dark room 
and make it seem light and airy, or 
" bring down " too high a ceiling and 
widen narrow walls so as to apparently 
correct disproportion ? These things are 
the results of laws which she has never 
studied — laws of compensation and re- 
lation, which belong exclusively to the 
world of colour, and unfortunately they 
are not so well formulated that they can be 
committed to memory like rules of gram- 
mar; yet all good colour-practice rests 
upon them as unquestionably as language 
rests upon grammatical construction. 


Of course one may use colour as 
one can speak a language, purely by 
imitation and memory, but it is not 
absolutely reliable practice; and just 
here comes in the necessity for pro- 
fessional advice. 

There are many difficulties in the 
accomplishment of a perfect house- 
interior which few householders have 
had the time or experience to cope with, 
and yet the fact remains that each mis- 
tress of a house believes that unless she 
vanquishes all difficulties and comes out 
triumphantly with colours flying at the 
housetop and enjoyment and admiration 
following her efforts, she has failed in 
something which she should have been 
perfectly able to accomplish. But the 
obligation is certainly a forced one. It 
is the result of the modern awakening 
to the effect of many heretofore un- 
recognized influences in our lives and 
the lives and characters of our children. 
A beautiful home is undoubtedly a great 
means of education, and of that best 


of all education which is unconscious. 
To grow up in such a one means a 
much more complete and perfect man 
or woman than would be possible with- 
out that particular influence. 

But a perfect home is never created 
all at once and by one person, and let 
the anxious house-mistress take comfort 
in the thought. She should also remem- 
ber that it is in the nature of beauty 
to grow, and that a well-rounded and 
beautiful family life adds its quota day 
by day. Every book, every sketch 
or .picture — every carefully selected or 
characteristic object brought into the 
home adds to and makes a part of 
a beautiful whole, and no house can 
be absolutely perfect without all these 
evidences of family life. 

It can be made ready for them, com- 
pletely and perfectly ready, by professional 
skill and knowledge ; but if it remained 
just where the interior artist or decorator 
left it, it would have no more of the 
sentiment of domesticity than a statue. 



" For the created still doth shadonv forth the mind and ivill ivhich 
made it." 

" Thou art the very mould of thy creator." 

TT NEEDS the combined personality 
-*■ of the family to make the character 
of the house. No one could say of a 
house which has family character, ** It 

is one of 's houses" (naming one 

or another successful decorator), because 
the decorator would have done only 
what it was his business to do — used 
technical and artistic knowledge in 
preparing a proper and correct back- 
ground for family life. Even in doing 
that, he must consult family tastes 
and idiosyncracies if he has the rever- 
ence for individuality which belongs 
to the true artist. 

A domestic interior is a thing to 
which he should give knowledge and 
not personality, and the puzzled home- 



maker, who understands that her world 
expects correct use of means of beauty, 
as well as character and originality in 
her home, need not feel that to secure 
the one she must sacrifice the other. 

An inexperienced person might think 
it an easy thing to make a beautiful 
home, because the world is full of 
beautiful art and manufactures, and if 
there is money to pay for them it 
would seem as easy to furnish a house 
with everything beautiful as to go out 
in the garden and gather beautiful 
flowers ; but we must remember that 
the world is also full of ugly things — 
things false in art, in truth and in 
beauty — things made to sell — made with 
only this idea behind them, manu- 
factured on the principle that an arti- 
ficial fly is made to look something 
like a true one in order to catch the 
inexpert and the unwary. It is a curious 
fact that these false things — manufac- 
tures without honesty, without knowl- 
edge, without art — have a property of 


demoralizing the spirit of the home, 
and that to make it truly beautiful 
everything in it must be genuine as 
well as appropriate, and must also fit 
into some previously considered scheme 
of use and beauty. 

The esthetic or beautiful aspect of 
the home, in short, must be created 
through the mind of the family or 
owner, and is only maintained by its 
or his susceptibility to true beauty and 
appreciation of it. It must, in fact, 
be a visible mould of invisible matter, 
like the leaf-mould one finds in mineral 
springs, which show the wonderful 
veining, branching, construction and 
delicacy of outline in a way which one 
could hardly be conscious of in the 
actual leaf. 

If the grade or dignity of the home 
requires professional and scholarly art 
direction, the problem is how to use 
this professional or artistic advice with- 
out delivering over the entire creation 
into stranger or alien hands ; without 


abdicating the right and privilege of 
personal expression. If the decorator 
appreciates this right, his function will 
be somewhat akin to that of the 
portrait painter ; both are bound to 
represent the individual or family in 
their performances, each artist using 
the truest and best methods of art 
with the added gift of grace or charm 
of colour which he possesses, the one 
giving the physical aspect of his client 
and the other the mental characteristics, 
circumstances, position and life of the 
house-owner and his family. This is 
the true mission of the decorator, 
although it is not always so under- 
stood. What is called business talent 
may lead him to invent schemes of 
costliness which relate far more to 
his own profit than to the wishes or 
character of the house-owner. 

But it is not always that the assist- 
ance of the specialist in decoration 
and furnishing is necessary. There are 
many homes where both are quite 


within the scope of the ordinary man 
or woman of taste. In fact, the great 
majority of homes come within these 
lines, and it is to such home-builders 
that rules, not involving styles, are 
especially of use. 

The principles of truth and har- 
mony, which underlie all beauty, 
may be secured in the most inex- 
pensive cottage as well as in the 
broadest and most imposing residence. 
Indeed, the cottage has the advantage 
of that most potent ally of beauty — 
simplicity — a quality which is apt to 
be conspicuously absent from the 
schemes of decoration for the palace. 



"Mine oivn hired house." 

\ LARGE proportion of homes are 
-^ ^ made in houses which are not 
owned, but leased, and this prevents 
each man or family from indicating 
personal taste in external aspect. A 
rich man and house-owner may approxi- 
mate to a true expression of himself 
even in the outside of his house if 
he strongly desires it, but a man of 
moderate means must adapt himself 
and his family to the house-builder's 
idea of houses — that is to say, to the 
idea of the man who has made house- 
building a trade, and whose experiences 
have created a form into which houses 
of moderate cost and fairly universal 
application may be cast. 

Although it is as natural to a man 
to build or acquire a home as to a 



bird to build a nest, he has not the 
same unfettered freedom in construc- 
tion. He cannot always adapt his 
house either to the physical or mental 
size of his family, but must accept 
what is possible with much the same 
feeling with which a family of robins 
might accommodate themselves to a 
wren's nest, or an oriole to that of 
a barn-swallow. But the fact remains, 
that all these accidental homes must, 
in some way, be brought into har- 
mony with the lives to be lived in 
them, and the habits and wants of 
the family; and not only this, they 
must be made attractive according to 
the requirements of cultivated society. 
The effort toward this is instructive, 
and the pleasure in and enjoyment of 
the home depends upon the success 
of the effort. The inmates, as a rule, 
are quite clear as to what they want 
to accomplish, but have seldom had 
sufficient experience to enable them 
to remedy defects of construction. 


There are expedients by which 
many of the malformations and ugH- 
nesses of the ordinary " builder's 
house" may be greatly ameliorated, 
various small surgical operations which 
will remedy badly planned rooms, 
and dispositions of furniture which will 
restore proportion. We can even, by 
judicious distribution of planes of 
colour, apparently lower or raise a 
ceiling, and widen or lengthen a room, 
and these expedients, which belong 
partly to the experience of the deco- 
rator, are based upon laws which can 
easily be formulated. Every one can 
learn something of them by the study 
of faulty rooms and the enjoyment of 
satisfactory ones. Indeed, I know no 
surer or more agreeable way of getting 
wisdom in the art of decoration than 
by tracing back sensation to its source, 
and finding out why certain things 
are utterly satisfactory, and certain 
others a positive source of discomfort. 

In what are called the " best 


houses " we can make our deductions 
quite as well as in the most faulty, 
and sometimes get a lesson of avoid- 
ance and a warning against law- 
breaking which will be quite as 
useful as if it were learned in less 
than the best. 

There is one fault very common 
in houses which date from a period 
of some forty or fifty years back, a 
fault of disproportionate height of 
ceilings. In a modern house, if one 
room is large enough to require a 
lofty ceiling, the architect will manage 
to make his second floor upon differ- 
ent levels, so as not to inflict the 
necessary height of large rooms upon 
narrow halls and small rooms, which 
should have only a height propor- 
tioned to their size. A ten-foot room 
with a thirteen - foot ceiling makes 
the narrowness of the room doubly 
apparent; one feels shut up between 
two walls which threaten to come 
together and squeeze one between 


them, while, on the other hand, a 
ten-foot room with a nine-foot ceiHng 
may have a really comfortable and 
cozy effect. 

In this case, what is needed is to 
get rid of the superfluous four feet, 
and this can be done by cheating the 
eye into an utter forgetfulness of them. 
There must be horizontal divisions of 
colour which attract the attention and 
make one oblivious of what is above 

Every one knows the effect of a 
paper with perpendicular stripes in 
apparently heightening a ceiling which 
is too low, but not every one is 
equally aware of the contrary effect 
of horizontal lines of varied surface. 
But in the use of perpendicular lines 
it is well to remember that, if the 
room is small, it will appear still 
smaller if the wall is divided into 
narrow spaces by vertical lines. If it 
is large and the ceiling simply low 
for the size of the room, a good 


deal can be done by long, simple lines 
of drapery in curtains and portieres, 
or in choosing a paper where the 
composition of design is perpendicular 
rather than diagonal. 

To apparently lower a high ceiling 
in a small room, the wall should 
be treated horizontally in different 
materials. Three feet of the base can 
be covered with coarse canvas or 
buckram and finished with a small 
wood moulding. Six feet of plain wall 
above this, painted the same shade as 
the canvas, makes the space of which 
the eye is most aware. This space 
should be finished with a picture 
moulding, and the four superfluous feet 
of wall above it must be treated as 
a part of the ceiling. The cream- 
white of the actual ceiling should be 
brought down on the side walls for 
a space of two feet, and this has the 
effect of apparently enlarging the room, 
since the added mass of light tint 
seems to broaden it. There still re- 


main two feet of space between the 
picture moulding and ceiling-line which 
may be treated as a ceiling-border in 
inconspicuous design upon the same 
cream ground, the design to be in 
darker, but of the same tint as the 

The floor in such a room as this 
should either be entirely covered with 
plain carpeting, or, if it has rugs at 
all, there should be several, as one 
single rug, not entirely covering the 
floor, would have the effect of con- 
fining the apparent size of the room 
to the actual size of the rug. 

If the doors and windows in such 
a room are high and narrow, they 
can be made to come into the scheme 
by placing the curtain and portiere 
rods below the actual height and 
covering the upper space with thin 
material, either full or plain, of the 
same colour as the upper wall. A 
brocaded muslin, stained or dyed to 
match the wall, answers this purpose 


admirably, and is really better in its 
place than the usual expedient of 
stained glass or open-work wood tran- 
som. A good expedient is to have the 
design already carried around the wall 
painted in the same colour upon a 
piece of stretched muslin. This is 
simple but effective treatment, and is 
an instance of the kind of thought 
or knowledge that must be used in 
remedying faults of construction. 

Colour has much to do with the 
apparent size of rooms, a room in 
light tints always appearing to be 
larger than a deeply coloured one. 

Perhaps the most difficult problem 
in adaptation is the high, narrow city 
house, built and decorated by the 
block by the builder, who is also a 
speculator in real estate, and whose 
activity was chiefly exercised before 
the ingenious devices of the modern 
architect were known. These houses 
exist in quantities in our larger and 
older cities, and mere slices of space 


as they are, are the theatres where the 
home-life of many refined and beauty- 
loving intelligences must be played. 

In such houses as these, the task 
of fitting them to the cultivated eyes 
and somewhat critical tests of modern 
society generally falls to the women 
who represent the family, and calls 
for an amount of ability which would 
serve to build any number of credita- 
ble houses ; yet this is constantly be- 
ing done and well done for not one, 
but many families. I know one such, 
which is quite a model of a charming 
city home and yet was evolved from 
one of the worst of its kind and period. 
In this case the family had fallen heir 
to the house and were therefore jus- 
tified in the one radical change which 
metamorphosed the entrance - hall, 
from a long, narrow passage, with an 
apparently interminable stairway oc- 
cupying half its width, to a small re- 
ception-hall seemingly enlarged by a 



judicious placing of the mirrors which 
had formerly been a part of the " fixt- 
ures " of the parlour and dining-room. 

The reception-room was accom- 
plished by cutting off the lower half 
of the staircase, which had extended 
itself to within three feet of the front 
door, and turning it directly around, 
so that it ends at the back instead 
of the front of the hall. The two 
cut ends are connected by a platform, 
thrown across from wall to wall, and 
furnished with a low railing of carved 
panels, and turned spindles, which 
gives a charming balcony effect. The 
passage to the back hall and stairs 
passes under the balcony and upper 
end of the staircase, while the space 
under the lower stair-end, screened by 
a portiere, adds a coat-closet to the 
conveniences of the reception-hall. 

This change was not a difficult 
thing to accomplish, it was simply an 
expedient^ but it has the value of care- 


fully planned construction, and re- 
minds one of the clever utterance of 
the immortal painter who said, <' I 
never lose an accident." 

Indeed the ingenious home-maker 
often finds that the worse a thing is, 
the better it can be made by com- 
petent and careful study. To com- 
plete and adapt incompetent things 
to orderliness and beauty, to har- 
monise incongruous things into a 
perfect whole requires and exercises 
ability of a high order, and the con- 
sciousness of its possession is no small 
satisfaction. That it is constantly 
being done shows how much real 
cleverness is necessary to ordinary 
life — and reminds one of the patri- 
otic New York state senator who de- 
clared that it required more ability 
to cross Broadway safely at high tide, 
than to be a great statesman. And 
truly, to make a good house out of 
a poor one, or a beautiful interior 


from an ugly one, requires far more 
thought, and far more original talent, 
than to decorate an important new 
one. The one follows a travelled 
path — the other makes it. 

Of course competent knowledge 
saves one from many difficulties ; and 
faults of construction must be met by 
knowledge, yet this is often greatly 
aided by natural cleverness, and in the 
course of long practice in the deco- 
rative arts, I have seen such refreshing 
and charming results from thoughtful 
untrained intelligence, — I might al- 
most say inspiration, — that I have 
great respect for its manifestations ; 
especially when exercised in un-au- 
thoritative fashion. 



' ' Heaven gives us of its colour, for our joy, 
Hues which have words and speak to ye of heaven ." 

A LTHOUGH the very existence of 
a house is a matter of construc- 
tion, its general interior effect is al- 
most entirely the result of colour 
treatment and careful and cultivated 
selection of accessories. 

Colour in the house includes much 
that means furniture, in the way of 
carpets, draperies, and all the modern 
conveniences of civilization, but as it 
precedes and dictates the variety of 
all these things from the authoritative 
standpoint of wall treatment, it is 
well to study its laws and try to reap 
the full benefit of its influence. 

As far as effect is concerned, the 
colour of a room creates its atmos- 
phere. It may be cheerful or sad, 



cosy or repellent according to its 
quality or force. Without colour it 
is only a bare canvas, which might, 
but does not picture our lives. 

We understand many of the prop- 
erties of colour, and have unconscious- 
ly learned some of its laws ; — but 
what may be called the science of col- 
our has never been formulated. So 
far as we understand it, its principles 
correspond curiously to those of mel- 
odious sound. It is as impossible 
to produce the best effect from one 
tone or colour, as to make a melody 
upon one note of the harmonic scale; 
it is skilful variation of tone, the gra- 
dation or even judicious opposition 
of tint which gives exquisite satisfac- 
tion to the eye. In music, sequence 
produces this effect upon the ear, and 
in colour, juxtaposition and gradation 
upon the eye. Notes follow notes 
in melody as shade follows shade in 
colour. We find no need of even dif- 


ferent names for the qualities peculiar 
to the two ; scale — notes — tones — 
harmonics — the words express effects 
common to colour as well as to music, 
but colour has this advantage, that its 
harmonies can be Jixed, they do not 
die with the passing moment ; once 
expressed they remain as a constant 
and ever-present delight. 

Notes of the sound-octave have 
been gathered by the musicians from 
widely different substances, and care- 
fully linked in order and sequence to 
make a harmonious scale which may 
be learned ; but the painter, con- 
scious of colour-harmonies, has as yet 
no written law by which he can pro- 
duce them. 

The " born colourist *' is one who 
without special training, or perhaps in 
spite of it, can unerringly combine or 
oppose tints into compositions which 
charm the eye and satisfy the sense. 
Even among painters it is by no means 


a common gift. It is almost more 
rare to find a picture distinguished for 
its harmony and beauty of colour, than 
to see a room in which nothing jars 
and everything works together for 
beauty. It seems strange that this 
should be a rarer personal gift than the 
musical sense, since nature apparently 
is far more lavish of her lessons for 
the eye than for the ear ; and it is 
curious that colour, which at first sight 
seems a more apparent and simple 
fact than music, has not yet been 
written. Undoubtedly there is a col- 
our scale, which has its sharps and 
flats, its high notes and low notes, its 
chords and discords, and it is not im- 
possible that in the future science may 
make it a means of regulated and 
written harmonies : — that some mas- 
ter colourist who has mechanical and 
inventive genius as well, may so ar- 
range them that they can be played 
by rule ; that colour may have its 


Mozart or Beethoven — its classic mel- 
odies, its familiar tunes. The mu- 
sician, as I have said — has gathered 
his tones from every audible thing in 
nature — and fitted and assorted and 
built them into a science ; and why 
should not some painter who is also a 
scientist take the many variations of 
colour which lie open to his sight, 
and range and fit and combine, and 
write the formula, so that a child may 
read it ? 

We already know enough to be 
very sure that the art is founded upon 
laws, although they are not thorough- 
ly understood. Principles of masses, 
spaces, and gradations underlie all ac- 
cidental harmonies of colour; — just as 
in music, the simple, strong, under- 
chords of the bass must be the ground 
for all the changes and trippings of 
the upper melodies. 

It is easy, if one studies the subject, 
to see how the very likeness of these 


two esthetic forces illustrate the laws 
of each, — in the principles of relation, 
gradation, and scale. 

Until very recently the relation of 
colour to the beauty of a house in- 
terior was quite unrecognised. If it 
existed in any degree of perfection 
it was an accident, a result of the 
softening and beautifying effect of 
time, or of harmonious human living. 
Where it existed, it was felt as a mys- 
terious charm belonging to the home ; 
something which pervaded it, but had 
no separate being ; an attractive ghost 
which attached itself to certain houses, 
followed certain people, came by 
chance, and was a mystery which no 
one understood, but every one ac- 
knowledged. Now we know that 
this something which distinguished 
particular rooms, and made beautiful 
particular houses, was a definite result 
of laws of colour accidentally ap- 


To avail ourselves of this influence 
upon the moods and experiences of 
life is to use a power positive in its 
effects as any spiritual or intellectual 
influence. It gives the kind of joy 
we find in nature, in the golden-green 
of light under tree-branches, or the 
mingled green and gray of tree and 
rock shadows, or the pearl and rose 
of sunrise and sunset. We call the 
deep content which results from such 
surroundings the influence of nature, 
and forget to name the less spiritual, 
the more human condition of well- 
being which comes to us in our homes 
from being surrounded with some- 
thing which in a degree atones for 
lack of nature's beauty. 

It is a different well-being, and 
lacks the full tide of electric enjoy- 
ment which comes from living for 
the hour under the sky and in the 
breadths of space, but it atones by 
substituting something of our own 


invention, which surprises us by its 
compensations, and confounds us by 
its power. 


