Candace Wheeler.

Principles of home decoration, with practical examples online

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might be plaved 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 ot green. It was, in tact,
an addition ot spring green dropped
into the vermilion and carelessly
stirred, so that it should be mixed but
not incorporated. Over this shaded
and mixed colour tor the space ot
three teet was stencilled a fountain-
like pattern in cream-white, the arches
ot the pattern tilled in with almost a
lace-work ot design. The whole up-


per part had an effect like carved ala-
baster and was indescribablv li^ht and

The bed and curtain-rods of silver-
lacquer, and the abundant silver of the
dressing-table gave a trostv contrast
which was necessarv in a room of so
warm a oreneral tone. This is an ex-
ample ot verv delicate and trulv ar-
tistic treatment ot stencil-work, and
one can easilv see how it can be used
either in simple or elaborate fashion
with g^reat effect.

Irreg;ularlv placed iioatins: torms
ot Persian or Arabic design are otten
admirablv stencilled in colour upon
a painted wall ; but in this case the
colours should be varied and not too
strong. A group ot torms floating
awav from a v.indow-trame or cor-
nice can be done in D-vo shades ot the
wall colour, one ot which is positive-
ly darker and one lig^hter than the
oTound. It to these two shades some


dcHcatclv contrasting; colour is occa-

sion.iUv added the cticct is not onlv

pleasiniT, but bclon^is to a thoroiiLi-hlv
r ^ ^ IT" •

iiood Stvlc.

One seldom tires ot a good sten-
cilled wall ; prob.iblv because it is in-
trinsic, and not applied in the sense
ot paper or textiles. It carries an
air ot permanency \\ hich discourages
cliange or experiment, but it requires
considerable experience in decoration
to execute it worthilv; and not onlv
this, tiiere should be a strong: teelino;
for colour and taste and education in
the selection ot desio^n, tor thoui^h the
term ot the stencilled pattern mav be
crracetul, and Lrracetullv combined, it
must alwavs — to be permanentlv sat-
isfactorv — have a c^ometrical basis.
It is somewhat dimcult to account
tor the fact that what we call natural
lorms, ot plants and nowers, which
are certainly beautiful and cn-acetul 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 everlastinglv satisfactor\\

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 even' 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

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 knowingnessy
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's 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 for 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.
'' Stuffy 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.


'T^HE 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 ahd
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 v^ood 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 elem-ents 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 view of use
and effect. If the curtains answer
the two 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 which 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 brie-
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, gravs,
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

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Online LibraryCandace WheelerPrinciples of home decoration, with practical examples → online text (page 3 of 9)