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rule, I will admit, but that is the fault of the
room. Our rooms are so universally with-
out harmony in their fitting- up,* and the walls
are so rarely (almost never) a good back-
ground for the furniture or the people, that
we come to depend upon the furniture to
give us some color and sense of solidity.
If the carpet, walls, and ceiling of a room
were once treated as a whole, and brought
into proper harmonious relation, we should

find that the room would not only look well
with fewer and smaller pieces of furniture,
but that taking out one or two things would
not make such a difference as it does now.

The only sensible way to support curtains
is by rings running on a brass rod. The
mechanism of this is shown in cut No.
3. The rings remain upon the rod, and the
curtains have long hooks of wire sewed to
their upper edge, which hook into eyes sol-
dered to the edge of the rings. With a
step-ladder, a child can unship the curtain
in a jiflfy, and put them up in less than no
time, and the upholsterer's yearly bill be
easily shorn of two items at least. The rod
rests upon two brass stays that are screwed,
once for all, to the wall, and that need never
come down. N or need the rod and rings come
down, for that matter; and, as they are made
of burnished brass, they only need the dust-
ing they can get with the long-handled
feather whisk. The rods are sold, or ought
to be sold, by the foot. They come of dif-
ferent diameters, and a button screws on
at either end to cover the openings, and
prevent dust and animated nature from
seeking shelter in the hollow tube. Perhaps

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we can gratify the average woman by admit-
ting that the real use of these buttons is to
take off the " bare " look from the rod. We
must consider, before settling upon the rod,
what are the dimensions of our room. We
knew a lady who teased her husband into
discharging a servant because she was so
tall as to be out of proportion to their
house, and a curtain-rod may easily be too
large for the room it is put up in. Every

of that fashion, but only because it is plan
from the descriptions that both the eazic
Tabernacle and the later Temple were intm-
sically beautiful structures. The Italian
painters were always hanging their curtaos
in this way, as the reader may see in
Raphael's '' Sistine Madonna," for a £untliar
example. But a dozen others come to mj
mind, and several in Diirer besides.

The curtain in the '* Sistine Madomia ** is

NO. 8.


woman's eye will tell her whether a rod is
too large or too small for the work it has to
do, and she has only to choose what suits
her case. The rod should look as if it could
support the curtain, not. merely be able to
support it. Here, as in many cases, the eye
has to be considered.

Hanging curtains by rod and rings is the
good old way, and its elegance, as well as
utility, has always commended it to artists
and people whose tastes . in great things
prove they may be trusted in small matters.
It is not to follow Mr. Ruskin in his fetich
worship of the old Hebrews, to say that, as
the curtains of the Jewish Tabernacle were
hung by rods and rings, we may think well

hung, not upon a rod, but upon a wire ; and
neither the means by which it is suspended,
nor the way it hangs, is to be commended,
for so heavy a curtain should have been
hung from a strong rod, and it should have
been drawn aside, not looped iqx But thoe
is a hint in the hanging of this curtain vc
may make use of in our own practice, snd
that will sometimes be found to add just the
touch that was wanted to reconcile us to
curtains in a room where ctirtains may hive
threatened to be in the way. The wire oo
which the Raphael curtain hangs sa|p a
litde near the middle, as is natural, ^eeiif
what a weight depends from it. Thb ks
in the li^t from the top, and. without ptt*

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ding ourselves over what Raphael did it for,
we may try the experiment for ourselves of
stretching our curtain-rod, not above the
lintel of the window, or even across it, but a
few inches below it, enough to let the light
stream in and play about the ceiling.
Miss Maria Oakey has drawn for us a
curtain that is hung in this way (cut No.
4), and the effect of it is very pleasant
in practice, though, at first sight, it seems
a little strange. In a parlor or living-
room there is never any need of shutting
the light out altogether, and even if there
are no outside blinds or shutters, no cold
will come in at the top of the window, so
that nothing is lost or given up by this
arrangement, while we gain two things — a
pleasant effect of light, and
the additional solidity imparted
by the molded lintel of the

Indeed, perhaps this is as
good a way as can be devised
for securing something of what
is unconsciously sought to be
gained by the device of a
" cornice." If the lintel be well
designed, and with good mold-
ings, and then not left staring
white, but brought into tune
with the rest of the wall and
curtains themselves, it will do
all in effect that the "cornice"
could have done, and without
interfering with the play of the
curtains as we move them on
their rods.