T HAVE laid much stress upon the 
value of colour in interior deco- 
ration, but to complete the beauty of 
the home something more than happy 
choice of tints is required. It needs 
careful and educated selection of fur- 
niture and fittings, and money enough 
to indulge in the purchase of an 
intrinsically good thing instead of a 
medium one. It means even some- 
thing more than the love of beauty 
and cultivation of it, and that is a per- 
fect adherence to the law of appro- 

This is, after all, the most important 
quality of every kind of decoration, 
the one binding and general condition 
of its accomplishment. It requires 
such a careful fitting together of all 



the means of beauty as to leave no 
part of the house, whatever may be 
its use, w^ithout the same care for 
appropriate completeness which goes 
to the more apparent features. The 
cellar, the kitchen, the closets, the 
servants' bedrooms must all share in 
the thought which makes the gen- 
uinely beautiful home and the gen- 
uinely perfect life. It must be pos- 
sible to go from the top to the bottom 
of the house, finding everywhere 
agreeable, suitable, and thoughtful 
furnishings. The beautiful house 
must consider the family as a whole, 
and not make a museum of rare and 
costly things in the drawing-room, the 
library, the dining-room and family 
bedrooms, leaving that important part 
of the whole machinery, the service, 
untouched by the spirit of beauty. 
The same care in choice of colour 
will be as well bestowed on the ser- 
vants' floor as on those devoted to the 


family, and curtains, carpets and fur- 
niture may possess as much beauty and 
yet be perfectly appropriate to ser- 
vants' use. 

On this upper floor, it goes almost 
without saying, that the walls must be 
painted in oil-colour instead of cov- 
ered with paper. That the floors 
should be uncarpeted except for bed- 
side rugs which are easily removable. 
That bedsteads should be of iron, the 
mattress with changeable covers, the 
furniture of painted and enameled in- 
stead of oolished wood, and in short 
the conditions of healthful cleanliness 
as carefully provided as if the rooms 
were in a hospital instead of a pri- 
vate house — but the added comfort 
of carefully chosen wall colour, and 
bright, harmonizing, washable chintz 
in curtains and bed-covers. 

These things have an influence up- 
on the spirit of the home ; they are 
a part of its spiritual beauty, giving a 


satisfied and approving consciousness 
to the home-makers, and a sense of 
happiness in the service of the family. 

In the average, or small house, 
there is room for much improvement 
in the treatment and furnishing of 
servants' bedrooms ; and this is not 
always from indiilerence, but because 
they are out of daily sight, and also 
from a belief that it would add seri- 
ously to the burden of housekeeping 
to see that they are kept up to the 
standard of family sleeping-rooms. 

In point of fact, howe\rer, good 
surroundings are potent civilizers, and 
a house-servant whose room is well 
and carefully furnished feels an added 
value in herself, which makes her treat 
herself respectfully in the care of her 

If it pleases her, the training she 
receives in the care of family rooms 
will be reflected in her own, and 
painstaking arrangements made for 


her pleasure will perhaps be recog- 
nised as an obligation. 

Of course the fact must be recog- 
nised, that the occupant is not always 
a permanent one ; that it may at 
times be a fresh importation directly 
from a city tenement ; therefore, 
everything in the room should be 
able to sustain very radical treatment 
in the way of scrubbing and cleaning. 
Wall papers, unwashable rugs and cur- 
tains are out of the question ; yet 
even with these limitations it is possi- 
ble to make a charming and reason- 
ably inexpensive room, which would 
be attractive to cultivated as well as 
uncultivated taste. It is in truth 
mostly a matter of colour ; of col- 
oured walls, and harmonising furni- 
ture and draperies, which are in them- 
selves well adapted to their place. 

As I have said elsewhere, the walls 
in a servant's bedroom — and prefer- 
ably in any sleeping-room — should 


for sanitary reasons be painted in oil 
colours, but the possibilities of deco- 
rative treatment in this medium are 
by no means limited. All of the 
lighter shades of green, blue, yellow, 
and rose are as permanent, and as 
easily cleaned, as the dull grays and 
drabs and mud-colours which are of- 
ten used upon bedroom walls — es- 
pecially those upper ones which are 
above the zone of ornament, appar- 
ently under the impression that there 
is virtue in their very ugliness. 

" A good clean gray " some worthy 
housewife will instruct the painter to 
use, and the result will be a dead 
mixture of various lively and pleas- 
ant tints, any one of which might be 
charming if used separately, or mod- 
ified with white. A small room with 
walls of a very light spring green, or 
a pale turquoise blue, or white with 
the dash of vermilion and touch of 
yellow ochre which produces salmon- 


pink, is quite as durably and service- 
ably coloured as if it were chocolate- 
brown, or heavy lead-colour ; indeed 
its effect upon the mind is like a spring 
day full of sunshine instead of one 
dark with clouds or lowering storms. 
V The rule given elsewhere for colour 
in light or dark exposure will hold 
good for service bedrooms as well as 
for the important rooms of the house. 
That is; if a bedroom for servants' use 
is on the north or shadowed side of 
the house, let the colour be salmon 
or rose pink, cream white, or spring 
green ; but if it is on the sunny side, 
the tint should be turquoise, or pale 
blue, or a grayish-green, like the green 
of a field of rye. With such walls, a 
white iron bedstead, enameled furni- 
ture, curtains of white, or a flowered 
chintz which repeats or contrasts with 
the colour of the walls, bedside and 
bureau rugs of the tufted cotton which 
is washable, or of the new rag-rugs of 


which the colours are " water fast," 
the room is absolutely good, and can 
be used as an influence upon a lower 
or higher intelligence. 

As a matter of utility the toilet 
service should be always of white ; so 
that there will be no chance for the 
slovenly mismatching which results 
from breakage of any one of the dif- 
ferent pieces, when of diiferent col- 
ours. A handleless or mis-matched 
pitcher will change the entire charac- 
ter of a room and should never be 

If the size of the room will war- 
rant it, a rocking-chair or easy-chair 
should always be part of its equip- 
ment, and the mattress and bed-springs 
should be of a quality to give ease to 
tired bones, for these things have to 
do with the spirit of the house. 

It may be said that the colour- 
ing and furnishing of the servants* 
bedroom is hardly a part of house 


decoration, but in truth house deco- 
ration at its best is a means of happi- 
ness, and no householder can achieve 
permanent happiness without making 
the service of the family sharers in it. 

What I have said with regard to 
painted walls in plain tints applies to 
bedrooms of every grade, but where 
something more than merely agree- 
able colour effect is desired a sten- 
cilled decdration from the simplest 
to the most elaborate can be added. 
There are many ways of using this 
method, some of which partake very 
largely of artistic effect ; indeed a 
thoroughly good stencil pattern may 
reproduce the best instances of design, 
and in the hands of a skilful work- 
man who knows how to graduate and 
vary contrasting or harmonising tints 
it becomes a very artistic method and 
deserves a place of high honour in the 
art of decoration. 

Its simplest form is that of a sten- 


■^j^w '/ f ',,/A 



cilled border in flat tints used either 
in place of a cornice or as the bor- 
der of a wall-paper is used. This, of 
course, is a purely mechanical per- 
formance, and one with which every 
house-painter is familiar. After this 
we come to borders of repeating de- 
sign used as friezes. This can be done 
with the most delicate and delightful 
efi'ect, although the finished wall will 
still be capable of withstanding 
the most energetic annual scrubbing. 
Frieze borders of this kind starting 
with strongly contrasting colour at 
the top and carried downward through 
gradually fading tints until they are 
lost in the general colour of the wall 
have an openwork grille effect which 
is very light and graceful. There are 
infinite possibilities in the use of sten- 
cil design without counting the intro- 
duction of gold and silver, and bronzes 
of various iridescent hues which are 
more suitable for rooms of general 


use than for bedrooms. Indeed in 
sleeping-rooms the use of metallic 
colour is objectionable because it will 
not stand washing and cleaning with- 
out defacement. The ideal bedroom 
is one that if the furniture were re- 
moved a stream of water from a hose 
might be played upon its walls and 
ceiling without injury. I always re- 
member with pleasure a pink and 
silver room belonging to a young girl, 
where the salmon-pink walls were 
deepened in colour at the top into 
almost a tint of vermilion which had 
in it a trace of green. It was, in fact, 
an addition of spring green dropped 
into the vermilion and carelessly 
stirred, so that it should be mixed but 
not incorporated. Over this shaded 
and mixed colour for the space of 
three feet was stencilled a fountain- 
like pattern in cream-white, the arches 
of the pattern filled in with almost a 
lace-work of design. The whole up- 


per part had an effect like carved ala- 
baster and was indescribably light and 

The bed and curtain-rods of silver- 
lacquer, and the abundant silver of the 
dressing-table gave a frosty contrast 
which was necessary in a room of so 
warm a general tone. This is an ex- 
ample of very delicate and truly ar- 
tistic treatment of stencil-work, and 
one can easily see how it can be used 
either in simple or elaborate fashion 
with great effect. 

Irregularly placed floating forms 
of Persian or Arabic design are often 
admirably stencilled in colour upon 
a painted wall ; but in this case the 
colours should be varied and not too 
strong. A group of forms floating 
away from a window-frame or cor- 
nice can be done in two shades of the 
wall colour, one of which is positive- 
ly darker and one lighter than the 
ground. If to these two shades some 


delicately contrasting colour is occa- 
sionally added the effect is not only 
pleasing, but belongs to a thoroughly 
good style. 

One seldom tires of a good sten- 
cilled wall ; probably because it is in- 
trinsic, and not applied in the sense 
of paper or textiles. It carries an 
air of permanency which discourages 
change or experiment, but it requires 
considerable experience in decoration 
to execute it worthily; and not only 
this, there should be a strong feeling 
for colour and taste and education in 
the selection of design, for though the 
form of the stencilled pattern may be 
graceful, and gracefully combined, it 
must always — to be permanently sat- 
isfactory — have a geometrical basis. 
It is somewhat difficult to account 
for the fact that what we call natural 
forms, of plants and flowers, which 
are certainly beautiful and graceful in 
themselves, and grow into shapes which 


delight us with their freedom and 
beauty, do not give the best satisfac- 
tion as motives for interior decoration. 
Construction in the architectural sense 
— the strength and squareness of 
walls, ceilings, and floors — seem to re- 
ject the yielding character of design 
founded upon natural forms, and de- 
mand something which answers more 
sympathetically to their own qualities. 
Perhaps it is for this reason that we 
find the grouping and arrangement 
of horizontal and perpendicular lines 
and blocks in the old Greek borders 
so everlastingly satisfactory. 

It is the principle or requirement, 
of geometric base in interior design 
which, coupled with our natural de- 
light in yielding or growing forms, 
has maintained through all the long 
history of decoration what is called 
conventionalised flower design. We 
find this in every form or method of 
decorative art, from embroidery to 


sculpture, from the Lotus of Egypt 
to the Rose of England, and although 
it results in a sort of crucifixion of the 
natural beauty of the flower, in the 
hands of great designers it has become 
an authoritative style of art. 

Of course, there are flower-forms 
which are naturally geometric, which 
have conventionalised themselves. 
Many of the intricate Moorish frets 
and Indian carvings are literal transla- 
tions of flower-forms geometrically re- 
peated, and here they lend themselves 
so perfectly to the decoration of even 
exterior walls that the fretted arches 
of some Eastern buildings seem al- 
most to have grown of themselves, 
with all their elaboration, into the 
world of nature and art. 

The separate flowers of the grace- 
fully tossing lilac plumes, and the 
five- and six-leaved flowers of the pink, 
have become in this way a very part 
of the everlasting walls, as the acan- 


thus leaf has become the marble blos- 
som ot thousands of indestructible 

These are the classics of design 
and hold the same relation to orna- 
ment printed on paper and silk that 
we find in the music of the Psalms, 
as compared with the tinkle of the 
ballad. ^ 

There are other methods of deco- 
ration in oils which will meet the 
wants of the many who like to exer- 
cise their own artistic feelings and abil- 
ity in their houses or rooms. The 
painting of flower-friezes upon can- 
vas which can afterward be mounted 
upon the wall is a never-ending source 
of pleasure ; and many of these friezes 
have a charm and intimacy which no 
merely professional painter can rival. 
These are especially suitable for bed- 
rooms, since there they may be as per- 
sonal as the inmate pleases without 
undue unveiling of thoughts, fancies, 


or personal experiences to the public. 
A favourite flower or a favourite motto 
or selection may be the motive of a 
charming decoration, if the artist has 
sufficient art-knowledge to subordi- 
nate it to its architectural juxtaposi- 
tion. A narrow border of fixed re- 
peating forms like a rug-border will 
often fulfil the necessity for architect- 
ural lines, and confine the flower- 
border into limits which justify its 
freedom of composition. 

If one wishes to mount a favourite 
motto or quotation on the walls, 
where it may give constant suggestion 
or pleasure — or even be a help to 
thoughtful and conscientious living — 
there can be no better fashion than 
the style of the old illuminated mis- 
sals. Dining - rooms and chimney- 
pieces are often very appropriately 
decorated in this way ; the words 
running on scrolls which are half un- 
rolled and half hidden, and showing 


a conventionalised background of 
fruit and flowers. 

In all these things the knowingness^ 
which is the result of study, tells very 
strongly — and it is quite worth while 
to give a good deal of study to the 
subject of this kind of decoration be- 
fore expending the requisite amount 
of work upon a painted frieze. 

Canvas friezes have the excellent 
merit of being not only durable and 
cleanable, but they belong to the 
category of pictures ; to what Ruskin 
calls '' portable art," and one need 
not grudge the devotion of consider- 
able time, study, and effort to their 
doing, since they are really detachable 
property, and can be removed from 
one house or room and carried to 
another at the owner'o or artist's will. 

There is room for the exercise of 
much artistic ability in this direction, 
as the fact of being able to paint the 
decoration in parts and afterward 


place it, makes it possible for an 
amateur to do much tor the enhance- 
ment of her own house. 

More than any other room in the 
house, the bedroom will show per- 
sonal character. Even when it is not 
planned for particular occupation, the 
characteristics of the inmate will write 
themselves unmistakably in the room. 
If the college boy is put in the white 
and gold bedroom for even a vacation 
period, there will shortly come into 
its atmosphere an element of sporting 
and out-of-door life. Banners and 
balls and bats, and emblems of the 
" wild thyme " order will colour its 
whiteness ; and life of the growing 
kind make itself felt in the midst 
of sanctity. In the same way, girls 
would change the bare asceticism of a 
monk's cell into a bower of lilies and 
roses ; a fit place for youth and un- 
praying innocence. 

The bedrooms of a house are a 


pretty sure test of the liberality of 
mind and understanding of character 
of the mother or house-ruler. As each 
room is in a certain sense the home 
of the individual occupant, almost the 
shell of his or her mind, there will be 
something narrow and despotic in the 
house-rules if this is not allowed. Yet, 
even individuality of taste and expres- 
sion must scrupulously follow sanitary 
laws in the furnishing of the bedroom. 
'' StuiFy things " of any sort should be 
avoided. The study should be to 
make it beautiful without such things, 
and a liberal use of washable textiles 
in curtains, portieres, bed and table 
covers, will give quite as much sense 
of luxury as heavily papered walls and 
costly upholstery. In fact, one may 
run through all the variations from 
the daintiest and most befrilled and 
elegant of guests' bedrooms, to the 
'' boys' room," which includes all or 
any of the various implements of sport 


or the hobbies of the boy collector, 
and yet keep inviolate the principles 
of harmony, colour, and appropriate- 
ness to use, and so accomplish beauty. 

The absolute ruling of light, air,'and 
cleanliness are quite compatible with 
individual expression. 

It is this characteristic aspect of the 
different rooms which makes up the 
beauty of the house as a whole. If 
the purpose of each is left to develop 
itself through good conditions, the 
whole will make that most delightful 
of earthly things, a beautiful home. 


'TpHE kitchen is an important part 
of the perfect house and should 
be a recognised sharer in its quality 
of beauty; not alone the beauty which 
consists of a successful adaptation of 
means to ends, but the kind which is 
independently and positively attrac- 
tive to the eye. 

In costly houses it is not hard to 
attain this quality or the rarer one of 
a union of beauty, with perfect adap- 
tation to use ; but where it must be 
reached by comparatively inexpensive 
methods, the difficulty is greater. 

Tiled walls, impervious to moist- 
ure, and repellent of fumes, are ideal 
boundaries of a kitchen, and may be 
beautiful in colour, as well as virtu- 
ous in conduct. They may even be 



laid with gradations of alluring min- 
eral tints, but, of course, this is out of 
the question in cheap buildings ; and 
in demonstrating the possibility of 
beauty and intrinsic merit in small and 
comparatively inexpensive houses, tiles 
and marbles must be ruled out of the 
scheme of kitchen perfection. Plas- 
ter, painted in agreeable tints of oil 
colour is commendable, but one can 
do better by covering the walls with 
the highly enamelled oil-cloth com- 
monly used for kitchen tables and 
shelves. This material is quite mar- 
vellous in its combination of use and 
effect. Its possibilities were discovered 
by a young housewife whose small 
kitchen formed part of a city apart- 
ment, and whose practical sense was 
joined to a discursive imagination. 
After this achievement — which she 
herself did not recognise as a stroke of 
genius — she added a narrow shelf run- 
ning entirely around the room, which 


carried a decorative row of blue 
willow-pattern plates. A dresser, 
hung with a graduated assortment of 
blue enamelled sauce-pans, and other 
kitchen implements of the same en- 
ticing ware, a floor covered with the 
heaviest of oil-cloth, laid in small dia- 
mond-shapes of blue, between blocks 
of white, like a mosaic pavement, were 
the features of a kitchen which was, 
and is, after several years of strenuous 
wear, a joy to behold. It was from the 
first, not only a delight to the clever 
young housewife and her friends, but 
it performed the miracle of changing 
the average servant into a careful and 
excellent one, zealous for the clean- 
liness and perfection of her small 
domain, and performing her kitchen 
functions with unexampled neatness. 
The mistress — who had standards 
of perfection in all things, whether 
great or small, and was moreover of 
Southern blood — confessed that her 


ideal of service in her glittering kitch- 
en was not a clever red-haired Hiber- 
nian, but a slim mulatto, wearing a 
snow-white turban ; and this long- 
ing seemed so reasonable, and so im- 
pressed my fancy, that whenever I 
think of the shining blue-and-silver 
kitchen, I seem to see within it the 
graceful sway of figure and coffee- 
coloured face which belongs to the 
half-breed African race, certain rare 
specimens of which are the most beau- 
tiful of domestic adjuncts. 

I have used this expedient of oil- 
cloth-covered walls — for which I am 
anxious to give the inventor due credit 
— in many kitchens, and certain bath- 
rooms, and always with success. 

It must be applied as if it were 
wall-paper, except that, as it is a heavy 
material, the paste must be thicker. 
It is also well to have in it a small 
proportion of carbolic acid, both as a 
disinfectant and a deterrent to paste- 


loving mice, or any other household 
pest. The cloth must be carefully 
fitted into corners, and whatever shelv- 
ing or wood fittings are used in the 
room, must be placed against it, after 
it is applied, instead of having the 
cloth cut and fitted around them. 

When well mounted, it makes a 
solid, porcelain-like wall, to which 
dust and dirt will not easily adhere, 
and which can be as easily and effect- 
ually cleaned as if it were really por- 
celain or marble. 

Such wall treatment will go far 
toward making a beautiful kitchen. 
Add to this a well-arranged dresser 
for blue or white kitchen china, with 
a closed cabinet for the heavy iron 
utensils which can hardly be included 
in any scheme of kitchen beauty ; 
curtained cupboards and short win- 
dow-hangings of blue, or " Turkey 
red" — which are invaluable for colour, 
and always washable ; a painted floor 


— which is far better than oil-cloth, 
and one has the elenrents of a satis- 
factory scheme of beauty. 

