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by Coutant d'lvry, is made of steel and iron, and the Due d'Aumale
copied this combination in the stair-rail at Chantilly. There is
little to recommend the substitution of steel for iron in such cases.
It is impossible to keep a steel stair-rail clean and free from rust,
except by painting it; and since it must be painted, iron is the
more suitable material.

In France the iron rail is usually painted black, though a

114 The Decoration of Houses

very dark blue is sometimes preferred. Black is the better color,
as it forms a stronger contrast with the staircase walls, which
are presumably neutral in tint and severe in treatment. Besides,
as iron is painted, not to improve its appearance, but to prevent
its rusting, the color which most resembles its own is more
appropriate. In French houses of a certain importance the iron
stair-rail often had a few touches of gilding, but these were spar-
ingly applied.

In England wooden stair-rails were in great favor during the
Tudor and Elizabethan period. These rails were marked rather
by fanciful elaboration of detail than by intrinsic merit of design,
and are doubtless more beautiful now that time has given them
its patina, than they were when first made.

With the Palladian style came the classic balustrade of stone
or marble, or sometimes, in simpler houses, of wood. Iron rails
were seldom used in England, and those to be found in some of
the great London houses (as in Carlton House, Chesterfield House
and Norfolk House) were probably due to the French influence
which made itself felt in English domestic architecture during the
eighteenth century. This influence, however, was never more
than sporadic ; and until the decline of decorative art at the close
of the eighteenth century, Italian rather than French taste gave the
note to English decoration.

The interrelation of vestibule, hall and staircase having been
explained, the subject of decorative detail must next be consid-
ered; but before turning to this, it should be mentioned that here-
after the space at the foot of the stairs, though properly a part of
the staircase, will for the sake of convenience be called the ball,
since in the present day it goes by that name in England and

Hall and Stairs 1 1 5

In contrasting the vestibule with the hall, it was pointed out that
the latter might be treated in a gayer and more informal manner
than the former. It must be remembered, however, that as the
vestibule is the introduction to the hall, so the hall is the introduc-
tion to the living-rooms of the house; and it follows that the hall
must be as much more formal than the living-rooms as the vesti-
bule is more formal than the hall. It is necessary to emphasize this
because the tendency of recent English and American decoration
has been to treat the hall, not as a hall, but as a living-room.
Whatever superficial attractions this treatment may possess, its in-
appropriateness will be seen when the purpose of the hall is con-
sidered. The hall is a means of access to all the rooms on each
floor; on the ground floor it usually leads to the chief living-rooms
of the house as well as to the vestibule and street; in addition to
this, in modern houses even of some importance it generally
contains the principal stairs of the house, so that it is the centre
upon which every part of the house directly or indirectly opens.
This publicity is increased by the fact that the hall must be crossed
by the servant who opens the front door, and by any one admitted
to the house. It follows that the hall, in relation to the rooms of
the house, is like a public square in relation to the private houses
around it. For some reason this obvious fact has been ignored by
many recent decorators, who have chosen to treat halls like rooms
of the most informal character, with open fireplaces, easy-chairs
for lounging and reading, tables with lamps, books and magazines,
and all the appointments of a library. This disregard of the pur-
pose of the hall, like most mistakes in household decoration, has
a very natural origin. When, in the first reaction from the dis-
comfort and formality of sixty years ago, people began, especially
in England, to study the arrangement of the old Tudor and Eliza-

1 1 6 The Decoration of Houses

bethan houses, many of these were found to contain large panelled
halls opening directly upon the porch or the terrace. The mellow
tones of the wood-work; the bold treatment of the stairs, shut off
as they were merely by a screen; the heraldic imagery of the
hooded stone chimney-piece and of the carved or stuccoed ceiling,
made these halls the chief feature of the house; while the rooms
opening from them were so often insufficient for the requirements
of modern existence, that the life of the inmates necessarily centred
in the hall. Visitors to such houses- saw only the picturesqueness
of the arrangement the huge logs glowing on the hearth, the
books and flowers on the old carved tables, the family portraits on
the walls; and, charmed with the impression received, they ordered
their architects to reproduce for them a hall which, even in the
original Tudor houses, was a survival of older social conditions.