Cut No. 5 shows curtains
hung across an arched door-
way, taking the place of the
sliaing-doors, which, however,
are still there, to be shut when
necessary, which is but seldom.
Here there can be no doubt as
to the desirableness of hanging
the curtains, not across the
architrave of the door-way (the
arch being a mere supposed
ornamental cutting off the cor-
ners of die square, and not a
real arch), but in a line with
the spring of the arch itself,
leaving the whole arch open
for light and air. This again in practice is
found to work wdl, avoiding the heavy and
obtrusive effect of such a mass of stuff as
would be required if the curtain had been
hung from a rod stretched above the top of
the door along the architrave.

Just one word more about curtains, as to
their length, and the stuflfe they are best
made of. -Their length depends on whether
they are to be caught back sometimes with
a band or cord, or whether they are at all
times to be allowed to hang straight. In
case they are to be subject to tymg back
sometimes, they must be made longer than
when they are to hang straight. In the lat-
ter case they should well touch the floor, but
not sensibly lie upon it. At least, this is my
notion of the fitness of things; but others
think differendy. If the stuff the curtains
are made of is heavy, they will hang in good
lines even when the ends lie on the floor ;
but I cannot see what is gained by letting
them do so. Nor should the stuff be very


heavy. It may be thick and impervious to
light and air, but it ought to be soft and
easily falling into folds. The color ought to
go with the room, but ought not to domi-
neer or lead the rest ; indeed, nothing ought
to do that in a room ; but if the tone of the

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room be accented anywhere, it should be
by something small, — a vase, a cushion, a
bit of tapestry, not by any large piece of
furniture, nor by any large space of wall or
drapery. The decoration of the curtain by
bands across the stuff, not by vertical stripes,
has everything to recommend it — oriental
usage (almost always a sure guide in
decoration), and the fact that it is always to
be reckoned on to produce its pictorial effect,
since the bands cannot be hid, no matter
how many folds the curtain makes. But
stripes are continually being concealed in
the folds, or else cut in two, and so their
value lost or impaired.

With all the varieties of stuflfe that are in
the shops to-day, a woman with ingenuity
and an eye ought to have little difficulty in
getting handsome curtains without too much
money, and at not too high a price. Give
up the cornices and the lambrequins, — ^awk-
ward additions to any window, nine times
out of ten ; give up fringes and borders, and
straps by which to hold the curtains back,
and you can then throw the whole weight
of your purse upon the main stuff of your
curtains and the bands they are to be
crossed with. Any lady who can trim her
own hat can trust herself to lay bands of
harmonious color across the ground-work of
her curtains. These should be separated
one from the other by narrow bands or laces,
to prevent one color affecting another. The
Cottiers, and Morris, Marshall & Company
of London, have been very successful with
these banded curtains, and the laces and
fringes they make are most beautiful in exe-
cution and in texture, and telling in design
by virtue of their quaint simplicity. It must
be admitted that curtains made up of these
bands and laces on a ground of soft woolen
stuff, though most delightful to the eye and
to the touch, are far from cheap ; but it is
not necessary, even for the enjoyment of the
eye, to have the costliest; and there are
simple combinations enough to be made.
But the most beautiftil ought to be seen once
to get the eye in tune.