A French kitchen, with its white- 
washed walls, its shining range and 
rows upon rows of gleaming copper- 
ware, is an attractive subject for a 
painter; and there is no reason why 
an American kitchen, in a house dis- 
tinguished for beauty in all its family 
and semi-public rooms, should not 
also be beautiful in the rooms devot- 
ed to service. We can if we will 
make much even in a decorative way 
of our enamelled and aluminum kitch- 
en-ware; we may hang it in graduated 
rows over the chimney-space — as the 
French cook parades her coppers — 
and arrange these necessary things 
with an eye to effect, while we secure 
perfect convenience of use. They 
are all pleasant of aspect if care and 
thought are devoted to their arrange- 
ment, and it is really of quite as 


much value to the family to have a 
charming and perfectly appointed 
kitchen, as to possess a beautiful and 
comfortable parlour or sitting-room, 

Every detail should be considered 
from the double point of viev^ of use 
and effect. If the curtains answer 
the tw^o purposes of shading sunlight, 
or securing privacy at night, and of 
giving pleasing colour and contrast to 
the general tone of the interior, they 
perform a double function, each of 
of w^hich is valuable. 

If the chairs are chosen for strength 
and use, and are painted or stained to 
match the colour of the floor, they add 
to the satisfaction of the eye, as well 
as minister to the house service. A 
pursuance of this thought adds to the 
harmony of the house both in aspect 
and actual beauty of living. Of 
course in selecting such furnishings of 
the kitchen as chairs, one must bear 
in mind that even their legitimate 


use may include standing, as well as 
sitting upon them; that they may be 
made temporary resting-places for 
scrubbing pails, brushes, and other 
cleaning necessities, and therefore they 
must be made of painted wood ; but 
this should not discourage the pro- 
vision of a cane-seated rocking-chair 
for each servant, as a comfort for 
weary bones when the day's work is 

In establishments which include a 
servants' dining- or sitting-room, these 
moderate luxuries are a thing of 
course, but in houses where at most 
but two maids are employed they are 
not always considered, although they 
certainly should be. 

If a corner can be appropriated to 
evening leisure — where there is room 
for a small, brightly covered table, 
a lamp, a couple of rocking-chairs, 
work-baskets and a book or maga- 
zine, it answers in a small way to the 

















family evening-room, where all gath- 
er for rest and comfort. 

There is no reason why the wall 
space above it should not have its cabi- 
net for photographs and the usually 
cherished prayer-book which maids 
love both to possess and display. Such 
possessions answer exactly to the bric- 
a-brac of the drawing-room; minister- 
ing to the same human instinct in its 
primitive form, and to the inherent 
enjoyment of the beautiful which is 
the line of demarcation between the 
tribes of animals and those of men. 

If one can use this distinctly hu- 
man trait as a lever to raise crude 
humanity into the higher region of 
the virtues, it is certainly worth while 
to consider pots and pans from the 
point of view of their decorative 


TN choosing colour for walls and 
ceilings, it is most necessary to 
consider the special laws which govern 
its application to house interiors. 

The tint of any particular room 
should be chosen not only with ref- 
erence to personal liking, but first of 
all, to the quantity and quality of 
light which pervades it. A north 
room will require warm and bright 
treatment, warm reds and golden 
browns, or pure gold colours. Gold- 
colour used in sash curtains will give 
an effect of perfect sunshine in a dark 
and shadowy room, but the same 
treatment in a room fronting the 
south would produce an almost in- 
supportable brightness. 

I will illustrate the modifications 



made necessary in tint by different 
exposure to light, by supposing that 
some one member of the family pre- 
fers yellow to all other colours, one 
who has enough of the chameleon 
in her nature to feel an instinct to 
bask in sunshine. I will also suppose 
that the room most conveniently de- 
voted to the occupation of this mem- 
ber has a southern exposure. If yel- 
low must be used in her room, the 
quality of it should be very different 
from that which could be properly 
and profitably used in a room with a 
northern exposure, and it should dif- 
fer not only in intensity, but actually 
in tint. If it is necessary, on account 
of personal preference, to use yellow 
in a sunny room, it should be lemon, 
instead of ochre or gold-coloured 
yellow, because the latter would re- 
peat sunlight. There are certain 
shades of yellow, where white has 
been largely used in the mixture, 


which are capable of greenish reflec- 
tions. This is where the white is of 
so pure a quality as to suggest blue, 
and consequently under the influence 
of yellow to suggest green. We often 
find yellow dyes in silks the shadows 
of which are positive fawn colour or 
even green, instead of orange as we 
might expect ; still, even with modi- 
fications, yellow should properly be 
reserved for sunless rooms, where it 
acts the part almost of the blessed sun 
itself in giving cheerfulness and light. 
Going from a sun-lighted atmosphere, 
or out of actual sunlight into a yel- 
low room, one would miss the sense 
of shelter which is so grateful to 
eyes and senses a little dazzled by 
the brilliance of out-of-door lights ; 
whereas a room darkened or shaded 
by a piazza, or somewhat chilled by 
a northern exposure and want of sun, 
would be warmed and comforted by 
tints of gold-coloured yellow. 


Interiors with a southern exposure 
should be treated with cool, light 
colours, blues in various shades, water- 
greens, and silvery tones which will 
contrast with the positive yellow of 

It is by no means a merely arbi- 
trary rule. Colours are actually warm 
or cold in temperature, as well as in 
effect upon the eye or the imagina- 
tion, in fact the words cover a long- 
tested fact. I remember being told 
by a painter of his placing a red sun- 
set landscape upon the flat roof of a 
studio building to dry, and on going 
to it a few hours afterward he found 
the surface of it so warm to the touch 
— so sensibly warmer than the gray 
and blue and green pictures around 
it — that he brought a thermometer to 
test it, and found it had acquired and 
retained heat. It was actually warm- 
er by degrees than the gray and blue 
pictures in the same sun exposure. 


We instinctively wear warm colours 
in winter and dispense with them in 
summer, and this simple fact may ex- 
plain the art which allots what we 
call warm colour to rooms without 
sun. When we say warm colours, we 
mean yellows, reds with all their 
gradations, gold or sun browns, and 
dark browns and black. When we 
say cool colours — whites, blues, grays, 
and cold greens — for greens may be 
warm or cold, according to their 
composition or intensity. A water- 
green is a cold colour, so is a pure 
emerald green, so also a blue-green ; 
while an olive, or a gold-green comes 
into the category of warm colours. 
This is because it is a composite col- 
our made of a union of warm and 
cold colours; the brown and yellow 
in its composition being in excess of 
the blue; as pink also, which is a 
mixture of red and white; and lav- 
ender, which is a mixture of red, white, 


and blue, stand as intermediate be- 
tween two extremes. 

Having duly considered the effect 
of light upon colour, we may fear- 
lessly choose tints for every room ac- 
cording to personal preferences or 
tastes. If we like one warm colour 
better than another, there is no rea- 
son why that one should not predom- 
inate in every room in the house 
which has a shadow exposure. If we 
like a cold colour it should be used 
in many of the sunny rooms. 

I believe we do not give enough 
importance to this matter of personal 
liking in tints. We select our friends 
from sympathy. As a rule, we do 
not philosophise much about it, al- 
though we may recognise certain 
principles in our liking ; it is those to 
whom our hearts naturally open that 
we invite in and have joy in their 
companionship, and we might surely 
follow our likings in the matter of 


colour, as well as in friendship, and 
thereby add much to our happiness. 
Curiously enough we often speak of 
the colour of a mind — and I once 
knew a child who persisted in calling 
people by the names of colours ; not 
the colour of their clothes, but some 
mind-tint which he felt. << The blue 
lady" was his especial favourite, and I 
have no doubt the presence or ab- 
sence of that particular colour made 
a difference in his content all the 
days of his life. 

The colour one likes is better for 
tranquillity and enjoyment — more 
conducive to health ; and exercises 
an actual living influence upon 
moods. For this reason, if no other, 
the colour of a room should never be 
arbitrarily prescribed or settled for the 
one who is to be its occupant. It should 
be as much a matter of nature as the 
lining of a shell is to the mussel, or as 
the colour of the wings of a butterfly. 


In fact the mind which we cannot see 
may have a colour of its own, and it 
is natural that it should choose to 
dwell within its own influence. 

We do not know why we like cer- 
tain colours, but we do, and let that 
suffice, and let us live with them, as 
gratefully as we should for more ex- 
plainable ministry. 

If colours which we like have a 
soothing effect upon us, those which 
we do not like are, on the other 
hand, an unwelcome influence. If a 
woman says in her heart, I hate green, 
or red, or I dislike any one colour, 
and then is obliged to live in its 
neighbourhood, she will find herself 
dwelling with an enemy. We all 
know that there are colours of which 
a little is enjoyable when a mass 
would be unendurable. Predominant 
scarlet would be like close compan- 
ionship with a brass band, but a note 
of scarlet is one of the most valuable 


of sensations. The gray compounded 
of black and white would be a wet 
blanket to all bubble of wit or spring 
of fancy, but the shadows of rose 
colour are gray, pink-tinted it is 
true ; indeed the shadow of pink 
used to be known by the name of 
ashes of roses, I remember seeing once 
in Paris — that home of bad general 
decoration — a room in royal purples; 
purple velvet on walls, furniture, and 
hangings. One golden Rembrandt 
in the middle of a long wall, and a 
great expanse of ochre-coloured par- 
quetted floor were all that saved it 
from the suggestion of a royal tomb. 
As it was, I left the apartment with a 
feeling of treading softly as when we 
pass through a door hung with crape. 
Vagaries of this kind are remediable 
when they occur in cravats, or bon- 
nets, or gloves — but a room in the 
wrong colour! Saints and the angels 
preserve us! 


















The number, size, and placing of 
the windows will greatly affect the 
intensity of colour to be used. It 
must always be remembered that any 
interior is dark as compared with out- 
of-doors, and that in the lightest 
room there will be dark corners or 
spaces where the colour chosen as 
chief tint will seem much darker than 
it really is. A paper or textile chos- 
en in a good light will look several 
shades darker when placed in large 
unbroken masses or spaces upon the 
wall, and a fully furnished room will 
generally be much darker when com- 
pleted than might be expected in 
planning it. For this reason, in 
choosing a favourite tint, it is better 
on many accounts to choose it in as 
light a shade as one finds agreeable. 
It can be repeated in stronger tones 
in furniture or in small and unim- 
portant furnishings of the room, but 
the wall tone should never be deeper 


than medium in strength, at the risk 
of having all the light absorbed by 
the colour, and of losing a sense of 
atmosphere in the room. There is 
another reason for this, which is that 
many colours are agreeable, even to 
their lovers, only in light tones. The 
moment they get belov^ medium they 
become insistent, and make them- 
selves of too much importance. In 
truth colour has qualities which are 
almost personal, and is well worth 
studying in all its peculiarities, be- 
cause of its power to affect our hap- 

The principles of proper use of 
colour in house interiors are not diffi- 
cult to master. It is unthinking, un- 
reflective action which makes so many 
unrestful interiors of homes. The 
creator of a home should consider, in 
the first place, that it is a matter as 
important as climate, and as difficult 
to get away from, and that the first 


shades of colour used in a room upon 
walls or ceiling, must govern every- 
thing else that enters in the v^^ay of 
furnishing; that the colour of walls 
prescribes that which must be used in 
floors, curtains, and furniture. Not 
that these must necessarily be of the 
same tint as walls, but that wall-tints 
must govern the choice. 

All this makes it necessary to take 
first steps carefully, to select for each 
room the colour which will best suit 
the taste, feeling, or bias of the occu- 
pant, always considering the exposure 
of the room and the use of it. 

After the relation of colour to 
light is established — with personal 
preferences duly taken into account 
— the next law is that of gradation. 
The strongest, and generally the pur- 
est, tones of colour belong naturally 
at the base, and the floor of a room 
means the base upon which the 
scheme of decoration is to be built. 


The carpet, or floor covering, should 
carry the strongest tones. If a single 
tint is to be used, the walls must take 
the next gradation, and the ceiling 
the last. These gradations must be 
far enough removed from each other 
in depth of tone to be quite apparent, 
but not to lose their relation. The 
connecting grades may appear in fur- 
niture covering and draperies, thus giv- 
ing different values in the same tone, 
the relation between them being per- 
fectly apparent. These three masses 
of related colour are the groundwork 
upon which one can play infinite va- 
riations, and is really the same law 
upon which a picture is composed. 
There are foreground, middle-dis- 
tance, and sky — and in a properly 
coloured room, the floors, walls, and 
ceiling bear the same relation to each 
other as the grades of colour in a 
picture, or in a landscape. 

Fortunately we keep to this law 


almost by instinct, and yet I have 
seen a white-carpeted floor in a room 
with a painted ceiling of considerable 
depth of colour. Imagine the effect 
where this rule of gradation or as- 
cending scale is reversed. A tinted 
floor of cream colour, or even white, 
and a ceiling as deep in colour as a 
landscape. One feels as if they them- 
selves were reversed, and standing 
upon their heads. Certainly if we 
ignore this law we lose our sense of 
base or foundation, and although 
we may not know exactly why, we 
shall miss the restfulness of a prop- 
erly constructed scheme of decora- 

The rule of gradation includes 
also that of massing of colour. In all 
simple treatment of interiors, what- 
ever colour is chosen should be al- 
lowed space enough to establish its 
influence, broadly and freely, and 
here again we get a lesson from nat- 


ure in the massing of colour. It 
should not be broken into patches 
and neutralised by divisions, but used 
in large enough spaces to dominate, 
or bring into itself or its own influ- 
ence all that is placed in the room. 
If this ruJe is disregarded every piece 
of furniture unrelated to the whole 
becomes a spot, it has no real con- 
nection with the room, and the room 
itself, instead of a harmonious and 
delightful influence, akin to that of 
a sun-flushed dawn or a sunset sky, 
is like a picture where there is no 
composition, or a book where inci- 
dent is jumbled together without re- 
lation to the story. In short, plac- 
ing of colour in large uniform masses 
used in gradation is the groundwork 
of all artistic effect in interiors. As I 
have said, it is the same rule that gov- 
erns pictures, the general tone may be 
green or blue, or a division of each, 
but to be a perfect and harmonious 


view, every detail must relate to one 
or both of these tints. 

In formulating thus far the rules 
for use of colour in rooms, we have 
touched upon three principles which 
are. equally binding in interiors, 
whether of a cottage or a palace ; the 
first is that of colour in relation to 
light, the second of colour in gra- 
dation, and the third of colour in 

A house in which walls and ceil- 
ings are simply well coloured or cov- 
ered, has advanced very far toward 
the home which is the rightful en- 
dowment of every human being. 
The variations of treatment, which 
pertain to more costly houses, the 
application of design in borders and 
frieze spaces, walls, wainscots, and 
ceilings, are details which will proba- 
bly call for artistic advice and pro- 
fessional knowledge, since in these 
things it is easy to err in misapplied 


decoration. The advance from per- 
fect simplicity to selected and beauti- 
ful ornament marks not only the de- 
gree of cost but of knowledge which 
it is in the power of the house-owner 
to command. The elaboration which 
is the privilege of more liberal means 
and the use of artistic experience in 
decoration on a larger scale. 

The smaller house shares in the 
advantage of beautiful colour, correct 
principles, and appropriate treatment 
equally with the more costly. The 
variations do not falsify principles. 


npHE true principle of wall treat- 
ment is to make the boundary 
stand for colour and beauty, and not 
alone for division of space. 

As a rule, the colour treatment of 
a house interior must begin with the 
walls, and it is fortunate if these are 
blank and plain as in most new houses 
with uncoloured ceilings, flat or brok- 
en with mouldings to suit the style 
of the house. 

The range of possible treatment is 
very wide, from simple tones of wall 
colour against which quiet cottage 
or domestic city life goes on, to the 
elaboration of walls of houses of a 
different grade, where stately pag- 
eants are a part of the drama of daily 

life. But having shown that certain 



rules are applicable to both, and in- 
deed necessary to success in both, we 
may choose within these rules any 
tint or colour which is personally 

Rooms with an east or west light 
may carry successfully tones of any 
shade, without violating fundamental 

The first impression of a room 
depends upon the walls. In fact, 
rooms are good or bad, agreeable or 
ugly in exact accordance with the 
wall-quality and treatment. No rich- 
ness of floor-covering, draperies, or 
furniture can minimise their influence. 

Perhaps it is for this reason that 
the world is full of papers and other 
devices for making walls agreeable ; 
and we cannot wonder at this, when 
we reflect that something of the kind 
is necessary to the aspect of the room, 
and that each room effects for the 
individual exactly what the outer 


walls of the house effect for the fam- 
ily, they give space for personal pri- 
vacy and for that reserve of the indi- 
vidual w^hich is the earliest effect of 
luxury and comfort. 

It is certain that if walls are not 
made agreeable there is in them 
something of restraint to the eye and 
the sense which is altogether disagree- 
able. Apparent confinement within 
given limits, is, on the whole, repug- 
nant to either the natural or civilised 
man, and for this reason we are con- 
stantly tempted to disguise the limit 
and to cover the wall in such a way 
as shall interest and make us forget 
our bounds. In this case, the idea of 
decoration is, to make the walls a 
barrier of colour only, instead of hard, 
unyielding masonry; to take away 
the sense of being shut in a box, and 
give instead freedom to thought and 
pleasure to the sense. 

It is the effect of shut-in-ness which 


the square and rigid walls of a room 
give that makes drapery so effective 
and welcome, and which also gives 
value to the practice of covering walls 
with silks or other textiles. The 
softened surface takes away the sense 
of restraint. We hang our walls with 
pictures, or cover them with textiles, 
or with paper which carries design, or 
even colour them with pigments — 
something — anything, which will dis- 
guise a restraining bound, or make it 
masquerade as a luxury. 

This effort or instinct has set in 
motion the machinery of the world. 
It has created tapestries and brocades 
for castle and palace, and invented 
cheap substitutes for these costly prod- 
ucts, so that the smallest and poor- 
est house as well as the richest can 
cover its walls with something pleas- 
ant to the eye and suggestive to the 

It is one of the privileges and 















opportunities of art to invent these 
disguises ; and to do it so thoroughly 
and successfully as to content us with 
facts which would otherwise be disa- 
greeable. And we do, by these vari- 
ous devices, make our walls so hospi- 
table to our thoughts that we take 
positive and continual pleasure in 

We do this chiefly, perhaps, by 
ministering to our instinctive love of 
colour; which to many temperaments 
is like food to the hungry, and satis- 
fies as insistent a demand of the mind 
as food to the body. 

At this late period of the world 
we are the inheritors of many meth- 
ods of wall disguise, from the primi- 
tive weavings or blanket coverings 
with which nomadic peoples lined the 
walls of their tents, or the arras which 
in later days covered the roughness 
and rudeness of the stone walls of 
kings and barons, to the pictured 


tapestries of later centuries. This lat- 
ter achievement of art manufacture 
has outlived and far. outweighed the 
others in value, because it more per- 
fectly performs the object of its crea- 

Tapestries, for the most part, ofFer 
us a semblance of nature, and cheat 
us with a sense of unlimited horizon. 
The older tapestries give us, with 
this, suggestions of human life and 
action in out-of-door scenes suffi- 
ciently unrealistic to offer a vague 
dream of existence in fields and for- 
ests. This effectually diverts our 
minds from the confinements of space, 
and allows us the freedom of nature. 