One might think that the recent return to classic forms of archi-
tecture would have done away with the Tudor hall; but, except
in a few instances, this has not been the case. In fact, in the
greater number of large houses, and especially of country houses,
built in America since the revival of Renaissance and Palladian
architecture, a large many-storied hall communicating directly
with the vestibule, and containing the principal stairs of the
house, has been the distinctive feature. If there were any prac-
tical advantages in this overgrown hall, it might be regarded as
one of those rational modifications in plan which mark the differ-
ence between an unreasoning imitation of a past style and the in-
telligent application of its principles; but the Tudor hall, in its
composite character as vestibule, parlor and dining-room, is only
another instance of the sacrifice of convenience to archaism.

The abnormal development of the modern staircase-hall can-
not be defended on the plea sometimes advanced that it is a





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Hall and Stairs 117

roofed-in adaptation of the great open cortile of the Genoese pal-
ace, since there is no reason for adapting a plan so useless and so
unsuited to our climate and way of living. The beautiful central
cortile of the Italian palace, with its monumental open stairs, was
in no sense part of a "private house" in our interpretation of the
term. It was rather a thoroughfare like a public street, since the
various stories of the Italian palace were used as separate houses
by different branches of the family.

In most modern houses the hall, in spite of its studied resem-
blance to a living-room, soon reverts to its original use as a pas-
sageway; and this fact should indicate the treatment best suited
to it In rooms where people sit, and where they are consequently
at leisure to look about them, delicacy of treatment and refinement
of detail are suitable; but in an anteroom or a staircase only the
first impression counts, and forcible simple lines, with a vigorous
massing of light and shade, are essential. These conditions point
to the use of severe strongly-marked panelling, niches for vases or
statues, and a stair-rail detaching itself from the background in
vigorous decisive lines. 1

The furniture of the hall should consist of benches or straight-
backed chairs, and marble-topped tables and consoles. If a press
is used, it should be architectural in design, like the old French
and Italian armoires painted with arabesques and architectural
motives, or the English seventeenth-century presses made of some
warm-toned wood like walnut and surmounted by a broken
pediment with a vase or bust in the centre (see Plate XXXIII).

The walls of the staircase in large houses should be of panelled
stone or marble, as in the examples given in the plates accom-
panying this chapter.

1 For a fine example of a hall-niche containing a statue, see Plate XXX.

1 1 8 The Decoration of Houses

In small houses, where an expensive decoration is out of the
question, a somewhat similar architectural effect may be obtained
by the use of a few plain mouldings fixed to the plaster, the whole
being painted in one uniform tint, or in two contrasting colors,
such as white for the mouldings, and buff, gray, or pale green for
the wall. To this scheme may be added plaster medallions, as
suggested for the vestibule, or garlands and other architectural
motives made of staff, in imitation of the stucco ornaments of the
old French and Italian decorators. When such ornaments are
used, they should invariably be simple and strong in design. The
modern decorator is too often tempted by mere prettiness of de-
tail to forget the general effect of his composition. In a staircase,
where only the general effect is seized, prettiness does not count,
and the effect produced should be strong, clear and telling.

For the same reason, a stair-carpet, if used, should be of one
color, without pattern. Masses of plain color are one of the chief
means of producing effect in any scheme of decoration.

When the floor of the hall is of marble or mosaic, as, if possible,
it should be, the design, like that of the walls, should be clear and
decided in outline (see Plate XXX). On the other hand, if the
hall is used as an antechamber and carpeted, the carpet should be
of one color, matching that on the stairs.