How to hang our pictures is the next
worry after cunains, and yet the way out
of this wood is as clear or clearer than the
other. Our plaster walls are not made for
driving nails into, and they are easily defaced
if we try to drive nails into them without
the aid of a practised hand. We have to
get a carpenter to come with his hammer
and we set him at tapping the wall like a
woodpecker to find the solid places by the
sound, and then put in his nails at a vent-

ure. And then we are the slaves of the
studding timbers, and our pictures must hang
where they will, not where we will. The first
device for getting more liberty was that of
fixing a permanent brass or iron rod along
the upper part of the wall just under the
cornice, and hanging the pictiures fix)m that,
moving them back and forth till we had
them where we wanted them. But this has
a dumsy look and a mechanical, and sug-
gests the notion that we are taking advant-
age of an accidental gas-pipe to suspend
our pictures from. We want something sim-
pler and less obtrusive than this, which is
only suited to a public hall; and what
seems to just hit the mark, is a strip of
wood shaped as described in cut No. 6,
and nailed along the wall at any height
desired. Ordinarily, it will be best to liasten
it directly under the cornice; but this de-
pends upon the height of the room. . If the
room is a very lofty one, by fixing the strip
some distance below the cornice, we avoid
the monotony of a number of cords or wires
spreading over the wall, and we can utilize
the space thus left between the strip and the
cornice by hanging there some casts, or pieces
of armor, or objects of any kind that will bear
being hung above the level of the eye. Very
few things do bear this — I mean, of things
that are of a size to bring into our houses at
all ; but there may be such, and while we
should like to have them on the wall of our
living-room, we do not want them to drive
things away that need nearer looking at
No picture ought to be hung higher than
the height of the average human eye when
the owner of the eye is standing. It is the
almost universal rule in our houses to hang
pictures much above this level, and they
cannot be enjoyed there. If the picture is
a portrait, or if it have human faces in it,
its eyes should look as nearly into ours as
possible; and if there be no such simple
guide, perhaps a good rule will be to have
the line that divides the picture horizontally
into equal parts level with the eye. If one
starts in hanging pictiu-es with the determi-
nation to place them so that they can be
easily seen and enjoyed without stretching
the neck the least, or stooping the body, he
will be pretty sure to do well. In remote
farm-houses and coimtry taverns we often
sfee pictures, particulariy portraits, skyed as
high as if their owners had been Academy
Hangers, and the painters young rivals of a
new school. I suppose the reason is that
the simple-hearted owners think a picture
such a precious thing, it can't be hung too

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securely out of the reach of meddling hands.
They are often not clear in their minds as
to what a picture is meant for, and not find-
ing in it any practical relation to human life
and society, they treat it with reverence and


put it where it will disturb them as little as
possible. But, as people come to enjoy
pictures and get some intellectual, spiritual
nourishment out of them, they want them,
as they want their books, where they can
see them and use them.

In connection with this part of our sub-
ject, we may deprecate the hanging pict-
ures in places where there is not light
enough to see them, which people sinrely
never do unless a supposed necessity com-
pels them. They have accumulated a num-
ber of pictures and framed engravings ; they
are attached to them and accustomed to
them, and they want to hang them all up
on their walls. So, some fare well and
others fare ill. But it is so annoying to see
a picture hung where it cannot be seen, the
very end and aim of its being frustrated,
that it is best to reform the practice alto-
gether. Weed out the collection, put the
less desirable ones, or the ones we have out-
grown, into other rooms ; start them gently
on their way by slow degrees toward the
garret, and do not try to fill their places, but
give the remaining ones a chance to be seen
and enjoyed. Or take the engravings out of
their frames and put them in portfolios, or
into the frames of the Print-Stand described
in the first of these articles, where they can be
seen when we feel like it. In our effort to
introduce some serenity and largeness into
the furnishing and decorating of our houses,

one of the main things to accomplish will
be the hanging fewer pictures and objects
on the walls, putting there only what is
worth looking at, and that cannot be better
seen by being held in the hands. A large
room can be made to look small by being
overcrowded with furniture, or by having
the walls covered with a multitude of small
pictiures, engravings, and objects, the win-
dows swathed in drapery, and lambrequins
cascading over mantel-pieces and shelves.
And by reversing this way of treating a
room, a small room may be made to look
almost large, and at any rate will tranquilize
the eye and mind instead of fidgeting it.
Have nothing in the room in the way of
furniture that is not needed — that has not a
real use, whether for work or play; and
hang nothing upon the walls that does not
need a wall to show it, and that is not worth
being shown.