Probably the true secret of the 
never-failing appreciation of tapestries 
— from the very beginning of their 
history until this day — is this fact of 
their suggestiveness; since we find 
that damasks of silk or velvet or other 
costly weavings, although far surpass- 


ing tapestries in texture and concen- 
tration of colour, yet lacking their 
suggestiveness to the mind, can never 
rival them in the estimation of the 
world. Unhappily, we cannot count 
veritable tapestries as a modern re- 
course in wall-treatment, since we are 
precluded from the use of genuine 
ones by their scarcity and cost. 

There is undoubtedly a peculiar 
richness and charm in a tapestry-hung 
wall which no other wall covering 
can give; yet they are not entirely 
appropriate to our time. They be- 
long to the period of windy palaces 
and enormous enclosures, and are 
fitted for pageants and ceremonies, 
and riot to our carefully plastered, 
wind-tight and narrow rooms. Their 
mission to-day is to reproduce for us 
in museums and collections the life 
of yesterday, so full of pomp and al- 
most barbaric lack of domestic com- 
fort. In studios they are certainly 


appropriate and suggestive, but in pri- 
vate houses except of the princely 
sort, it is far better to make har- 
monies with the things of to-day. 

Nevertheless if the soul craves tap- 
estries let them be chosen for in- 
trinsic beauty and perfect preservation, 
instead of accepting the rags of the 
past and trying to create with them a 
magnificence which must be incom- 
plete and shabby. Considering, as I 
do, that tapestries belong to the life 
and conditions of the past, where the 
homeless many toiled for the pam- 
pered few, and not to the homes of 
to-day where the man of moderate 
means expects beauty in his home as 
confidently as if he were a world 
ruler, I find it hardly necessary to in- 
clude them in the list of means of 
modern decoration, and indeed it is 
not necessary, since a well-preserved 
tapestry of a good period, and of a 
famous manufacturer or origin, is so 


costly a purchase that only our boun- 
teous and self-indulgent millionaires 
would venture to acquire one solely 
for purposes of wall decoration. It 
would be purchased as a specimen of 
art and not as furnishing. 

Yet I know one instance of a library 
where a genuine old foliage tapestry 
has been cut and fitted to the walls 
and between bookcases and doors, 
where the wood of the room is in 
mahogany, and a great chimney-piece 
of Caen stone of Richardson's design- 
ing fills nearly one side of the room. 
Of course the tapestry is unapproach- 
able in effect in this particular place 
and with its surroundings. It has the 
richness and softness of velvet, and 
the red of the mahogany doors and 
furniture finds exactly its foil in the 
blue greens and soft browns of the 
web, while the polished floor and 
velvety antique rugs bring all the 
richness of the walls down to one's 


feet and to the hearth with its glow of 
fire. But this particular room hardly 
makes an example for general follow- 
ing. It is really a house of state, a 
house without children, one in which 
public life predominates. 

There is a very flagrant far-away 
imitation of tapestry which is so far 
from being good that it is a wonder 
it has had even a moderate success, 
imitation which does not even at- 
tempt the decorative effect of the 
genuine, but substitutes upon an ad- 
mirably woven cotton or woollen can- 
vas, figure panels, copied from mod- 
ern French masters, and suggestive of 
nothing but bad art. Yet these panels 
are sometimes used (and in fact are 
produced for the purpose of being 
used) precisely as a genuine tapestry 
would be, although the very fact of 
pretence in them, brings a feeling 
of untruth, quite at variance with the 
principles of all good art. The ob- 


jection to pictures transferred to tap- 
estries holds good, even when the 
tapestries are genuine. 

The great cartoons of Raphael, 
still to be seen in the Kensington 
Museum, which were drawn and col- 
oured for Flemish weavers to copy, 
show a perfect adaptation to the me- 
dium of weaving, while the paintings 
in the Vatican by the same great 
master are entirely inappropriate to 
textile reproduction. 

A picture cannot be transposed to 
different substance and purpose with- 
out losing the qualities which make 
it valuable. The double effort to be 
both a tapestry and a picture is futile, 
and brings into disrepute a simple art 
of imitation which might become re- 
spectable if its capabilities were right- 
ly used. 

No one familiar with collections of 
tapestries can fail to recognise the 
largeness and simplicity of treatment 


peculiar to tapestry subjects as con- 
trasted with the elaboration of pict- 

If we grant that in this modern 
world of hurry, imitation of tapestries 
is legitimate, the important question 
is, what are the best subjects, and 
what is the best use for such imita- 

The best use is undoubtedly that 
of wall-covering; and that was, in- 
deed, the earliest object for which 
they were created. They were woven 
to cover great empty spaces of un- 
sightly masonry; and they are still in- 
finitely useful and beautiful in grand 
apartments whose barren spaces are 
too large for modern pictures, and 
which need the disguise of a sugges- 
tion of scenery or pictorial subject. 

If tapestries must be painted, let 
them by all means follow the style of 
the ancient verdure or foliage tapes- 
tries, and be used for the same pur- 


pose — to cover an otherwise blank 
wall. This is legitimate, and even 
beautiful, but it is painting, and should 
be frankly acknowledged to be such, 
and no attempt made to have them 
masquerade as genuine and costly 
weavings. It is simply and always 
painting, although in the style and 
spirit of early tapestrieso Productions 
of this sort, where real skill in textile 
painting is used, are quite worthy of 
admiration and respect. 

I remember seeing, in the Swedish 
exhibit of women's work in the 
Woman's Building at the Columbian 
Exposition, a screen which had evi- 
dently been copied from an old bit 
of verdure tapestry. At the base 
were broad-leaved water-plants, each 
leaf carefully copied in blocks and 
patches of colour, with even the ef- 
fect of the little empty space — where 
one thread passes to the back in 
weaving, to make room for one of 


another colour brought forward — 
imitated by a dot of black to simu- 
late the tiny shadow-filled pen-point 
of a hole. 

Now whether this was art or not I 
leave to French critics to decide, but 
it was at least admirable imitation ; 
and any one able to cover the wall 
spaces between bookcases in a library 
with such imitation would find them 
as richly set as if it were veritable 

This is a very different thing from 
a painted tapestry, perhaps enlarged 
from a photograph or engraving of 
a painting the original of which the 
tapestry-painter had never even seen 
— the destiny of which unfortunate 
copy, changed in size, colour, and all 
the qualities which gave value to the 
original, is probably to be hung as a 
picture in the centre of a space of 
wall-paper totally antagonistic in 


When I see these things I long to 
curb the ambition of the unfortunate 
tapestry-painter until a course of 
study has taught him or her the proper 
use of a really useful process ; for 
whether the object is to produce a 
decoration or a simulated tapestry, it 
is not attained by these methods. 

The ordinary process of painting 
in dyes upon a wool or linen fabric 
woven in tapestry method, and fix- 
ing the colour with heat, enables the 
painter — if a true tapestry subject is 
chosen and tapestry effects carefully 
studied — to produce really effective 
and good things, and this opens a 
much larger field to the woman dec- 
orator than the ordinary unstudied 
shams which have thrown what might 
become in time a large and useful art- 
industry into neglect and disrepute. 

I have seen the walls of a library 
hung with Siberian linen, stained in 
landscape design in the old blues and 


greens which give tapestry its decora- 
tive value, and found it a delightful 
wall-covering. Indeed we may lay 
it down as a principle in decoration 
that while we may use and adapt any 
decorative effect we must not attempt 
to make it pass for the thing which 
suggested the effect. 

Coarse and carefully woven linens, 
used as I have indicated, are really far 
better than old tapestries for mod- 
ern houses, because the design can be 
adapted to the specific purpose and 
the texture itself can be easily cleaned 
and is more appropriate to the close 
walls and less airy rooms of this cen- 

For costly wall-decoration, leather 
is another of the substances which 
have had a past of pomp and mag- 
nificence, and carries with it, in addi- 
tion to beauty, a suggestion of the art 
of a race. Spanish leather, with its 
stamping and gilding, is quite as costly 


a wall covering as antique or modern 
tapestry, and far more indestructible. 
Perhaps it is needlessly durable as a 
mere vehicle for decoration. At all 
events Japanese artists and artisans 
seem to be of this opinion, and have 
transferred the same kind of decora- 
tion to heavy paper, where for some 
occult reason — although strongly sim- 
ulating leather — it seems not only not 
objectionable, but even meritorious. 
This is because it simply transfers an 
artistic method from a costly sub- 
stance, to another which is less so, 
and the fact may even have some 
weight that paper is a product of 
human manufacture, instead of hu- 
man appropriation of animal life, for 
surely sentiment has its influence in 
decoration as in other arts. 

Wood panelling is also a form of 
interior treatment which has come to 
us by inheritance from the past as 
well as by right of natural possession. 


It has a richness and sober dignity of 
effect which commends it in large or 
small interiors, in halls, libraries, and 
dining-rooms, whether they are pub- 
lic or private ; devoted to grand 
functions, or to the constantly re- 
curring uses of domesticity. Wood 
is so beautiful a substance in itself, 
and lends itself to so many processes 
of ornamentation, that hardly too 
much can be said of its appropriate- 
ness for interior decoration. From 
the two extremes of plain pine panel- 
lings cut into squares or parallelo- 
grams by machinery, and covered 
with paint in tints to match door 
and window casings, to the most 
elaborate carvings which back the 
Cathedral stalls or seats of ecclesi- 
astical dignity, it is always beautiful 
and generally appropriate in use and 
effect, and that can hardly be said 
of any other substance. There are 
wainscotted rooms in old houses in 




Newport, where, under the accumu- 
lated paint of one or two centuries, 
great panels of old Spanish mahogany- 
can still be found, not much the 
worse for their long eclipse. Such 
rooms, in the original brilliancy of 
colour and polish, with their parallel 
shadings of mahogany-red reflecting 
back the firelight from tiled chimney- 
places and scattering the play of 
dancing flame, must have had a 
beauty of colour hard to match in 
this day of sober oak and painted 

One of the lessons gained by ex- 
perience in treatment of house in- 
teriors, is that plain, flat tints give 
apparent size to small rooms, and 
that a satisfying effect in large ones 
can be gained by variation of tint or 
surface ; also, that in a bedroom or 
other small room apparent size will 
be gained by using a wall covering 
which is light rather than dark. Some 


difference of tone there must be in 
large plain surfaces which lie within 
the level of the eye ; or the monot- 
ony of a room becomes fatiguing. 
A plain, painted wall may, it is true, 
be broken by pictures, or cabinets, or 
bits of china ; anything in short 
which will throw parts of it into 
shadow, and illumine other parts 
with gilded reflections ; but even 
then there will be long, plain spaces 
above the picture or cabinet line, 
where blank monotony of tone will 
be fatal to the general effect of the 

It is in this upper space, upon a 
plain painted wall, that a broad line 
of flat decoration should occur, but 
on a wall hung with paper or cloth, 
it is by no means necessary. 

Damasked cloths, where the design 
is shown by the direction of woven 
threads, are particularly effective and 
satisfactory as wall-coverings. The 


soft surface is luxurious to the im- 
agination, and the play of light and 
shadow upon the warp and woof in- 
terests the eye, although there is no 
actual change of colour. 

Too much stress can hardly be laid 
upon the variation of tone in wall- 
surfaces, since the four walls stand for 
the atmosphere of a room. Tone 
means quality of colour. It may be 
light or dark, or of any tint, or varia- 
tions of tint, but the quality of it 
must be soft and charitable, instead 
of harsh and uncompromising. 

Almost the best of modern inven- 
tions for inexpensive wall-coverings 
are found in what are called the in- 
grain papers. These have a variable 
surface, without reflections, and make 
not only a soft and impalpable colour 
effect, but, on account of their want 
of reflection, are good backgrounds 
for pictures. 

In these papers the colour is pro- 


duced by a mixture in the mass of 
paper pulp of atoms of varying tint, 
which are combined in the substance 
and make one general tint resulting 
from the mixture of several. In can- 
vases and textiles, which are a more 
expensive method of producing al- 
most the same mixed effect, the mi- 
nute points of brilliance of threads 
in light and darkness of threads in 
shadow, combine to produce softness 
of tone, impossible to pigment be- 
cause it has but one plain surface, 
unrelieved by breaking up into light 
and shadow. 

Variation, produced by minute 
differences, which affect each other 
and which the eye blends into a 
general tone, produce quality. It is 
at the same time soft and brilliant, 
and is really a popular adaptation of 
the philosophy of impressionist paint- 
ers, whose small dabs of pure colour 
placed in close juxtaposition and 


fused into one tone by the eye, give 
the purity and vibration of colour 
which distinguishes work of that 

Some skilful painters can stipple 
one tone upon another so as to pro- 
duce the same brilliant softness of 
effect, and when this can be done, 
oil-colour upon plaster is the best of 
all treatment for bedrooms since it 
fulfils all the sanitary and other con- 
ditions so necessary in sleeping-rooms. 
The same effect may be produced if 
the walls are of rough instead of 
smooth plaster, so that the small in- 
equalities of surface give light and 
shadow as in textiles ; upon such sur- 
faces a pleasant tint in flat colour is 
always good. Painted burlaps and 
certain Japanese papers prepared with 
what may be called a textile or can- 
vas surface give the same effect, and 
indeed quality of tint and tone is far 
more easily obtained in wall-cover- 


ings or applied materials than in paint, 
because in most wall-coverings there 
are variations of tint produced in the 
very substance of the material. 

This matter of variation w^ithout 
contrast in w^all-surface, is one of the 
most important in house decoration, 
and has led to the increased use of 
textiles in houses where artistic effects 
have been carefully studied and are 
considered of importance. 

Of course wall-paper must continue 
to be the chief means of wall-cover- 
ing, on account of its cheapness, and 
because it is the readiest means of 
sheathing a plaster surface ; and a 
continuous demand for papers of 
good and nearly uniform colour, and 
the sort of inconspicuous design 
which fits them for modest interiors 
will have the effect of increasing 
the manufacture of desirable and ar- 
tistic things. 

In the meantime one should care- 


fully avoid the violently coloured 
papers which are made only to sell ; 
materials which catch the eye of the 
inexperienced and tempt them into 
the buying of things which are pro- 
ductive of lasting unrest. It is in the 
nature of positive masses and strongly 
contrasting colours to produce this 

If one is unfortunate enough to 
occupy a room of which the walls are 
covered with one of these glaring de- 
signs, and circumstances prevent a 
radical change, the simplest expedient 
is to cover the whole surface with a 
kalsomine or chalk-wash, of some 
agreeable tint. This will dry in an 
hour or two and present a nearly 
uniform surface, in which the printed 
design of the paper, if it appears at 
all, will be a mere suggestion. Papers 
where the design is carried in colour 
only a few shades darker than the 
background, are also safe, and — if 


the design is a good one — often very 
desirable for halls and dining-rooms. 
In skilfully printed papers of the sort 
the design often has the effect of a 
mere shadow-play of form. 

Of course in the infinite varieties 
of use and the numberless variations 
of personal taste, there are, and should 
be, innumerable differences in appli- 
cation of both colour and materials 
to interiors. There are differences in 
the use of rooms which may make a 
sense of perfect seclusion desirable, as, 
for instance, in libraries, or rooms 
used exclusively for evening gather- 
ings of the family. In such semi- 
private rooms the treatment should 
give a sense of close family life rather 
than space, while in drawing-rooms 
it should be exactly the reverse, and 
this effect is easily secured by com- 
petent use of colour. 



T3ESIDES the difference in treat- 
ment demanded by different use 
of rooms — the character of the deco- 
ration of the whole house will be in- 
fluenced by its situation. A house 
in the country or a house in town ; 
a house by the sea-shore or a house 
situated in woods and fields require 
stronger or less strong colour, and 
even different tints, according to situ- 
ation. The decoration itself may be 
much less conventional in one place 
than in another, and in country 
houses much and lasting charm is 
derived from design and colour in 
perfect harmony with nature's sur- 
roundings. Whatever decorative de- 
sign is used in wall-coverings or in 
curtains or hangings will be far more 



effective if it bears some relation to 
the surroundings and position of the 

If the nouse is by the sea the walls 
should repeat with many variations 
the tones of sea and sand and sky; 
the gray-greens of sand-grasses ; the 
blues which change from blue to green 
with every cloud-shadow ; the pearl 
tints which become rose in the morn- 
ing or evening light, and the browns 
and olives of sea mosses and lichens. 
This treatment of colour will make 
the interior of the house a part of 
the great out-of-doors and create a 
harmony between the artificial shel- 
ter and nature. 

There is philosophy in following, 
as far as the limitations of simple 
colour will allow, the changeableness 
and fluidity of natural effects along 
the shore, and allowing the mood of 
the brief summer life to fall into 
entire harmony with the dominant 


expression of the sea. Blues and 
greens and pinks and browns should 
all be kept on a level with out-of- 
door colour, that is, they should not 
be too deep and strong for harmony 
with the sea and sky, and if, when 
harmonious colour is once secured, 
most of the materials used in the 
furnishing of the house are chosen 
because their design is based upon, or 
suggested by, sea-forms, an impression 
is produced of having entered into 
complete and perfect harmony with 
the elements and aspects of nature. 
The artificialities of life fall more and 
more into the background, and one 
is refreshed with a sense of having 
established entirely harmonious and 
satisfactory relations with the sur- 
roundings of nature. I remember a 
doorway of a cottage by the sea, 
where the moulding which made a 
part of the frame was an orderly line 
of carved cockle-shells, used as a bor- 


der, and this little touch of recog- 
nition of its sea-neighbours was not 
only decorative in itself, but gave 
even the chance visitor a sort of in- 
terpretation of the spirit of the in- 
terior life. 

Suppose, on the other hand, that 
the summer house is placed in the 
neighbourhood of fields and trees and 
mountains ; it will be found that 
strong and positive treatment of the 
interior is more in harmony with the 
outside landscape. Even heavier fur- 
niture looks fitting where the house is 
surrounded with massive tree-growths; 
and deeper and purer colours can be 
used in hangings and draperies. This 
is due to the more positive colouring 
of a landscape than of a sea-view. 
The masses of strong and slightly 
varying green in foliage, the red, 
brown, or vivid greens of fields and 
crops, the dark lines of tree-trunks 
and branches, as well as the unchang- 


ing forms of rock and hillside, call 
for a corresponding strength of in- 
terior effect. 

It is a curious fact, also, that where 
a house is surrounded by myriads of 
small natural forms of leaves and 
flowers and grasses, plain spaces of 
colour in interiors, or spaces where 
form is greatly subordinated to col- 
our, are more grateful to the eye 
than prominently decorated surface. 
A repetition of small natural forms 
like the shells and sea-mosses, which 
are for the most part hidden under 
lengths of liquid blue, is pleasing and 
suggestive by the sea ; but in the 
country, where form is prominent 
and positive and prints itself con- 
stantly upon both mental and bodily 
vision, unbroken colour surfaces are 
found to be far more agreeable. 

It will be seen that the principles 
of appropriate furnishing and adorn- 
ment in house interiors depend upon 


circumstances and natural surround- 
ings as well as upon the character 
and pursuits of the family who are to 
be lodged, and that the final charm 
of the home is attained by a perfect 
adaptation of principles to existing 
conditions both of nature and hu- 

In cottages of the character we are 
considering, furniture should be sim- 
pler and lighter than in houses in- 
tended for constant family living. 
Chairs and sofas should be without 
elaborate upholstery and hangings, and 
cushions can be appropriately made of 
some well-coloured cotton or linen 
material which wind, and sun, and 
dampness cannot spoil, and of which 
the freshness can always be restored by 
laundering. These are general rules, 
appropriate to all summer cottages, 
and to these it may be added, that a 
house which is to be closed for six or 
eight months in the year should really. 


to be consistent, be inexpensively fur- 
nished. These general rules are in- 
tended only to emphasise the fact 
that in houses which are to become 
in the truest sense homes — that is, 
places of habitation which represent 
the inhabitants, directions or rules for 
beautiful colour and arrangement of 
interiors, must always follow the guid- 
ing incidents of class and locality. 