In many large houses the stairs are now built of stone or marble,
while the floor of the landings is laid in wood, apparently owing
to the idea that stone or marble floors are cold. In the tropically-
heated American house not even the most sensitive person could
be chilled by passing contact with a stone floor; but if it is
thought to "look cold," it is better to lay a rug or a strip of
carpet on the landing than to permit the proximity of two such
different substances as wood and stone.

Hall and Stairs 119

Unless the stairs are of wood, that material should never be
used for the rail ; nor should wooden stairs be put in a staircase
of which the walls are of stone, marble, or scagliola. If the stairs
are of wood, it is better to treat the walls with wood or plaster
panelling. In simple staircases the best wall-decoration is a
wooden dado-moulding nailed on the plaster, the dado thus
formed being painted white, and the wall above it in any uniform
color. Continuous pattern, such as that on paper or stuff hang-
ings, is specially objectionable on the walls of a staircase, since it
disturbs the simplicity of composition best fitted to this part of the

For the lighting of the hall there should be a lantern like that in
the vestibule, but more elaborate in design. This mode of light-
ing harmonizes with the severe treatment of the walls and indi-
cates at once that the hall is not a living-room, but a thoroughfare. 1

If lights be required on the stairs, they should take the form of
fire-gilt bronze sconces, as architectural as possible in design,
without any finikin prettiness of detail. (For good examples, see the
appliques in Plates V and XXXIII). It is almost impossible to ob-
tain well-designed appliques of this kind in America; but the
increasing interest shown in house-decoration will in time doubt-
less cause a demand for a better type of gas and electric fixtures.
Meantime, unless imported sconces can be obtained, the plainest
brass fixtures should be chosen in preference to the more elaborate
models now to be found here.

Where the walls of a hall are hung with pictures, these should
be few in number, and decorative in composition and coloring.
No subject requiring thought and study is suitable in such a

1 In large halls the tall torchere of marble or bronze may be used for additional
lights (see Plate XXXII).

1 2O The Decoration of Houses

position. The mythological or architectural compositions of the
Italian and French schools of the last two centuries, with their
superficial graces of color and design, are for this reason well
suited to the walls of halls and antechambers.

The same may be said of prints. These should not be used in
a large high-studded hall; but they look well in a small entrance-
way, if hung on plain-tinted walls. Here again such architectural
compositions as Piranesi's, with their bold contrasts of light and
shade, Marc Antonio's classic designs, or some frieze-like proces-
sion, such as Mantegna's "Triumph of Julius Caesar," are espe-
cially appropriate; whereas the subtle detail of the German Little
Masters, the symbolism of Durer's etchings and the graces of
Marillier or Moreau le Jeune would be wasted in a situation where
there is small opportunity for more than a passing glance.

In most American houses, the warming of hall and stairs is so
amply provided for that where there is a hall fireplace it is sel-
dom used. In country houses, where it is sometimes necessary
to have special means for heating the hall, the open fireplace is of
more service ; but it is not really suited to such a situation. The
hearth suggests an idea of intimacy and repose that has no
place in a thoroughfare like the hall; and, aside from this question
of fitness, there is a practical objection to placing an open chim-
ney-piece in a position where it is exposed to continual draughts
from the front door and from the rooms giving upon the hall.

The best way of heating a hall is by means of a faience stove
not the oblong block composed of shiny white or brown tiles
seen in Swiss and German pensions, but one of the fine old stoves
of architectural design still used on the Continent for heating the
vestibule and dining-room. In Europe, increased attention has of
late been given to the design and coloring of these stoves ; and if




Hall and Stairs 121

better known here, they would form an important feature in the
decoration of our halls. Admirable models may be studied in
many old French and German houses and on the borders of
Switzerland and Italy; while the museum at Parma contains
several fine examples of the rocaille period.