One trick of our time I should like to
have a word with, and that is, the habit
of over-ornamenting everything. It is not
merely that we over-ornament ; where orna-
ment is advisable at all this is a natural enough
fault to fall into, but we ornament a thou-
sand things that ought not to be ornamented.
It is hard to find an object of merchandise
to-day that has not ornament (so-called) of
some kind stuck or fastened upon it. That
terrible word "bare" seems to have fiight-
ened us all, and driven us to cover the
nakedness of things with whatever comes to
hand. We cover our note-paper with clumsy
water-marks, we put " monograms " ^though
" many grams " would express better tne mul-
titudinousness and intricacy of these illegible
devices) on our clothing, on our bed-linen,
on our table-Hnen, on our books and tide-
pages, on our carriages and silver — our sil-
ver! Oh, was there ever silver like unto
ours for knobs and welts, and wrinkles and
spikes, and everything that silver shouldn't
have ? If the reader will look about him
as he reads this, he will certainly find in his
own surroundings, for we can none of us
wholly escape, the justification for this criti-
cism. The architects cannot design a house
or a church, but they must carve every
stone, cover the walls with cold, discordant
tiles, break up every straight line with cuts
and chamfers, plow every edge into mold-
ings, crest every roof-ridge and dormer-win-
dow with painted and gilded iron, and refuse
to give us a square foot of wall on which to
rest the tired eye. Within, the furniture fol-
lows in the same rampant la\*
beauty of simplicity in form : t

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be had from lines well thought out; the
agreeableness of unbroken surfaces where
there is no gain in breaking them ; harmony
in color, and, on the whole, the ministering
to the satisfaction we all have in not seeing
the whole of everything at once, — these con-
siderations the makers of our furniture,
" fashionable " and " Canal street " alike, have
utterly ignored, and the strife has long been,
who shdl make the loudest chairs and sofas,
and give us the most glare and glitter for
our money.

Just as I had written these deprecat-
ing words, I took down my overcoat from
where it had been hanging, and, as the
loop hesitated a little about slipping off,
I gave a closer look at the hook. It
was as ill adapted to its use as the maker
could contrive; cut out apparently from a
thick sheet of brass with a dull chisel, the
edges left as sharp as the tool would allow,
so as to give the loop every opportunity to
fray and cut itself free, and each of the
branches armed mth a little round at the
end so as to prevent your getting your coat
off in a hurry. However, as a make-weight
for all this want of consideration for the
utihties, the flat sides of the hook (which, to
tell truth, was cast, and not cut out of a
thick sheet of brass) were ornamented with
an extremely pretty pattern, so that if you
had plenty of leisure, or if your coat should
detain you some seconds in getting it off the
hook, you could improve the time in study-
ing " how to apply art to manufactures." The
dirty people, too, who amuse themselves and
make clean peopfe miserable by squirting
tobacco-juice over their own and other peo-
ple's floors, must be touched now and then,
for even they have sensibilities hid deep
beneath their thick skins, by the perception
that somebody cares even for them, when
they see what taste is expended on the dec-
oration of the spit-boxes which they are
all the time engaged in making ineffectual
efforts to hit. Pretty Greek meanders and
guilloches encircle the sacred little vessels,
and neo-Greek medallions enshrine heads
of pretty women, and we see how good a
thing it is to introduce Art into every-day
life, and to disseminate it widely in order to
elevate the masses.

Even in so small a thing as this strip of
wood on which our pictures are to hang, we
find an illustration of this waste of orna-
ment. Remember that ornament cannot
be produced without time and money, and
it is as foolish as it is wrong to waste these
by investing them where thty bring no

return. These picture strips are s<^d in aB
our picture-fi'ame shops, and the hooks that
belong with them are sold with them.
Instead of being con-
tented with a good
strong line for the pro-
file, such as is shown
in our cut, and with
a simple strong hook
just fitted for its woit
the dealer supplies ns
with a strip of rough-
looking wood, " orna-
mented" on die fit)nt
with moldings out of
all proportioii to the
size of the strip. The
hook that holds the
picture-cord is of un-
polished brass, left
rough as it came from
the founder^ mold,
but " ornamented** fof
all that, by being made
an exact coimterpait
of the molding on the
stick. Noting is
gained, either for k)ob
or for utility, by all this
fussing. TTie "(Miia-
> ment" is not of the