A S ceilings are in reality a part of 
the wall, they must always be 
considered in connection with room 
interiors, but their influence upon the 
beauty of the average house is so 
small, that their treatment is a com- 
paratively easy problem. 

In simple houses with plaster ceil- 
ings the tints to be used are easily 
decided. The rule of gradation of 
colour from floor to ceiling prescribes 
for the latter the lightest tone of the 
gradation, and as the ceiling stands 
for light, and should actually reflect 
light into the room, the philosophy 
of this arrangement of colours is ob- 
vious. It is not, however, an invari- 
able rule that the ceiling should carry 
the same tint as the wall, even in a 



much lighter tone, although greater 
harmony and restfulness of effect is 
produced in this way. A ceiling of 
cream white will harmonise well with 
almost any tint upon the walls, and 
at the same time give an effect of air 
and light in the room. It is also a 
good ground for ornament in elabo- 
rately decorated ones. 

If the walls are covered with a 
light wall-paper which carries a floral 
design, it is a safe rule to make the 
ceiling of the same colour but a 
lighter shade of the background of 
the paper, but it is not by any 
means good art to carry a flower de- 
sign over the ceiling. One sometimes 
sees instances of this in the bedrooms 
of fairly good houses, and the effect 
is naturally that of bringing the ceil- 
ing apparently almost to one's head, 
or at all events, of producing a very 
unrestful effect. 

A wood ceiling in natural colour 


is always a good feature in a room of 
defined or serious purpose, like a hall, 
dining-room, or library, because in 
such rooms the colour of the side 
walls is apt to be strong enough to 
balance it. Indeed a wooden ceiling 
has always the merit of being secure 
in its place, and even where the walls 
are light can be painted so as to be 
in harmony with them. Plaster as a 
ceiling for bedrooms is open to the 
objection of a possibility of its de- 
taching itself from the lath, especially 
in old houses, and in these it is well 
to have them strengthened with flat 
mouldings of wood put on in regular 
squares, or even in some geometrical 
design, and painted with the ceiling. 
This gives security as well as a cer- 
tain elaborateness of effect not with- 
out its value. 

For the ordinary, or comparatively 
inexpensive home, we need not con- 
sider the ceiling an object for serious 


Study, because it is so constantly out 
of the line of sight, and because its 
natural colourless condition is no bar 
to the general colour-effect. 

In large rooms this condition is 
changed, for in a long perspective 
the ceiling comes into sight and con- 
sciousness. There would be a sense 
of barrenness and poverty in a long 
stretch of plain surface or unbroken 
colour over a vista of decorated wall, 
and accordingly the ceilings of large 
and important rooms are generally 
broken by plaster mouldings or archi- 
tectural ornament. 

In rooms of this kind, whether in 
public or private buildings, decorative 
painting has its proper and appro- 
priate place. A painted ceiling, no 
matter how beautiful, is quite super- 
fluous and indeed absolutely lost in a 
room where size prevents its being 
brought into the field of the eye by 
the lowering of long perspective lines, 


but when the size of the room gives 
unusual length of ceiling, no effect of 
decoration is so valuable and pre- 
cious. Colour and gilding upon a 
ceiling, when well sustained by fine 
composition or treatment, is undoubt- 
edly the highest and best achievement 
of the decorative painter's art. 

Such a ceiling in a large and stately 
drawing-room, where the walls are 
hung with silk which gives broken 
indications of graceful design in play 
of light upon the texture, is one of 
the most successful of both modern 
as well as antique methods of deco- 
ration. It has come down in direct 
succession of practice to the school of 
French decoration of to-day, and has 
been adopted into American fashion 
in its full and complete practice with- 
out sufficient adaptation to American 
circumstances. If it were modified 
by these, it is capable of absorbing 
other and better qualities than those 


of mere fashion and brilliance, as we 
see in occasional instances in some 
beautiful American houses, where the 
ceilings have been painted, and the 
textiles woven with an almost im- 
aginative appropriateness of subject. 
Such ceilings as this belong, of course, 
to the efforts of the mural or decora- 
tive painter, who, in conjunction with 
the decorator, or architect, has studied 
the subject as connected with its sur- 


A LTHOUGH in ordinary sequence 
the colouring of floors comes 
after that of walls, the fact that — in 
important houses — costly and elabo- 
rate floors of mosaic or of inlaid 
wood form part of the architect's plan, 
makes it necessary to consider the 
effect of inherent or natural colours 
of such floors, in connection with 
applied colour-schemes in rooms. 

Mosaic floors, being as a rule con- 
fined to halls in private houses, need 
hardly be considered in this relation, 
and costly wood floors are almost 
necessarily confined to the yellows 
of the natural woods. These yellows 
range from pale buff* to olive, and are 
not as a rule inharmonious with any 

other tint, although they often lack 



sufficient strength or intensity to hold 
their own with stronger tints of walls 
and furniture. 

As it is one of the principles of 
colour in a house that the floor is the 
foundation of the room, this weak- 
ness of colour in hard-wood floors 
must be acknowledged as a disadvan- 
tage. The floors should certainly be 
able to support the room in colour 
as well as in construction. It must 
bs the strongest tint in the room, and 
yet it must have the unobtrusiveness 
of strength. This makes floor treat- 
ment a more difficult problem, or 
one requiring more thought than is 
generally supposed, and explains why 
light rooms are more successful with 
hard-wood floors than medium or 
very dark ones. 

There are many reasons, sanitary 
as well as economic, why hard-wood 
floors should not be covered in or- 
dinary dwelling-houses ; and when 


the pores of the wood are properly 
filled, and the surface kept well pol- 
ished, it is not only good as a fact, 
but as an effect, as it reflects sur- 
rounding tints, and does much to 
make up for lack of sympathetic or 
related colour. Yet it will be found 
that in almost every case of success- 
ful colour-treatment in a room, some- 
thing must be added in the way of 
floor-covering to give it the sense of 
completeness and satisfaction which 
is the result of a successful scheme 
of decoration. 

The simplest way of doing this is 
to cover enough of the space with 
rugs to attract the eye, and restore 
the balance lost by want of strength 
of colour in the wood. Sometimes 
one or two small rugs will do this, 
and these may be of almost any tint 
which includes the general one of the 
room, even if the general tint is not 
prominent in the rug. If the use or 


luxury of the room requires more 
covered space, it is better to use one 
rug of a larger size than several small 
and perhaps conflicting ones. Of 
course in this the general tone of the 
rug must be chosen for its affinity 
to the tone of the room, but that 
affinity secured, any variations of 
colour occurring in the design are 
apt to add to the general effect. 

A certain amount of contrast to 
prevailing colour is an advantage, and 
the general value of rugs in a scheme 
of decoration is that they furnish this 
contrast in small masses or divisions, 
so well worked in with other tints 
and tones that it makes its eff'ect 
without opposition to the general 

Thus, in a room where the walls 
are of a pale shade of copper, the 
rugs should bring in a variety of reds 
which would be natural parts of the 
same scale, like lower notes in the 


octave ; and yet should add patches 
of relative blues and harmonising 
greens ; possibly also, deep gold, and 
black and white ; — the latter in mi- 
nute forms and lines which only ac- 
cent or enrich the general effect. 

It is really an interesting problem, 
why the strong colours generally used 
in Oriental rugs should harmonise so 
much better with weaker tints in 
walls and furniture than even the 
most judiciously selected carpets can 
possibly do. It is true there are bad 
Oriental rugs, very bad ones, just as 
there may be a villain in any con- 
gregation of the righteous, but cer- 
tainly the long centuries of Eastern 
manufacture, reaching back to the 
infancy of the world, have given 
Eastern nations secrets not to be 
easily mastered by the people of later 

But if we cannot tell with cer- 
tainty why good rugs fit all places 


and circumstances, while any other 
thing of mortal manufacture must 
have its place carefully prepared for 
it, we may perhaps assume to know 
why the most beautiful of modern 
carpets are not as easily managed and 
as successful. 

In the first place having explained 
that some contrast, some fillip of 
opposing colour, something which 
the artist calls snap^ is absolutely re- 
quired in every successful colour 
scheme, we shall see that if we are 
to get this by simple means of a car- 
pet, we must choose one which 
carries more than one colour in its 
composition, and colour introduced 
as design must come under the laws 
of mechanical manufacture ; that is, 
it must come in as repeating design, 
and here comes in the real difficulty. 
The same forms and the same col- 
ours must come in in the same way 
in every yard, or every half or three- 


quarter yard of the carpet. It fol- 
lows, then, that it must be evenly 
sprinkled or it must regularly mean- 
der over every yard or half yard of 
the surface ; and this regularity re- 
solves itself into spots, and spots are 
unendurable in a scheme of colour. 
So broad a space as the floor of a 
room cannot be covered by sections 
of constantly repeated design without 
producing a spotty effect, although it 
can be somewhat modified by the 
efforts of the good designer. Never- 
theless, in spite of his best knowledge 
and intention, the difficulty remains. 
There is no one patch of colour 
larger than another, or more irregu- 
lar in form. There is nothing which 
has not its exact counterpart at an 
exact distance — north, south, east 
and west, or northeast, southeast, 
northwest and southwest — and this 
is why a carpet with good design and 
excellent colour becomes unbearable 


in a room of large size. In a small 
room where there are not so many- 
repeats, the eiFect is not as bad, but 
in a large room the monotonous 
repetition is almost without remedy. 

Of course there are certain laws of 
optics and ingenuities of composition 
which may palliate this effect, but 
the fact remains that the floor should 
be covered in a way which will leave 
the mind tranquil and the eye satis- 
fied, and this is hard to accomplish 
with what is commonly known as a 
figured carpet. 

If carpet is to be used, it seems, 
then, that the simplest way is to 
select a good monochrome in the 
prevailing tint of the room, but sev- 
eral shades darker. Not an abso- 
lutely plain surface, but one broken 
with some unobtrusive design or pat- 
tern in still darker darks and lighter 
lights than the general tone. In this 
case we shall have the room har- 


monious, it is true, but lacking the 
element which provokes admiration 
— the enlivening effect of contrast. 
This may be secured by making the 
centre or main part of the carpet 
comparatively small, and using a very 
wide and important border of con- 
trasting colour — a border so wide as 
to make itself an important part of 
the carpet. In large rooms this plan 
does not entirely obviate the dijffi- 
culty, as it leaves the central space 
still too large and impressive to re- 
main unbroken ; but the remedy 
may be found in the use of hearth- 
rugs or skin-rugs, so placed as to 
seem necessities of use. 

As I have said before, contrast on 
a broad scale can be secured by 
choosing carpets of an entirely differ- 
ent tone from the wall, and this is 
sometimes expedient. For instance, 
as contrast to a copper-coloured wall, 
a softly toned green carpet is nearly 


always successful. This one colour, 
green, is always safe and satisfactory 
in a floor-covering, provided the 
walls are not too strong in tone, and 
provided that the green in the carpet 
is not too green. Certain brownish 
greens possess the quality of being in 
harmony with every other colour. 
They are the most peaceable shades 
in the colour-world — the only ones 
without positive antipathies. Green 
in all the paler tones can claim the 
title of peace-maker among colours, 
since all the other tints will fight 
with something else, but never with 
green of a corresponding or even of 
a much greater strength. Of course 
this valuable quality, combined with 
a natural restfulness of effect, makes 
it the safest of ordinary floor-cover- 

In bedrooms with polished floors 
and light walls good colour-effects 
can be secured without carpets, but 


if the floors are of pine and need 
covering, no better general effect can 
be secured than that of plain or 
mixed ingrain filling, using with it 
Oriental hearth and bedside rugs. 

The entire second floor of a house 
can in that case be covered with 
carpet in the accommodating tint of 
green mentioned, leaving the various 
colour-connections to be made with 
differently tinted rugs. Good pine 
floors well fitted and finished can 
be stained to harmonise with almost 
any tint used in furniture or upon 
the wall. 

I remember a sea-side chamber in 
a house where the mistress had great 
natural decorative ability, and so much 
cultivation as to prevent its running 
away with her, where the floor was 
stained a transparent olive, like depths 
of sea-water, and here and there a 
floating sea-weed, or a form of sea- 
life faintly outlined within the col- 


our. In this room, which seemed 
wide open to the sea and air, even 
when the windows were closed, the 
walls were of a faint greenish blue, 
like what is called dead turquoise, 
and the relation between floor and 
walls was so perfect that it remained 
with me to this day as a crowning in- 
stance of satisfaction in colour. 

It is perhaps more difficult to con- 
vey an idea of happy choice or selec- 
tion of floor-colour than of walls, 
because it is relative to walls. It 
must relate to what has already been 
done. But in recapitulation it is 
safe to say, first, that in choosing 
colour for a room, soft and medium 
tints are better than positively dark 
or bright ones, and that walls should 
be unobtrusive in design as well as 
colour ; secondly, that floors, if of the 
same tint as walls, should be much 
darker ; and that they should be made 
apparent by means of this strength of 


colour, or by the addition of rugs or 
borders, although the relation be- 
tween walls and floor must be care- 
fully preserved and perfectly unmis- 
takable, for it is the perfection of this 
relation of one colour to another 
which makes home decoration an art. 
There is still a word to be said as 
to floor-coverings, which relates to 
healthful housekeeping instead of 
art, and that is, that in all cases 
where carpets or mattings are used, 
they should be in rug form, not fitted 
in to irregular floor-spaces ; so as to 
be frequently and easily lifted and 
cleaned. The great, and indeed the 
only, objection to the use of mattings 
in country or summer houses, is the 
difficulty of frequent lifting, and re- 
moval of accumulated dust, which 
has sifted through to the floor — but 
if fine hemp-warp mattings are used, 
and sewn into squares which cover 
the floor sufficiently, it is an ideal 


summer floor-covering, as it can be 
rolled and removed even more easily 
than a carpet, and there is a dust- 
shedding quality in it w^hich com- 
mends itself to the housekeeper. 



T^RAPERIES are not always con- 
sidered as a part of furnishings, 
yet in truth — as far as decorative ne- 
cessities are concerned — they should 
come immediately after wall and floor 
coverings. The householder who is 
in haste to complete the arrange- 
ment of the home naturally thinks first 
of chairs, sofas, and tables, because 
they come into immediate personal 
use, but if draperies are recognised 
as a necessary part of the beauty of 
the house it is worth while to study 
their appropriate character from the 
first. They have in truth much more 
to do with the effect of the room 
than chairs or sofas, since these are 
speedily sat upon and pass out of 



notice, while draperies or portieres 
are in the nature of pictures — hang- 
ing in everybody's sight. As far as 
the element of beauty is concerned, a 
room having good colour, attractive 
and interesting pictures, and beautiful 
draperies, is already furnished. What- 
ever else goes to the making of it 
may be also beautiful, but it must be 
convenient and useful, while in the 
selection of draperies, beauty, both 
relative and positive, is quite untram- 

As in all other furnishings, from 
the aesthetic point of view colour is 
the first thing to be considered. As 
a rule it should follow that of the 
walls, a continuous effect of colour 
with variation of form and surface be- 
ing a valuable and beautiful thing to 
secure. To give the full value of 
variation — where the walls are plain 
one should choose a figured stuff for 
curtains ; where the wall is papered, 


or covered with figures, a plain ma- 
terial should be used. 

There is one exception to this 
rule and this is in the case of walls 
hung with damask. Here it is best 
to use the same material for curtains, 
as the effect is obtained by the differ- 
ence between the damask hung in 
folds, with the design indistinguish- 
able, or stretched flat upon a wall- 
surface, where it is plainly to be seen 
and felt. Even where damask is used 
upon the walls, if exactly the same 
shade of colour can be found in satin 
or velvet, the plain material in drap- 
ery will enhance the value of design 
on the walls. 

This choice or selection of colour 
applies to curtains and portieres as 
simple adjuncts of furnishing, and not 
to such pieces of drapery as are in 
themselves works of art. When a 
textile becomes a work of art it is in 
a measure a law unto itself, and has 


as much right to select its own col- 
our as if it were a picture instead of 
a portiere, in fact if it is sufficiently- 
important, the room must follow in- 
stead of leading. This may happen 
in the case of some priceless old 
embroidery, some relic of that peace- 
ful past, when hours and days flowed 
contentedly into a scheme of art and 
beauty, without a thought of com- 
petitive manufacture. It might be 
difficult to subdue the spirit of a 
modern drawing-room into harmony 
with such a work of art, but if it 
were done, it would be a very shrine 
of restfulness to the spirit. 

Fortunately many ancient marvels 
of needlework were done upon white 
satin, and this makes them easily 
adaptable to any light scheme of col- 
our, where they may appear indeed 
as guests of honour — invited from 
the past to be courted by the pres- 
ent. It is not often that such pieces 


are offered as parts of a scheme of 
modern decoration, and the fingers 
of to-day are too busy or too idle for 
their creation, yet it sometimes hap- 
pens that a valuable piece of drapery 
of exceptional colour belongs by in- 
heritance or purchase to the fortunate 
householder, and in this case it should 
be used as a picture would be, for an 
independent bit of decoration. 

To return to simple things, the rule 
of contrast as applied to papered walls, 
covered with design, ordains that the 
curtains should undoubtedly be plain 
and of the most pronounced tint 
used in the paper. If the walls of a 
room are simply tinted or painted, 
figured stuff's of the same general 
tone, or printed silks, velvets, or cot- 
tons in which the predominant tint 
corresponds with that of the wall 
should be used. These relieve the 
simplicity of the walls, and give the 
desirable variation. 


Transparent silk curtains are of 
great value in colouring the light 
which enters the room, and these 
should be used in direct reference to 
the light. If the room is dark or 
cold in its exposure, to hang the 
windows with sun-coloured silk or 
muslin will cheat the eye and im- 
agination into the idea that it is a 
sunny room. If, on the contrary, 
there is actual sunshine in the room, 
a pervading tint of rose-colour or 
delicate green may be given by inner 
curtains of either of those colours. 
These are effects, however, for which 
rules can hardly be given, since the 
possible variations must be carefully 
studied, unless, indeed, they are the 
colour-strokes of some one who has 
that genius for combination or con- 
trast of tints which we call " colour 

After colour in draperies come 
texture and quality, and these need 


hardly be discussed in the case of 
silken fabrics, because silk fibre has 
inherent qualities of tenacity of tint 
and flexibility of substance. Pure 
silk, that is silk unstiffened with 
gums, no matter how thickly and 
heavily it is woven, is soft and yield- 
ing and will fall into folds without 
sharp angles. This quality of soft- 
ness is in its very substance. Even 
a single unwoven thread of silk will 
drop gracefully into loops, where a 
cotton or linen or even a woollen 
thread will show stiffness. 

Woollen fibre seems to acquire 
softness as it is gathered into yarns 
and woven, and will hang in folds 
with almost the same grace as silk; but 
unfortunately they are favourite past- 
ure grounds as well as burying-places 
for moths, and although these co- 
inhabitants of our houses come to a 
speedy resurrection, they devour their 
very graves, and leave our woollen 


draperies irremediably damaged. It 
is a pity that woollen fabrics should 
in this way be made undesirable for 
household use, for they possess in a 
great degree the two most valuable 
qualities of silk : colour-tenacity and 
flexibility. If one adopts woollen cur- 
tains and portieres, constant " vigil- 
ance is the price of safety," and con- 
sidering that vigilance is required 
everywhere and at all times in the 
household, it is best to reduce the 
quantity whenever it is possible. 