THE " with-drawing-room " of mediaeval England, to which
the lady and her maidens retired from the boisterous fes-
tivities of the hall, seems at first to have been merely a part of the
bedchamber in which the lord and lady slept. In time it came
to be screened off from the sleeping-room ; then, in the king's
palaces, it became a separate room for the use of the queen and
her damsels ; and so, in due course, reached the nobleman's
castle, and established itself as a permanent part of English

In France the evolution of the salon seems to have proceeded on
somewhat different lines. During the middle ages and the early
Renaissance period, the more public part of the nobleman's life
was enacted in the hall, or grand'salle, while the social and
domestic side of existence was transferred to the bedroom. This
was soon divided into two rooms, as in England. In France,
however, both these rooms contained beds ; the inner being the
real sleeping-chamber, while in the outer room, which was used
not only for administering justice and receiving visits of state,
but for informal entertainments and the social side of family life,
the bedstead represented the lord's lit de parade, traditionally
associated with state ceremonial and feudal privileges.




Drawing-Room, Boudoir, and Morning-Room 123

The custom of having a state bedroom in which no one slept
(cbambre de parade, as it was called) was so firmly established
that even in the engravings of Abraham Bosse, representing
French life in the reign of Louis XIII, the fashionable apartments
in which card-parties, suppers, and other entertainments are
taking place, invariably contain a bed.

In large establishments the chambre de parade was never used
as a sleeping-chamber except by visitors of distinction ; but in
small houses the lady slept in the room which served as her
boudoir and drawing-room. The Renaissance, it is true, had in-
troduced from Italy the cabinet opening off the lady's chamber,
as in the palaces of Urbino and Mantua ; but these rooms were
at first seen only in kings' palaces, and were, moreover, too
small to serve any social purpose. The cabinet of Catherine de'
Medici at Blois is a characteristic example.

Meanwhile, the gallery had relieved the grand' satte of some of
its numerous uses; and these two apartments seem to have satisfied
all the requirements of society during the Renaissance in France.

In the seventeenth century the introduction of the two-storied
Italian saloon produced a state apartment called a salon ; and this,
towards the beginning of the eighteenth century, was divided
into two smaller rooms : one, the salon de compagnie, remaining
a part of the gala suite used exclusively for entertaining (see Plate
XXXIV), while the other the salon de famitte became a
family apartment like Jhe English drawing-room.

The distinction between the salon de compagnie and the salon de
famitte had by this time also established itself in England, where
the state drawing-room retained its Italian name of salone, or
saloon, while the living-apartment preserved, in abbreviated form,
the mediaeval designation of the lady's with-drawing-room.

124 The Decoration of Houses

Pains have been taken to trace as clearly as possible the mixed
ancestry of the modern drawing-room, in order to show that it is
the result of two distinct influences that of the gala apartment
and that of the family sitting-room. This twofold origin has cu-
riously affected the development of the drawing-room. In houses
of average size, where there are but two living-rooms the mas-
ter's library, or " den," and the lady's drawing-room, it is obvi-
ous that the latter ought to be used as a salon de famitte, or meet-
ing-place for the whole family; and it is usually regarded as such
in England, where common sense generally prevails in matters of
material comfort and convenience, and where the drawing-room
is often furnished with a simplicity which would astonish those
who associate the name with white-and-gold walls and uncom-
fortable furniture.

In modern American houses both traditional influences are seen.
Sometimes, as in England, the drawing-room is treated as a family
apartment, and provided with books, lamps, easy-chairs and
writing-tables. In other houses it is still considered sacred to
gilding and discomfort, the best room in the house, and the con-
venience of all its inmates, being sacrificed to a vague feeling that
no drawing-room is worthy of the name unless it is uninhabitable.
This is an instance of the salon de compagnie having usurped the
rightful place of the salon de famitte; or rather, if the bourgeois de-
scent of the American house be considered, it may be more truly
defined as a remnant of the " best parlor" superstition.

Whatever the genealogy of the American drawing-room, it
must be owned that it too often fails to fulfil its purpose as a fam-
ily apartment. It is curious to note the amount of thought and
money frequently spent on the one room in the house used by no
one, or occupied at most for an hour after a "company " dinner.





