least value when the
strip is nailed in its
place, and the hook
I has no better grip for

being shaped to fit the
molding. It is voy
wdl to have thought
( of the simple device

but if the deviser had
stopped when be had
calculated strain, Icii-
erage, and resistance, and been content widi
making both strip and hook capable of
doing all that was to be required of thenv
he would have produced a much moce
comely looking contrivance.

When the wall space has been divided
horizontally into bands agreeably propor-
tioned, so much for the wainscot cm* ibr the
band of color that answers for wainscot, so
much for the frieze or the band of color that
answers for frieze, then to my thinking the
pictures hung upon the intermediate space.
the wall proper, look best hung in a cootis-
uous line rather than irregulaily» some
higher, some lower. As they are sure ooc
to be all the same size, enough iiregolariij
will be secured by following the suggestion


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that they should all be hung on the line of
the eye. Also, if an exact symmetry be not
insisted upon, but the pictures hung with
reference to where they individually look


best and can be best seen, we shall find the
whole room will look the better for this rea-

There is one advantage this way of sus-
pending pictures by a hook resting upon a
strip has over the usual way — the picture
can be easily unshipped in case of need.
No doubt many valuable pictures have been
destroyed by fire in consequence of the cord
by which they were hung refusing to leave
the nail or hook firom which it was sus-
pended. The writer knows of one very
beautifiil portrait by Copley — a portrait of a
lovely woman painted by the artist for his
own pleasure — which was burned up with
the house it adorned, because no knife was
at hand to cut the cord that held it, and
it could not be untwisted from the old
hook that held it The hook we recom-
mend can be displaced in a moment
if needed, but I still think it better to put
the strip a foot or two below the cornice, so
as both to get rid of the too much cord, and
to have the hook within broomstick-dis-

It is just as easy to hang a picture by a
single line of cord as by two lines diverging
fi-om the point of suspension — ^the common
way. A very large or long picture should
be hung by a cord at each end, each cord
depending fi-om its own hook. These ver-
tical lines are much more agreeable to the
eye than the diverging lines, and make a
useful contrast to the horizontal lines of the
wall division. But I don't think the means

by which a picture is suspended ought to be
concealed, or kept at all out of sight There
ought to be a cord that not only is, but that
seems to be, sufficient for its work. And it
is our fault if we cannot make these cords
harmonize with the wall on which they are
to appear as lines.

Cuts Nos. 7 and 8 were drawn for me
by Mr. Lathrop, to illustrate a point I
want to make in reference to the treatment
of rooms in country-houses in the upper
story, or in what is sometimes called the
Mansard, where the outside wall on one or
two sides slopes inward, following the line
of the roof. Cut No. 4 is a comer of the
room above the room two ends of which
were shown in the January number of
ScRiBNER, cuts No. 6 and 7. The building
was once the carriage-house of a dwelling
of which the oldest portion was built in the
second half of the last century. The car-
riage-house was contemporary with this oldest
portion, and was built, after the sensible fash-
ion of those times, with stone walls two feet
thick. The lower room is about nine feet
high, and the loft above was floored with
thick oak planks resting on beams of oak.
At a later day this loft was converted into a
billiard-room ; the roof was raised and sup-
ported on brick- walls carried up on the
outer edge of the thick stone walls so as to
leave half their depth available for a shelf
which runs the whole length of two sides of
the room, the ends being differendy treated.
The stone wall is cased with wood, and the


brick plastered wall above it is lathed and
plastered, and the result is not only that a
pretty decorative effect is produced, but that
we gain two substantial points in comfort

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First, we are pushed out by the stone wall
so far into the room that we can't bump our
heads against the ceiling. Then we get a
most useful and handy shelf along the two

Online LibraryFrancis HallThe Century, Volume 11 → online text (page 86 of 163)