This throws us back upon cottons 
and linens for inexpensive hangings, 
and in all the thousand forms in 
which these two fibres are manufact- 
ured it would seem easy to choose 
those which are beautiful, durable, 
and appropriate. But here we are 
met at the very threshold of choice 
with the two undesirable qualities of 
fugitive colour, and stiffness of text- 
ure. Something in the nature of 


cotton makes it inhospitable to dyes. 
If it receives them it is with a pro- 
test, and an evident intention of 
casting them out at the earliest op- 
portunity — it makes, it is true, one 
or two exceptions. It welcomes in- 
digo dye and will never quite relin- 
quish its companionship ; once re- 
ceived, it will carry its colours 
through all its serviceable life, and 
when it is finally ready to fall into 
dust, it is still loyally coloured by its 
influence. If it is cheated, as we 
ourselves are apt to be, into accept- 
ing spurious indigo, made up of 
chemical preparations, it speedily dis- 
covers the cheat and refuses its col- 
ouring. Perhaps this sympathy is 
due to a vegetable kinship and like- 
ness of experience, for where cotton 
will grow, indigo will also flourish. 

In printed cottons or chintzes, 
there is a reasonable amount of 
fidelity to colour, and if chintz cur- 


tains are well chosen, and lined to 
protect them from the sun, their 
attractiveness bears a fair proportion 
to their durability. 

An interlining of some strong and 
tried colour will give a very soft and 
subtle daylight effect in a room, but 
this is, of course, lost in the evening. 
The expedient of an under colour in 
curtain linings will sometimes give 
delightful results in plain or un- 
printed goods, and sometimes a lining 
with a strong and bold design will 
produce a charming shadow effect 
upon a tinted surface — of course 
each new experiment must be tried 
before one can be certain of its effect, 
and, in fact, there is rather an ex- 
citing uncertainty as to results. Yet 
there are infinite possibilities to the 
householder who has what is called 
the artistic instinct and the leisure 
and willingness to experiment, and 
experiments need not be limited to 


prints or to cottons, for wonderful 
combinations of colour are possible 
in silks where light is called in as an 
influence in the composition. One 
must, however, expect to forego these 
effects except in daylight, but as arti- 
ficial light has its own subtleties of 
effect, the one can be balanced 
against the other. In my own 
country-house I have used the two 
strongest colours — red and blue — in 
this doubled way, with delightful 
eff'ect. The blue, which is the face 
colour, presenting long, pure folds of 
blue, with warmed reddish shadows 
between, while at sunset, when the 
rays of light are level, the variations 
are like a sunset sky. 

It will be seen by these sugges- 
tions that careful selection, and some 
knowledge of the qualities of difi^erent 
dyes, will go far toward modifying 
the want of permanence of colour 
and lack of reflection in cottons ; the 


Other quality of stiffness, or want of 
flexibility, is occasionally overcome 
by methods of weaving. Indeed, if 
the manufacturer or weaver had a 
clear idea of excellence in this re- 
spect, undoubtedly the natural in- 
flexibility of fibre could be greatly 

There is a place waiting in the 
world of art and decoration for what 
in my own mind I call " the missing 
textile." This is by no means a fabric 
of cost, for among its other virtues it 
must possess that of cheapness. To 
meet an almost universal want it 
should combine inexpensiveness, dura- 
bility, softness, and absolute fidelity 
of colour, and these four qualities are 
not to be found in any existing tex- 
tile. Three of them — cheapness, 
strength, and colour — were possessed 
by the old-fashioned true indigo-blue 
denim — the delightful blue which 
faded into something as near the col- 


our of the flower of grass, as dead 
vegetable material can approach that 
which is full of living juices — the 
possession of these three qualities 
doubled and trebled the amount of its 
manufacture until it lost one of them 
by masquerading in aniline indigo. 

Many of our ordinary cotton 
manufactures are strong and inex- 
pensive, and a few of them have the 
flexibility which denim lacks. It was 
possessed in an almost perfect degree 
by the Canton, or fleeced, flannels, 
manufactured so largely a few years 
ago, and called art-drapery. It 
lacked colour, however, for the va- 
rious dyes given to it during its brief 
period of favouritism were not col- 
our ; they were merely tint. That 
strong, good word, colour, could not 
be applied to the mixed and eva- 
nescent dyes with which this soft 
and estimable material clothed itself 
withal. It was, so to speak, inverte- 


brate — it had no backbone. Besides 
this lack of colour stanchness, it 
had another fault which helped to 
overbalance its many virtues. It was 
fatally attractive to fire. Its soft, 
fluffy surface seemed to reach out 
toward flame, and the contact once 
made, there ensued one flash of in- 
stantaneous blaze, and the whole 
surface, no matter if it were a table- 
cover, a hanging, or the wall covering 
a room, was totally destroyed. Yet 
as one must have had or heard of 
such a disastrous experience to fear 
and avoid it, this proclivity alone 
would not have ended its popularity. 
It was probably the evanescent char- 
acter of what was called its " art- 
colour " which ended the career of 
an estimable material, and if the 
manufacturers had known how to 
eliminate its faults and adapt its vir- 
tues, it might still have been a flour- 
ishing textile. 


In truth, we do not often stop to 
analyse the reasons of prolonged 
popular favour ; yet nothing is more 
certain than that there is reason, and 
good reason, for fidelity in public 
taste. Popular liking, if continued, 
is always founded upon certain in- 
controvertible virtues. If a manu- 
facture cannot hold its own for ever 
in public favour, it is because it fails 
in some important particular to be 
what it should be. Products of the 
loom must have lasting virtues if they 
would secure lasting esteem. Blue 
denim had its hold upon public use 
principally for the reason that it pos- 
sessed a colour superior to all the 
chances and accidents of its varied 
life. It is true it was a colour which 
commended itself to general liking, 
yet if as stanch and steadfast a green 
or red could be imparted to an equally 
cheap and durable fabric, it would 
find as lasting a place in public favour. 


It is quite possible that in the near 
future domestic weavings may come 
to the aid of the critical house-fur- 
nisher, so that the qualities of strength 
and pliability may be united with 
colour which is both water-fast and 
sun-fast, and that we shall be able to 
order not only the kind of material, 
but the exact shade of colour necessary 
to the perfection of our houses. 

To be washable as well as durable 
is also a great point in favour of cot- 
ton textiles. The English chintzes 
with which the high post bedsteads 
of our foremothers were hung had a 
yearly baptism of family soap-suds, 
and came from it with their designs 
of gaily-crested, almost life-size pheas- 
ants, sitting upon inadequate branches, 
very little subdued by the process. 
Those were not days of colour-study; 
and harmony, applied to things of 
sight instead of conduct, was not 
looked for ; but when we copy the 


beautiful old furniture of that day, 
we may as well demand with it the 
quality of washableness and clean- 
ableness which went with all its be- 

It is always a wonder to the mascu- 
line, that the feminine mind has such 
an ineradicable love of draperies. 
The man despises them, but to the 
woman they are the perfecting touch 
of the home, hiding or disguising all 
the sharp angles of windows and 
doors, and making of them oppor- 
tunities of beauty. It is the same 
instinct with which she tries to cover 
the hard angles and facts of daily life 
and make of them virtuous incite- 
ments. As long as the woman rules, 
house-curtains will be a joy and de- 
light to her. Something in their soft 
protection, grace of line, and possible 
beauty of colour appeals to her as no 
other household belonging has the 
power to do. 


The long folds of the straight 
hanging curtain are far more beautiful 
than the looped and festooned crea- 
tions which were held in vogue by 
some previous generations, and indeed 
are still dear to the hearts of profes- 
sional upholsterers. The simpler the 
treatment, the better the eiFect, since 
natural rather than distorted line is 
more restful and enjoyable. Qual- 
ity, colour, and simple graceful lines 
are quite sufficient elements of value 
in these important adjuncts of house 
furnishing and decoration. 



A LTHOUGH the forms and vari- 
eties of furniture are infinite, 
they can easily be classified first into 
the two great divisions of good and 
bad, and after that into kinds and 
styles ; but no matter how good the 
different specimens may be, or to 
what style they may belong, each one 
is subject again to the ruling of fit- 
ness. Detached things may be both 
thoroughly pleasing and thoroughly 
good in themselves, but unless they 
are appropriate to the place where, 
and purpose for which they are used, 
they will not be beautiful. 

It is well to reiterate that the use 
to which a room is put must always 
govern its furnishing and in a meas- 
ure its colour, and that whatever we 

1 60 



























TH E r - ' 

PHi-if ' . ..^Yi 



put in it must be placed there be- 
cause it is appropriate to that use, 
and because it is needed for com- 
pleteness. It is misapplication which 
makes much of what is called " artis- 
tic furnishing'' ridiculous. An old- 
fashioned brass preserving-kettle and 
a linen or wool spinning-wheel are 
in place and appropriate pieces of 
furnishing for a studio ; the one for 
colour, and the other for form, and 
because also they may serve as models; 
but they are sadly out of place in a 
modern city house, or even in the 
parlour of a country cottage. 

We all recognise the fact that 
a room carefully furnished in one 
style makes a oneness of impression ; 
whereas if things are brought to- 
gether heterogeneously, even if each 
separate thing is selected for its own 
special virtue and beauty, the feeling 
of enjoyment will be far less com- 


There is a certain kinship in pieces 
of furniture made or originated at 
the same period and fashioned by a 
prevailing sentiment of beauty, which 
makes them harmonious when brought 
together ; and if our minds are in 
sympathy with that period and style 
of expression, it becomes a great pleas- 
ure to use it as a means of expression 
for ourselves. Whatever appeals to 
us as the best or most beautiful 
thought in manufacture we have a 
right to adopt, but we should study 
to understand the circumstances of 
its production, in order to do justice 
to it and ourselves, since style is 
evolved from surrounding influenceSa 
It would seem also that its periods 
and origin should not be too far re- 
moved from the interests and ways 
of our own time, and incongruous 
with it, because it would be impossi- 
ble to carry an utterly foreign period 
or method of thought into all the 


intimacies of domestic life. The fad 
of furnishing different rooms in differ- 
ent periods of art, and in the fashion 
of nations and peoples whose lives 
are totally dissimilar, may easily be 
carried too far, and the spirit of 
home, and even of beauty, be lost. 
Of course this applies to small, and 
not to grand houses, which are al- 
ways exceptions to the purely domes- 
tic idea. 

There are many reasons why one 
should be in sympathy with what is 
called the "colonial craze"; not 
only because colonial days are a part 
of our history, but because colonial 
furniture and decorations were de- 
rived directly from the best period of 
English art. Its original designers 
were masters who made standards in 
architectural and pictorial as well 
as household art. The Adams broth- 
ers, to whom many of the best 
forms of the period are referable, 


were great architects as well as great 
designers. Even so distinguished a 
painter as Hogarth delighted in com- 
posing symmetrical forms for furniture, 
and preached persistently the beauty 
of curved instead of rectangular lines. 
It was, in fact, a period in which 
superior minds expressed themselves 
in material forms, when Flaxman, 
Wedgwood, Chippendale and many 
others of their day, true artists in 
form, wrote their thoughts in wood, 
stone, and pottery, and bequeathed 
them to future ages. Certainly the 
work of such minds in such company 
must outlast mere mechanical efforts. 
It is interesting to note, that many of 
the Chippendale chairs keep in their 
under construction the square and 
simple forms of a much earlier period, 
while the upper part, the back, and 
seats are carved into curves and flori- 
ated designs. One cannot help won- 
dering whether this square solidity 


was simply a reminiscence or persist- 
ence of earlier forms, or a conscious 
return to the most direct principles 
of weight-bearing constructions. 

All furniture made under primitive 
conditions naturally depends upon 
perpendicular and horizontal forms, 
because uninfluenced construction 
considers first of all the principle of 
strength ; but under the varied influ- 
ences of the Georgian period one 
hardly expects fidelity to first princi- 
ples. New England carpenters and 
cabinet-makers who had wrought 
under the m.asters of carpentry and 
cabinet-work in England brought 
with them not only skill to fashion, 
but the very patterns and drawings 
from which Chippendale and Shera- 
ton furniture had been made in Eng- 
land. Our English forefathers were 
very fond of the St. Domingo ma- 
hogany, brought back in the ship- 
bottoms of English traders, but the 


English workmen who made furni- 
ture in the new world, while they 
adopted this foreign wood, were not 
slow to appreciate the wild cherry, 
and the different maples and oak 
and nut woods which they found in 
America. They were woods easy to 
work, and apt to take on polish 
and shining surface. The cabinet- 
makers liked also the abnormal speci- 
mens of maple where the fibre grew 
in close waves, called curled maple, 
as well as the great roots flecked and 
spotted with minute knots, known as 
dotted maple. 

All these things went into colonial 
furniture, so beautifully cut, so care- 
fully dowelled and put together, so 
well made, that many of the things 
have become heirlooms in the families 
for which they were constructed. I 
remember admiring a fine old cherry 
book-case in Mr. Lowell's library at 
Cambridge, and being told by the 


poet that it had belonged to his 
grandfather. When I spoke of the 
comparative rarity of such possessions 
he answered : '' Oh, anyone can have 
his grandfather's furniture if he will 
wait a hundred years ! " 

Nevertheless, with modern meth- 
ods of manufacture it is by no means 
certain that a hundred years will 
secure possession of the furniture we 
buy to-day to our grandchildren. In 
those early days it was not uncom- 
mon, it was indeed the custom, for 
some one of the men who were called 
<^ journeymen cabinet-makers " — that 
is, men who had served their time 
and learned their trade, but had not 
yet settled down to a fixed place and 
shop of their own — to take up an 
abode in the house with the family 
which had built it, for a year, or 
even two or three years, carrying on 
the work in some out-house or de- 
pendence, choosing and seasoning the 


wood, and measuring the furniture 
for the spaces where it was to stand. 

There was a fine fitness in such fur- 
nishing ; it was as if the different 
pieces actually grew where they were 
placed, and it is small wonder that 
so built and fashioned they should 
possess almost a human interest. 
Direct and special thought and effort 
were incorporated with the furniture 
from the very first, and it easily ex- 
plains the excellences and finenesses 
of its fashioning. 

There is an interesting house in 
Flushing, Long Island, where such 
furniture still stands in the rooms 
where it was put together in 1664, 
and where it is so fitted to spaces it 
has filled during the passing centuries, 
that it would be impossible to carry it 
through the narrow doors and passages, 
which, unlike our present halls, were 
made for the passing to and fro of 
human beings, and not of furniture. 




i.F^W YOF-'K 





It is this kind ot interest which 
attaches us to colonial furniture and 
adds to the value of its beauty and 
careful adaptation to human con- 
venience. In the roomy "high boys" 
which we find in old houses there are 
places for everything. They were made 
for the orderly packing and keeping 
of valuable things, in closetless rooms, 
and they were made without project- 
ing corners and cornices, because life 
was lived in smaller spaces than at 
present. They were the best prod- 
uct of a thoughtful time — where if 
manufacture lacked some of the ma- 
chinery and appliances of to-day, it 
was at least not rushed by breathless 
competition, but could progress slowly 
in careful leisure. Of course we can- 
not all have colonial furniture, and 
indeed it would not be according to 
the spirit of our time, for the arts 
of our own day are to be encouraged 
and fostered — but we can buy the 


best of the things which are made in 
our time, the best in style, in inten- 
tion, in fittingness, and above all in 
carefulness and honesty of construc- 

For some reason the quality of 
durability seems to be wanting in 
modern furniture. Our things are 
fashioned of the same woods, but 
something in the curing or prepara- 
tion of them has weakened the fibre 
and made it brittle. Probably the 
gradual evaporation of the tree-juices 
which old-time cabinet-makers were 
willing to wait for, left the shrunken 
sinews of the wood in better condition 
than is possible with our hurried and 
violent kiln-dried methods. What is 
gained in time in the one place is lost 
in another. Nature refuses to enter 
into our race for speedy completion, 
and if we hurry her natural processes 
we shorten our lease of ownership. 

As a very apt illustration of this 


fact, I remember coming into posses- 
sion some twenty years ago of an oak 
chair which had stood, perhaps, for 
more than two hundred years in a 
Long Island farm-house. When I 
found it, it had been long relegated 
to kitchen use and was covered with 
a crust of variously coloured paints 
which had accumulated during the 
two centuries of its existence. The 
fashion of it was rare, and had prob- 
ably been evolved by some early 
American cabinet-maker, for while it 
had all and even more than the grace 
of the high-backed Chippendale pat- 
terns, it was better fitted to the 
rounded surfaces of the human body. 
It was a spindle chair with a slightly 
hollowed seat, the rim of the back 
rounded to a loop which was con- 
tinued into arm-rests, which spread 
into thickened blades for hand-rests. 
Being very much in love with the 
grace and ease of it, I took it to a 


manufacturer to be reproduced in 
mahogany, who, with a far-sighted 
sagacity, flooded the market with that 
particular pattern. 

We are used — and with good rea- 
son — to consider mahogany as a dura- 
ble wood, but of the half-dozen of 
mahogany copies of the old oak chair, 
each one has suffered some break of 
legs or arms or spindles, while the orig- 
inal remains as firm in its withered 
old age as it was the day I rescued it 
from the " out-kitchen " of the Long 
Island farm-house. 

For the next fifty years after the 
close of our colonial history, the 
colonial cabinet-makers in New Eng- 
land and the northern Middle States 
continued to flourish, evolving an 
occasional good variation from what 
may be called colonial forms. Rush- 
and flag-bottomed chairs and chairs 
with seats of twisted rawhide — the 
frames often gilded and painted — 


sometimes took the place of wrought 
mahogany, except in the best rooms 
of great houses. Many of these are 
of excellent shape and construction, 
and specially interesting as an adap- 
tation of natural products of the 
country. Undoubtedly, with our in- 
genious modern appliances, we could 
make as good furniture as was made 
in Chippendale and Sheraton's day, 
with far less expenditure of effort ; 
but the demon of competition in 
trade will not allow it. We must 
use all material, perfect or imperfect; 
we cannot afford to select. We must 
cover knots and imperfections with 
composition and pass them on. We 
must use the cheapest glue, and save 
an infinitesimal sum in the length of 
our dowels ; we must varnish instead 
of polishing, or "the other man " will 
get the better of us. If we did not 
do these things our furniture would 
be better, but " the other man " 


would sell more, because he could 
sell more cheaply. 

Since the revived interest in the 
making of furniture, we find an oc- 
casional and marked recurrence to 
primitive form — on each occasion the 
apparently new style taking on the 
name of the man who produced it. 

In our own day we have seen the 
"Eastlake furniture" appear and dis- 
appear, succeeded by the " Morris 
furniture," which is undoubtedly bet- 
ter adapted to our varied wants. At 
present, mortising and dowelling have 
come to the front as proper processes, 
especially for table-building ; and this 
time the style appears under the name 
of '' Mission furniture." Much of 
this is extremely well suited for cot- 
tage furnishing, but the occasional 
exaggeration of the style takes one 
back not only to early, but the earli- 
est, English art, when chairs were im- 
movable seats or blocks, and tables 


absolute fixtures on account of the 
weighty legs upon which they were 
built. In short, the careful and 
cultivated decorator finds it as im- 
perative to guard against exagger- 
ated simplicity as unsupported pret- 

Fortunately there has been a great 
deal of attention paid to good cabinet 
work within the last few years, and 
although the method of its making 
lacks the human motive and the 
human interest of former days — it is 
still a good expression of the art of 
to-day, and at its best, worthy to be 
carried down with the generations as 
one of the steps in the evolutions of 
time. What we have to do, is to 
learn to discriminate between good 
and bad, to appreciate the best in 
design and workmanship, even al- 
though we cannot afford to buy it. 
In this case we should learn to do with 
less. As a rule our houses are crowded. 