Drawing-Room, Boudoir, and Morning- Room 125

To this drawing-room, from which the inmates of the house in-
stinctively flee as soon as their social duties are discharged, many
necessities are often sacrificed. The library, or den, where the
members of the family sit, may be furnished with shabby odds
and ends; but the drawing-room must have its gilt chairs cov-
ered with brocade, its vitrifies full of modern Saxe, its guipure
curtains and velvet carpet.

The salon de compagnie is out of place in the average house.
Such a room is needed only where the dinners or other entertain-
ments given are so large as to make it impossible to use the ordi-
nary living-rooms of the house. In the grandest houses of Europe
the gala-rooms are never thrown open except for general enter-
tainments, or to receive guests of exalted rank, and the spectacle
of a dozen people languishing after dinner in the gilded wilderness
of a state saloon is practically unknown.

The purpose for which the salon de compagnie is used necessi-
tates its being furnished in the same formal manner as other gala
apartments. Circulation must not be impeded by a multiplicity
of small pieces of furniture holding lamps or other fragile objects,
while at least half of the chairs should be so light and easily moved
that groups may be formed and broken up at will. The walls
should be brilliantly decorated, without needless elaboration of
detail, since it is unlikely that the temporary occupants of such
a room will have time or inclination to study its treatment closely.
The chief requisite is a gay first impression. To produce this,
the wall-decoration should be light in color, and the furniture
should consist of a few strongly marked pieces, such as hand-
some cabinets and consoles, bronze or marble statues, and vases
and candelabra of imposing proportions. Almost all modern
furniture is too weak in design and too finikin in detail to look

1 26 The Decoration of Houses

well in a gala drawing-room. 1 (For examples of drawing-room
furniture, see Plates VI, IX, XXXIV, and XXXV.)

Beautiful pictures or rare prints produce little effect on the walls
of a gala room, just as an accumulation of small objects of art,
such as enamels, ivories and miniatures, are wasted upon its
tables and cabinets. Such treasures are for rooms in which people
spend their days, not for those in which they assemble for an
hour's entertainment.

But the salon de compagnie, being merely a modified form of
the great Italian saloon, is a part of the gala suite, and any detailed
discussion of the decorative treatment most suitable to it would
result in a repetition of what is said in the chapter on Gala Rooms.

The lighting of the company drawing-room to borrow its
French designation should be evenly diffused, without the sepa-
rate centres of illumination needful in a family living-room. The
proper light is that of wax candles. Nothing has done more to
vulgarize interior decoration than the general use of gas and of
electricity in the living-rooms of modern houses. Electric light
especially, with its harsh white glare, which no expedients have
as yet overcome, has taken from our drawing-rooms all air of
privacy and distinction. In passageways and offices, electricity is
of great service; but were it not that all "modern improvements"
are thought equally applicable to every condition of life, it would
be difficult to account for the adoption of a mode of lighting which
makes the salon look like a railway-station, the dining-room like a
restaurant. That such light is not needful in a drawing-room is
shown by the fact that electric bulbs are usually covered by shades

1 Much of the old furniture which appears to us unnecessarily stiff and monu-
mental was expressly designed to be placed against the walls in rooms used for gen-
eral entertainments, where smaller and more delicately made pieces would have
been easily damaged, and would, moreover, have produced no effect.







Drawing-Room, Boudoir, and Morning-Room 127

of some deep color, in order that the glare may be made as in-
offensive as possible.

The light in a gala apartment should be neither vivid nor
concentrated : the soft, evenly diffused brightness of wax candles
is best fitted to bring out those subtle modellings of light and
shade to which old furniture and objects of art owe half their

The treatment of the salon de compagnie naturally differs from
that of the family drawing-room: the latter is essentially a room
in which people should be made comfortable. There must be a
well-appointed writing-table; the chairs must be conveniently
grouped about various tables, each with its lamp; in short, the

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