If we are able to buy a few good 
things, we are apt instead to buy 
many only moderately good, for lav- 
ish possession seems to be a sort of 
passion, or birthright, of Americans. 
It follows that we fill our houses with 
heterogeneous collections of furniture, 
new and old, good and bad, appro- 
priate or inappropriate, as the case 
may be, with a result of living in 
seeming luxury, but a luxury without 
proper selection or true value. To 
have less would in many cases be to 
have more— more tranquillity of life, 
more ease of mind, more knowledge 
and more real enjoyment. 

There is another principle which 
can be brought into play in this case, 
and that is the one of buying — not a 
costly kind of thing, but the best of 
its kind. If it is a choice in chairs, 
for instance, let it be the best cane- 
seated, or rush-bottomed chair that 
is made, instead of the second or third 
















THE • 




best upholstered or leather-covered 
one. If it is a question of tables, buy 
the simplest form made of flawless 
wood and with best finish, instead of 
a bargain in elaborately turned or 
scantily carved material. If it is in 
bedsteads, a plain brass, or good 
enamelled iron or a simple form in 
black walnut, instead of a cheap in- 
laid wood — and so on through the 
whole category. A good chintz or 
cotton is better for draperies, than 
flimsy silk or brocade ; and when all 
is done the very spirit of truth will 
sit enthroned in the household, and 
we shall find that all things have 
been brought into harmony by her 

Although the furnishing of a house 
should be one of the most pains- 
taking and studied of pursuits, there 
is certainly nothing which is at the 
same time so fascinating and so flat- 
tering in its promise of future enjoy- 


ment. It is like the making of a 
picture as far as possibility of beauty 
is concerned, but a picture within 
and against which one's life, and the 
life of the family, is to be lived. It 
is a bit of creative art in itself, and 
one which concerns us so closely as 
to be a very part of us. We enjoy 
every separate thing we may find or 
select or procure — not only for the 
beauty and goodness which is in it, 
but for its contribution to the general 
whole. And in knowledge of ap- 
plied and manufactured art, the fur- 
nishing of a house is truly " the be- 
ginning of wisdom." One learns to 
appreciate what is excellent in the 
new, from study and appreciation of 
quality in the old. 

It is the fascination of this study 
which has made a multiplication of 
shops and collections of <^ antiques " 
in every quarter of the city. Many 
a woman begins from the shop- 


keeper's point of view of the value 
of mere age, and learns by experience 
that age, considered by itself, is a dis- 
qualification, and that it gives value 
only when the art which created the 
antique has been lost or greatly de- 
teriorated. If one can find as good, 
or a better thing in art and quality, 
made to-day — by all means buy the 
thing of to-day, and let yourself and 
your children be credited with the 
hundred or two years of wear which 
is in it. We can easily see that it is 
wiser to buy modern iridescent glass, 
fitted to our use, and yet carrying all 
the fascinating lustre of ancient glass, 
than to sigh for the possession of some 
unbuyable thing belonging to dead 
and gone Caesars. And the case is 
as true of other modern art and 
modern inventions, if the art is good, 
and the inventions suitable to our 
wants and needs. 

Yet in spite of the goodness of 


much that is new, there is a subtle 
pleasure in turning over, and even in 
appropriating, the things that are old. 
There are certain fenced-in-blocks 
on the east side of New York City 
where for many years the choice parts 
of old houses have been deposited. 
As fashion and wealth have changed 
their locality — treading slowly up 
from the Battery to Central Park — 
many beautiful bits of construction 
have been left behind in the aban- 
doned houses — either disregarded on 
account of change in popular taste, 
or unappreciated by reason of want 
of knowledge. For the few whose 
knowledge was competent, there 
were things to be found in the sec- 
ond-hand yards, precious beyond 
comparison with anything of con- 
temporaneous manufacture. 

There were panelled front doors 
with beautifully fluted columns and 


carved capitals, surmounted by half- 
ovals of curiously designed sashes ; 
there were beautifully wrought iron 
railings, and elaborate newel-posts 
of mahogany, brass door-knobs and 
hinges, and English hob-grates, and 
crystal chandeliers of cost and brill- 
iance, and panelled wainscots of oak 
and mahogany ; chimney-pieces in 
marble and wood of an excellence 
which we are almost vainly trying 
to compass, and all of them to be 
bought at the price of lumber. 

These are the things to make one 
who remembers them critical about 
the collections to be found in the 
antique shops of to-day, and yet 
such shops are enticing and fash- 
ionable, and the quest of antiques 
will go on until we become convinced 
of the art-value and the equal merit 
of the new — which period many 
things seem to indicate is not far oiF. 


In those days there was but one 
antique shop in all New York which 
was devoted to the sale of old things, 
to furniture, pictures, statuary, and 
what Ruskin calls "portable art'' of 
all kinds. It was a place where one 
might go, crying " new lamps for old 
ones" with a certainty of profit in 
the transaction. In later years it has 
been known as Sypher s^ and although 
one of many, instead of a single one, 
is still a place of fascinating possi- 

To sum up the gospel of furnish- 
ing, we need only fall back upon the 
principles of absolute fitness, actual 
goodness, and real beauty. If the 
furniture of a well-coloured room 
possesses these three qualities, the 
room as a whole can hardly fail to be 
lastingly satisfactory. It must be re- 
membered, however, that it is a trin- 
ity of virtues. No piece of furniture 
should be chosen because it is intrin- 


sically good or genuinely beautiful, 
if it has not also its use — and this 
rule applies to all rooms, with the 
one exception of the drawing-room. 

The necessity of use^ governing the 
style of furnishing in a room, is very 
well understood. Thus, while both 
drawing-room and dining-room must 
express hospitality, it is of a different 
kind or degree. That of the draw- 
ing-room is ceremonious and punc- 
tilious, and represents the family in 
its relation to society, while the din- 
ing-room is far more intimate, and 
belongs to the family in its relation 
to friends. In fact, as the dining- 
room is the heart of the house, its 
furnishing would naturally be quite 
different in feeling and character from 
the drawing-room, although it might 
be fully as lavish in cost. It would 
be stronger, less conservative, and al- 
together more personal in its expres- 
sion. Family portraits and family 


silver give the personal note v^hich 
we like to recognise in our friends' 
dining-rooms, because the intimacy 
of the room makes even family his- 
tory in place. 

In moderate houses, even the draw- 
ing-room is too much a family room 
to allow it to be entirely emancipated 
from the law of use, but in houses 
which are not circumscribed in space, 
and where one or more rooms are 
set apart to social rather than domes- 
tic life, it is natural and proper to 
gather in them things which stand, 
primarily, for art and beauty — which 
satisfy the needs of the mind as dis- 
tinct from those of bodily comfort. 
Things which belong in the category 
of "unrelated beauty" may be ap- 
propriately gathered in such a room, 
because the use of it is to please the 
eye and excite the interest of our 
social world; therefore a table which 
is a marvel of art, but not of con- 


venience, or a casket which is beau- 
tiful to look at, but of no practical 
use, are in accordance with the idea 
of the room. They help compose a 
picture, not only for the eyes of 
friends and acquaintances, but for 
the education of the family. 

It follows that an artistic and lux- 
urious drawing-room may be a true 
family expression ; it may speak of 
travel and interest in the artistic de- 
velopment of mankind ; but even 
where the experiences of the family 
have been wide and liberal, if the 
house and circumstances are narrow, 
a luxurious interior is by no means 
a happiness. 

It may seem quite superfluous to 
give advice against luxury in furnish- 
ing except where it is warranted 
by exceptional means, because each 
family naturally adjusts its furnishing 
to its own needs and circumstances; 
but the influence of mere beauty is 


very powerful, and many a costly toy 
drifts into homes where it does not 
rightly belong, and where, instead of 
being an educational or elevating in- 
fluence, it is a source of mental de- 
terioration, from its conflict with un- 
sympathetic circumstances. A long 
and useful chapter might be written 
upon <' art out of place," but nothing 
which could be said upon the subject 
would apply to that incorporation of 
art and beauty with furniture and in- 
terior surroundings, which is the effort 
and object of every true artist and art- 

The fact to be emphasised is, that 
objets d' art — beautiful in themselves 
and costly because of the superior 
knowledge, artistic feeling, and pa- 
tient labour which have produced 
them — demand care and reserve for 
their preservation^ which is not avail- 
able in a household where the first 
motive of everything must be minis- 


try to comfort. Art in the shape of 
pictures is fortunately exempt from 
this rule, and may dignify and beau- 
tify every room in the house without 
being imperilled by contact in the 
exigencies of use. 

Following out this idea, a house 
where circumstances demand that 
there shall be no drawing-room, and 
where the family sitting-room must 
also answer for the reception of 
guests, a perfect beauty and dignity 
may be achieved by harmony of 
colour, beauty of form, and appro- 
priateness to purpose, and this may 
be carried to almost any degree of 
perfection by the introduction and 
accompaniment of pictures. In this 
case art is a part of the room, as well 
as an adornment of it. It is kneaded 
into every article of furniture. It is 
the daily bread of art to which we 
are all entitled, and which can make 
a small country home, or a smaller 


city apartment, as enjoyable and ele- 
vating as if it were filled with the 
luxuries of art. 

But one may say, ^' It requires 
knowledge to do this ; much knowl- 
edge in the selection of the compara- 
tively few things which are to make 
up such an interior," and that is 
true — and the knowledge is to be 
proved every time we come to the 
test of buying. Yet it is a curious 
fact that the really good thing, the 
thing which is good in art as well as 
construction, will inevitably be chosen 
by an intelligent buyer, instead of 
the thing which is bad in art and in 
construction. Fortunately, one can 
see good examples in the shops of 
to-day, where twenty years ago at 
best only honest and respectable fur- 
niture was on exhibition. One must 
rely somewhat on the character of 
the places from which one buys, 
and not expect good styles and relia- 



























ble manufacture where commercial 
success is the dominant note of the 
business. In truth the careful buyer 
is not so apt to fail in quality as in 
harmony, because grade as well as 
style in different articles and manu- 
factures is to be considered. What 
is perfectly good in one grade of 
manufacture will not be in harmony 
with a higher or lower grade in 
another. Just as we choose our 
grade of floor-covering from ingrain 
to Aubusson, we must choose the 
grade of other furnishings. Even an 
inexperienced buyer would be apt to 
feel this, and would know that if she 
found a simple ingrain-filling appro- 
priate to a bed-chamber, maple or 
enamelled furniture would belong to 
it, instead of more costly inlaid or 
carved pieces. 

It may be well to reiterate the fact 
that the predominant use of each room 
in a house gives the clew to the best 


rules of treatment in decoration and 
furniture. For instance, the hall, 
being an intermediate space between 
in and out of doors, should be col- 
oured and furnished in direct refer- 
ence to this, and to its common use 
as a thoroughfare by all members of 
the family. It is not a place of pro- 
longed occupation, and may therefore 
properly be without the luxury and 
ease of lounges and lounging-chairs. 
But as long as it serves both as en- 
trance-room to the house and for 
carrying the stairways to the upper 
floors, it should be treated in such a 
way as to lead up to and prepare the 
mind for whatever of inner luxury 
there may be in the house. At the 
same time it should preserve some- 
thing of the simplicity and freedom 
from all attempt at effect which be- 
long to out-of-door life. The dif- 
ference between its decoration and 
furniture and that of other divisions 


of the house should be principally in 
surface, and not in colour. Differ- 
ence of surface is secured by the use 
of materials which are permanent and 
durable in effect, such as wood, plas- 
ter, and leather. These may all be 
coloured without injury to their im- 
pression of permanency, although it 
is generally preferable to take advan- 
tage of indigenous or " inherent col- 
our " like the natural yellows and 
russets of wood and leather. When 
these are used for both walls and 
ceiling, it will be found that, to give 
the necessary variation, and prevent 
an impression of monotony and dul- 
ness, some tint must be added in the 
ornament of the surface, which could 
be gained by a forcible deepening or 
variation of the general tone, like a 
deep golden brown, which is the low- 
est tone of the scale of yellow, or a 
red which would be only a variant 
of the prevailing tint. The intro- 


duction of an opposing or contrasting 
tint, like pale blue in small masses as 
compared with the general tint, even 
if it is in so small a space as that of a 
water-colour on the wall, adds the 
necessary contrast, and enlivens and 
invigorates a harmony. 

No colour carries with it a more 
appropriate influence at the entrance 
of a house than red in its different 
values. Certain tints of it which are 
known both as Pompeiian and Da- 
mascus red have sufficient yellow in 
their composition to fall in with the 
yellows of oiled wood, and give the 
charm of a variant but related colour. 
In its stronger and deeper tones it is 
in direct contrast to the green of 
abundant foliage, and therefore a 
good colour for the entrance-hall or 
vestibule of a country-house ; while 
the paler tones, which run into pinks, 
hold the same opposing relation to 
the gray and blue of the sea-shore. 


If walls and ceiling are of wood, a 
rug of which the prevailing colour is 
red will often give the exact note 
which is needed to preserve the room 
from monotony and insipidity. A 
stair-carpet is a valuable point to 
make in a hall, and it is well to re- 
serve all opposing colour for this one 
place, which, as it rises, meets all 
sight on a level, and makes its con- 
trast directly and unmistakably. A 
stair-carpet has other reasons for use 
in a country-house than aesthetic 
ones, as the stairs are conductors of 
sound to all parts of the house, and 
should therefore be muffled, and be- 
cause a carpeted stair furnishes much 
safer footing for the two family ex- 
tremes of childhood and age. 

The furniture of the hall should 
not be fantastic, as some cabinet- 
makers seem to imagine. Impossible 
twists in the supports of tables and 
chairs are perhaps more objectionable 


in this first vestibule or entrance to 
the house than elsewhere, because 
the mind is not quite free from out- 
of-door influences, or ready to take 
pleasure in the vagaries of the human 
fancy. Simple chairs, settles, and 
tables, more solid perhaps than is 
desirable in other parts of the house, 
are what the best natural, as well as 
the best cultivated, taste demands. 
If there is one place more than an- 
other where a picture performs its 
full work of suggestion and decora- 
tion, it is in a hall which is otherwise 
bare of ornament. Pictures in din- 
ing-rooms make very little impression 
as pictures, because the mind is en- 
grossed with the first and natural 
purpose of the room, and conse- 
quently not in a waiting and easily 
impressible mood ; but in a hall, if 
one stops for even a moment, the 
thoughts are at leisure, and waiting 
to be interested. Aside from the 


colour effect, which may be so man- 
aged as to be very valuable, pictures 
hung in a hall are full of suggestion 
of wider mental and physical life, and, 
like books, are indications of the 
tastes and experiences of the family. 
Of course there are country-houses 
where the halls are built with fire- 
places, and windows commanding 
favourite views, and are really in- 
tended for family sitting-rooms and 
gathering-places ; in this case it is 
generally preceded by a vestibule 
which carries the character of an en- 
trance-hall, leaving the large room 
to be furnished more luxuriously, as 
is proper to a sitting-room. 

The dining-room shares with the 
hall a purpose common to the life of 
the family, and, while it admits of 
much more variety and elaboration, 
that which is true of the hall is 
equally true of the dining-room, that 
it should be treated with materials 


which are durable and have surface 
quality, although its decoration should 
be preferably with china rather than 
with pictures. It is important that 
the colour of a dining-room should 
be pervading colour — that is, that 
walls and ceiling should be kept to- 
gether by the use of one colour only, 
in different degrees of strength. 

For many reasons, but principally 
because it is the best material to use 
in a dining-room, the rich yellows of 
oiled wood make the most desirable 
colour and surface. The rug, the 
curtains, the portieres and screen, can 
then be of any good tint which the 
exposure of the room and the decora- 
tion of the china seem to indicate. 
If it has a cold, northern exposure, 
reds or gold browns are indicated ; 
but if it is a sunny and warm-looking 
room, green or strong India blue will 
be found more satisfactory in simple 
houses. The materials used in cur- 


tains, portieres, and screens should be 
of cotton or linen, or some plain 
woollen goods which are as easily 
washable. A one-coloured, heavy- 
threaded cotton canvas, a linen in 
solid colour, or even indigo-blue do- 
mestic, all make extremely efFective 
and appropriate furnishings. The 
variety of blue domestic which is 
called denim is the best of all fabrics 
for this kind of furnishing, if the col- 
our is not too dark. 

The prettiest country house din- 
ing-room I know is ceiled and wain- 
scoted with wood, the walls above 
the wainscoting carrying an ingrain 
paper of the same tone ; the line of 
division between the wainscot and 
wall being broken by a row of old 
blue India china plates, arranged in 
groups of different sizes and running 
entirely around the room. There is 
one small mirror set in a broad 
carved frame of yellow wood hung 


in the centre of a rather large wall- 
space, its angles marked by small 
Dutch plaques ; but the whole deco- 
ration of the room outside of these 
pieces consists of draperies of blue 
denim in which there is a design, in 
narrow white outline, of leaping fish, 
and the widening water-circles and 
showery drops made by their play. 
The white lines in the design answer 
to the white spaces in the decorated 
china, and the two used together in 
profusion have an unexpectedly deco- 
rative effect. The table and chairs 
are, of course, of the same coloured 
wood used in the ceiling and wain- 
scot, and the rug is an India cotton 
of dark and light blues and white. 
The sideboard is an arrangement of 
fixed shelves, but covered with a 
beautiful collection of blue china, 
which serves to furnish the table as 
well. If the dining-room had a 
northern exposure, and it was desira- 



















ble to use red instead of blue for 
colouring, as good an effect could be 
secured by depending for ornament 
upon the red Kaga porcelain so com- 
mon at present in Japanese and Chi- 
nese shops, and using with it the 
Eastern cotton known as be^. This 
is dyed with madder, and exactly 
repeats the red of the porcelain, while 
it is extremely durable both in col- 
our and texture. Borders of yellow 
stitchery, or straggling fringes of silk 
and beads, add very much to the 
effect of the drapery and to the char- 
acter of the room. 

A library in ordinary family life 
has two parts to play. It is not 
only to hold books, but to make the 
family at home in a literary atmos- 
phere. Such a room is apt to be a 
fascinating one by reason of this 
very variety of use and purpose, 
and because it is a centre for all 
the family treasures. Books, pictures, 


papers, photographs, bits of decora- 
tive needlework, all centre here, and 
all are on most orderly behaviour, 
like children at a company dinner. 
The colour of such a room may, and 
should, be much warmer and stronger 
than that of a parlour pure and sim- 
ple, the very constancy and hardness 
of its use indicating tints of strength 
and resistance ; but, keeping that in 
mind, the rules for general use of 
colour and harmony of tints will 
apply as well to a room used for a 
double purpose as for a single. Of 
course the furniture should be more 
solid and darker, as would be neces- 
sary for constant use, but the deep- 
ening of tones in general colour pro- 
vides for that, and for the use of rugs 
of a different character. In a room 
of this kind perhaps the best possible 
effect is produced by the use of some 
textile as a wall-covering, as in that 
case the same material with a con- 


trasted colour in the lining can be 
used for curtains, and to some extent 
in the furniture. This use of one 
material has not only an effect of 
richness which is due to the library 
of the house, but it softens and brings 
together all the heterogeneous things 
which different members of a large 
family are apt to require in a sitting- 

To those who prefer to work out 
and adapt their own surroundings, it 
is well to illustrate the advice given 
for colour in different exposures by 
selecting particular rooms, with their 
various relations to light, use, and 
circumstances, and seeing how col- 
our-principles can be applied to them. 

We may choose a reception-hall, 
in either a city or country house, 
since the treatment would in both 
cases be guided by the same rules. 
If in a city house, it may be on the 
shady or the sunny side of the street, 


and this at once would difFerentiate, 
perhaps the colour, and certainly the 
depth of colour to be used. If it 
is the hall of a country house the 
difference between north or south 
light will not be as great, since a 
room opening on the north in a 
house standing alone, in unobstructed 
space, would have an effect of cold- 
ness, but not necessarily of shadow or 
darkness. The first condition, then, 
of coldness of light would have to be 
considered in both cases, but less 
positively in the country, than in the 
city house. If the room is actually 
dark, a warm or orange tone of yel- 
low will both modify and lighten it. 

Gold-coloured or yellow canvas 
with oak mouldings lighten and warm 
the walls ; and rugs with a prepon- 
derance of white and yellow trans- 
form a dark hall into a light and 
cheerful one. It must be remem- 
bered that few dark colours can 


assert themselves in the absolute 
shadow of a north light. Green and 
blue become black. Gold, orange, 
and red alone have sufficient power 
to hold their own, and make us con- 
scious of them in darkness. 

In a hall which has plenty of 
light, but no sun, red is an effisctive 
and natural colour, copper-coloured 
leather paper, cushions and rugs or 
carpets of varying shades of red, 
and transparent curtains of the same 
tint give an effect of warmth and 
vitality. Red is truly a delightful 
colour to deal with in shadowed 
interiors, its sensitiveness to light, 
changing from colour-tinted dark- 
ness to palpitating ruby, and even to 
flame colour, on the slightest invita- 
tion of day- or lamp-light, makes it 
like a living presence. It is especi- 
ally valuable at the entrance of the 
home, where it seems to meet one 
with almost a human welcome. 


If we can succeed in making what 
would be a cold and unattractive en- 
trance hospitable and cordial by lib- 
eral use of warm and strong colour, 
by reversing the effort we can just 
as easily modify the effect of glaring, 
or overpowering, sunlight. 

Suppose the entrance-hall of the 
house to be upon the sunny side of 
the street, where in addition to the 
natural effect of full rays of the sun 
there are also the reflections from 
innumerable other house-fronts and 

In this case we must simulate 
shadow and mystery, and this can be 
done by the colour-tones of blues 
and greens. I use these in the 
plural because the shadows of both 
are innumerable, and because all, 
except perhaps turquoise and apple- 
green, are natural shadow-tints. Green 
and blue can be used together or 
separately, according to the skill and 


what is called the " colour-sense " 
with which they are applied. 

To use them together requires not 
only observation of colour-occurrences 
in nature but sensitiveness to the more 
subtle out-of-door effects, resulting 
from intermingling of shadows and 
reflection of lights. Well done, it is 
one of the most beautiful and satisfac- 
tory of achievements, but it may easily 
be bad by reason of sharp contrasts, or 
unmodified juxtaposition. 

But a room where blue in all its 
shades from dark to light alone pre- 
dominates, or a room where only 
green is used, bright and gray tones 
in contrast and variation is within 
the reach of most colour-loving mor- 
tals, and as both of these tints are 
companionable with oak and gold, 
and to be found in nearly all deco- 
ration materials, it is easy to arrange 
a refined and beautiful effect in either 


It will require little reflection to 
show that a hall skilfully treated with 
green or blue tints would modify the 
colour of sunlight, without giving a 
sense of discord. It would be like 
passing only from sunlight to grate- 
ful shadow, and this because in all 
art the actual representation shadow- 
colour would be blue or green. The 
shadow of a tree falling upon snow 
on a sunny winter day is blue. The 
shadow of a sunheated rock in sum- 
mer is green, and the success of either 
of these schemes of decoration would 
be because of adherence to an actual 
principle of colour, or a knowledge 
of the peculiar qualities of certain 
colours and their proper use. It 
would be an intelligent application 
of the medicinal or healing qualities 
of colour to the constitution of the 
house, as skilful physicians use medi- 
cines to overcome constitutional de- 
fects or difficulties in man. 


This may be called corrective treat- 
ment of a room, and may, of course, 
include all the decorative devices of 
ornament, design and furniture, and 
although it is not, strictly speaking, 
decoration, it should certainly and 
always precede decoration. 

It is sad to see an elaborate scheme 
of ornament based upon bad colour- 
treatment, and unfortunately this not 
infrequently happens. 

It is difficult to give a formula for 
the decoration of any room in rela- 
tion to its colour-treatment, except 
by a careful description of certain 
successful examples, each one of which 
illustrates principles that may be of 
use to the amateur or student of the 

One which occurs to me in this 
immediate connection is a dining- 
room in an apartment house, where 
this room alone is absolutely without 
what may be called exterior light. 


Its two windows open upon a well, 
the brick wall of which is scarcely 
ten feet away. Fortunately, it makes 
a part of the home of a much trav- 
elled and exceedingly cultivated pair 
of beings, the business of one being 
to create beauty in the way of pict- 
ures and the other of statues, so per- 
haps it is less than a wonder that this 
square, unattractive well-room should 
have blossomed under their hands 
into a dining-room perfect in colour, 
style, and fittings. I shall give only 
the result, the process being capable 
of infinite small variations. 

At present it is a room sixteen feet 
square, one side of which is occupied 
by two nearly square windows. The 
wood-work, including a five-foot 
wainscot of small square panels, is 
painted a glittering varnished white 
which is warm in tone, but not 
creamy. The upper halves of the 
square windows are of semi-opaque 


yellow glass, veined and variable, but 
clear enough everywhere to admit a 
stained yellow light. Below these, 
thin yellow silk curtains cross each 
other, so that the whole window-space 
radiates yellow light. If we reflect 
that the colour of sunlight is yellow, 
we shall be able to see both the 
philosophy and the result of this 

The wall above the wainscot is 
covered with a plain unbleached 
muslin, stencilled at the top in a re- 
peating design of faint yellow tile- 
like squares which fade gradually into 
white at a foot below the ceiling. 
At intervals along the wall are water- 
colours of flat Holland meadows, or 
blue canals, balanced on either side 
by a blue delft plate, and in a corner 
near the window is a veritable blue 
porcelain stove, which once faintly 
warmed some far-off^ German in- 
terior. The floor is polished oak, as 


are the table and chairs. I pur- 
posely leave out all the accessories 
and devices of brass and silver, the 
quaint brass-framed mirrors, the ivy- 
encircled windows, the one or two 
great ferns, the choice blue table- 
furniture : — because these are per- 
sonal and should neither be imitated 
or reduced to rules. 

The lesson is in the use of yellow 
and white, accented with touches of 
blue, which converts a dark and per- 
fectly cheerless room into a glitter of 
light and warmth. 

The third example I shall give is 
of a dining-room which may be called 
palatial in size and effect, occupying 
the whole square wing of a well- 
known New York house. There are 
many things in this house in the way 
of furniture, pictures, historic bits of 
art in different lines, which would 
distinguish it among fine houses, but 
one particular room is, perhaps, as 


perfectly successful in richness of de- 
tail, picturesqueness of effect, and at 
the same time perfect appropriateness 
to time, place, and circumstances as 
is possible for any achievement of its 
kind. The dining-room, and its art, 
taken in detail, belongs to the Vene- 
tian school, but if its colour-effect 
were concentrated upon canvas, it 
would be known as a Rembrandt. 
There is the same rich shadow, cover- 
ing a thousand gradations, — the same 
concentration of light, and the same 
liberal diffusion of warm and rich 
tones of colour. It is a grand room 
in space, as New York interiors go, 
being perhaps forty to fifty feet in 
breadth and length, with a height 
exactly proportioned to the space. 
It has had the advantage of separate 
creation — being ^^ thought out" years 
after the early period of the house, 
and is, consequently, a concrete re- 
sult of study, travel, and oppor- 


tunities, such as few families are 
privileged to experience. Aside from 
the perfect proportions of the room, 
it is not difficult to analyse the art 
which makes it so distinguished an 
example of decoration of space, and 
decide wherein lies its especial charm. 
It is undoubtedly that of colour, al- 
though this is based upon a detail so 
perfect, that one hesitates to give it 
predominant credit. The whole, or 
nearly the whole west end of the 
room is thrown into one vast, slightly 
projecting window of clear leaded 
glass, the lines of which stand against 
the light like a weaving of spiders' 
webs. There is a border of various 
tints at its edge, which softens it into 
the brown shadow of the room, and 
the centre of each large sash is marked 
by a shield-like ornament glowing 
with colour like a jewel. The long 
ceiling and high wainscoting melt 
away from this leaded window in 























a perspective of wonderfully carved 
planes of antique oak, catching the 
light on lines and points of projection 
and quenching it in hollows of relief. 
These perpendicular wall panels 
were scaled from a room in a Vene- 
tian palace, carved when the art and 
the fortunes of that sea-city were at 
their best, and the alternately repeat- 
ing squares of the ceiling were fash- 
ioned to carry out and supplement 
the ancient carvings. If this were 
a small room, there would be a 
sense of unrest in so lavish a use of 
broken surface, but in one large 
enough to have it felt as a whole, 
and not in detail, it simply gives a 
quality of preciousness. The soft 
browns of the wood spread a mystery 
of surface, from the edge of the pol- 
ished floor until it meets a frieze of 
painted canvas filled with large reclin- 
ing figures clad in draperies of red, 
and blue, and yellow — separating the 


walls from the ceiling by an illumi- 
nation of colour. This colour-deco- 
ration belongs to the past, and it is a 
question if any modern painting could 
have adapted itself so perfectly to the 
spirit of the room, although in itself 
it might be far more beautiful. It 
is a bit of antique imagination, its 
cherub-borne plates of fruit, and 
golden flagons, and brown-green of 
foliage and turquoise of sky, and 
crimson and gold of garments, all 
softened to meet the shadows of the 
room. The door-spaces in the wain- 
scot are hung with draperies of crim- 
son velvet, the surface frayed and 
flattened by time into variations of 
red, impossible to newer weavings, 
while the great floor-space is spread 
with an enormous rug of the same 
colour — the gift of a Sultan. A 
carved table stands in the centre, 
surrounded with high-backed carved 
chairs, the seats covered with the 


same antique velvet v^hich shows in 
the portieres. A fall of thin crimson 
silk tints the sides of the window- 
frame, and on the two ends of the 
broad step or platform which leads to 
the window stand two tall pedestals 
and globe-shaped jars of red and 
blue-green pottery. The deep, ruby- 
like red of the one and the mixed 
indefinite tint of the other seem to 
have curdled into the exact shade for 
each particular spot, their fitness is so 

The very sufficient knowledge 
which has gone to the making of this 
superb room has kept the draperies 
unbroken by design or device, giving 
colour only and leaving to the carved 
walls the privilege of ornament. 

It will be seen that there are but 
two noticeable colour-tones in the 
room — brown with infinite variations, 
and red in rugs and draperies. 

There is no real affinity between 


these two tints, but they are here so 
well balanced in mass, that the two 
form a complete harmony, like the 
brown waves of a landscape at even-, 
ing tipped with the fire of a sunset 

Much IS to be learned from a 
room like this, in the lesson of unity 
and concentration of effect. The 
strongest, and in fact the only, mass 
of vital colour is in the carpet, which 
is allowed to play upwards, as it were, 
into draperies, and furniture, and 
frieze, none of which show the same 
depth and intensity. To the concen- 
tration of light in the one great win- 
dow we must give the credit of the 
Rembrandt-like effect of the whole 
interior. If the walls were less rich, 
this single flood of light would be a 
defect, because it would be difficult 
to treat a plain surface with colour 
alone, which should be equally good 
in strong light and deep shadow. 



Then, again, the amount of living 
and brilliant colour is exactly pro- 
portioned to that of sombre brown, 
the red holding its value by strength, 
as against the greatly preponderating 
mass of dark. On the whole this 
may be called a " picture-room," and 
yet it is distinctly liveable, lending 
itself not only to hospitality and 
ceremonious function but also to 
real domesticity. It is true that 
there is a certain obligation in its 
style of beauty which calls for fine 
manners and fine behaviour, possibly 
even, behaviour in kind ; for it is in 
the nature of all fine and exceptional 
things to demand a corresponding 
fineness from those who enjoy them. 

I will give still another dining- 
room as an example of colour, which, 
unlike the others, is not modern, but 
a sort of falling in of old gentility 
and costliness into lines of modern 
art — one might almost say it hap^ 


pened to be beautiful, and yet the 
happening is only an adjustment of 
fine old conditions to modern ideas. 
Yet I have known many as fine a 
room torn out and refitted, losing 
thereby all the inherent dignity of 
age and superior associations. 

A beautiful city home of seventy 
years ago is not very like a beautiful 
city home of to-day ; perhaps less so 
in this than in any other country. 
The character of its fineness is curi- 
ously changed ; the modern house is 
fitted to its inmates, while the old- 
fashioned house, modelled upon the 
early eighteenth century art of Eng- 
land, obliged the inmates to fit them- 
selves as best they might to a given 

The dining-room I speak of be- 
longs to the period when Washington 
Square, New York, was still sur- 
rounded by noble homes, and almost 
the limit of luxurious city life was 


Union Square. The house fronts to 
the north, consequently the dining- 
room, which is at the back, is flooded 
with sunshine. The ceiling is higher 
than it would be in a modern house, 
and the windows extend to the floor, 
and rise nearly to the ceiling, far in- 
deed above the flat arches of the 
doorways with their rococo flourishes. 
This extension of window-frame, and 
the heavy and elaborate plaster cor- 
nice so deep as to be almost a frieze, 
and the equally elaborate centre- 
piece, are the features which must 
have made it a room difficult to 

I could fancy it must have been 
an ugly room in the old days when 
its walls were probably white, and 
the great mahogany doors were spots 
of colour in prevailing spaces of 
blankness. Now, however, any one 
at all learned in art, or sensitive to 
beauty, would pronounce it a beau- 


tifiil room. The way in which the 
ceiling with its heavy centre-piece and 
plaster cornice is treated is especial- 
ly interesting. The whole of this 
is covered with an ochre-coloured 
bronze, while the walls and door- 
casings are painted a dark indigo, 
which includes a faint trace of green. 
Over this wall-colour, and joining 
the cornice, is carried a stencil de- 
sign in two coloured bronzes which 
seem to repeat the light and shadow 
of the cornice mouldings, and this 
apparently extends the cornice into a 
frieze which ends faintly at a picture- 
moulding some three feet below. 
This treatment not only lowers the 
ceiling, which is in construction too 
high for the area of the room, but 
blends it with the wall in a way 
which imparts a certain richness of 
effect to all the lower space. 

The upper part of the windows, 
to the level of the picture-moulding. 


is covered with green silk, overlaid 
with an applique of the same in a 
design somewhat like the frieze, so 
that it seems to carry the frieze across 
the space of light in a green tracery 
of shadow. The same green extends 
from curtain-rods at the height of 
the picture-moulding into long under- 
curtains of silk, while the over-cur- 
tains are of indigo coloured silk-can- 
vas which matches the walls. 

The portieres separating the din- 
ing-room from the drawing-room are 
of a wonderfully rich green brocade 
— the colour of which answers to 
the green of the silk under-curtains 
across the room, while the design 
ranges itself indisputably with the 
period of the plaster work. The 
blue and green of the curtains and 
portiere each seem to claim their own 
in the mixed and softened background 
of the wall. . 

The colour of the room would 


hardly be complete without the three 
beautiful portraits which hang upon 
the walls, and suggest their part of 
the life and conversation of to-day 
so that it stands on a proper plane 
with the dignity of three generations. 
The beautiful mahogany doors and 
elaboration of cornice and central 
ornament belong to them, but the 
harmony and beauty of colour are 
of our own time and tell of the gen- 
eral knowledge and feeling for art 
which belongs to it. 

I have given the colour-treatment 
only of this room, leaving out the 
effect of carved teak-wood furniture 
and subtleties of china and glass — 
not alone as an instance of colour in 
a sunny exposure, but as an example 
of fitting new styles to old, of keep- 
ing what is valuable and beautiful in 
itself and making it a part of the 
comparatively new art of decoration. 

There is a dining-room in one of 



(Belonging to Clarence Roof, Esq.) 


the many delightful houses in Lake- 
wood, N. J., which owes its unique 
charm to a combination of position, 
light, colour, and perhaps more than 
all, to the clever decoration of its 
upper walls, which is a fine and broad 
composition of swans and many-col- 
oured clusters of grapes and vine- 
foliage placed above the softly 
tinted copper-coloured wall. The 
same design is carried in silvery and 
gold-coloured leaded-glass across the 
top of the wide west window, as 
shown in illustration opposite page 
222, and reappears with a shield- 
shaped arrangement of wings in a 
beautiful four-leaved screen. 

The notable and enjoyable colour 
of the room is seen from the very 
entrance of the house, the broad 
main hall making a carpeted highway 
to the wide opening of the room, 
where a sheaf of tinted sunset light 
seems to spread itself like a many- 


doubled fan against the shadows of 
the hall. 

All the ranges and intervals, the 
lights, reflections, and darks possible 
to that most beautiful of metals — 
copper — seem to be gathered into 
the frieze and screen, and melt softly 
into the greens of the foliage, or tint 
the plumage of the swans. It is an 
instance of the kind of decoration 
which is both classic and domestic, 
and being warmed and vivified by- 
beautiful colour, appeals both to the 
senses and the imagination. 

It would be easy to multiply In- 
stances of beautiful rooms, and each 
one might be helpful for mere imita- 
tion, but those I have given have 
each one illustrated — more or less 
distinctly — the principle of colour as 
affecting or being affected by light. 

I have not thought it necessary to 
give examples of rooms with eastern 
or western exposures, because in such 


rooms one is free to consult one's 
own personal preferences as to col- 
our, being limited only by the gen- 
eral rules which govern all colour 

I have not spoken of pictures or 
paintings as accessories of interior 
decoration, because while their influ- 
ence upon the character and degree 
of beauty in the house is greater than 
all other things put together, their 
selection and use are so purely per- 
sonal as not to call for remark or 
advice. Any one who loves pictures 
well enough to buy them, can hardly 
help placing them where they not 
only are at their best, but where 
they will also have the greatest in- 

A house where pictures predom- 
inate will need little else that comes 
under the head of decoration. It is 
a pity that few houses have this ad- 
vantage, but fortunately it is quite 


possible to give a picture quality to 
every interior. This can often be 
done by following the lead of some 
accidental effect which is in itself 
picturesque. The placing a jar of 
pottery or metal near or against a 
piece of drapery which repeats its 
colour and heightens the lustre of its 
substance is a small detail, but one 
which gives pleasure out of all pro- 
portion to its importance. The half 
accidental draping of a curtain, the 
bringing together of shapes and col- 
ours in insignificant things, may give 
a character which is lastingly pleasing 
both to inmates and casual visitors. 

Of course this is largely a matter 
of personal gift. One person may 
make a picturesque use of colour and 
material, which in the hands of an- 
other will be perhaps without fault, 
but equally without, charm. In- 
stances of this kind come constantly 
within our notice, although we are 


not always able to give the exact 
reasons for success or failure. We 
only know that we feel the charm of 
one instance and are indifferent to, 
or totally unimpressed by, the other. 
It is by no means an unimportant 
thing to create a beautiful and pict- 
uresque interior. There is no influ- 
ence so potent upon life as harmoni- 
ous surroundings, and to create and 
possess a home which is harmonious 
in a simple and inexpensive way is the 
privilege of all but the wretchedly 
poor. In proportion also as these 
surroundings become more perfect 
in their art and meaning, there is a 
corresponding elevation in the dweller 
among them — since the best decora- 
tion must include many spiritual les- 
sons. It may indeed be used to 
further vulgar ambitions, or pamper 
bodily weaknesses, but truth and 
beauty are its essentials, and these 
will have their utterance.