Lucy Abbot Throop.

Furnishing the home of good taste : a brief sketch of the period styles in interior decoration with suggestions as to their employment in the homes of today online

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Online LibraryLucy Abbot ThroopFurnishing the home of good taste : a brief sketch of the period styles in interior decoration with suggestions as to their employment in the homes of today → online text (page 1 of 11)
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Copyright, 1910, by

The Cbowell Publishing Co.

Copyright, 1911, 1912, by

McBride, Nast & Co.

Published, October, 1912


Preface . .■ •„ ,^ -.i -..i i>i .•! >•: .• i

Egypt and Greece . ., . ., . .1 . ., .1 c.i i.i ..j c. .. 1

The Renaissance in Italy . ., . . . . ., . . .1 .1 . 7

The Development of Decoration in France . . ,., ,., i., . 17

Louis XIV ........... . . .: ., ., r., ,., . 29

The Regency and Louis XV ..,.., ., 1.1 .1 .1 .: ,., i.. 37

Louis XVI ......... ., .. -., . ,., :.. ..- :. .., ,., 47

The Empire ........... . .1 .1 . . . 53

English Furniture from Gothic Days to the Period of Queen

Anne . ., r.i .1 . . 59

Queen Anne ......,• . ■,< ,., ■.» .1 ;.i ^.i t., 91-

HePPLEWHITE .,....., . ., . .! ., .1 I.I .1 r.i 97i

Sheraton .■ .. ., ..; >.i .. ■., .■ :.i . .. t.i :.i r.i o >•■ 103

A General Talk ■., ,.• ..• ,., .: -. :., :., .• ■,^ r.i r.i >/ ,.■ llT

Georgian Furniture ■..■. ,., . .1 -.i r.i .1 :., :., w r.. t.i . 135

Furnishing with French Furniture ., ., r.i :., ci ..1 i.i t. 149

Craftsman Furniture ., . r.i .1 .1 .1 r.i t.t r.i .1 r.i i.i r.^ 159

Country Houses r., .• 1., ..i i.i -.i 1.1 :.i r- t.i .i w i.i i.^ 165

The Nursery and Play-room . r.i r.i t.i . .1 r.i .1 .1 r.i r.- 175

Curtains . . ,• t.i r.i r.i 1.1 w r.i t.i -..i i.i t.i :.i t.i r.i i. 181'

Rugs ...... :., ,., r.. ,., », .., ..1 ■., ,.1 r.i ,., :: •. 191

Making the Porch More Livable . . :.i .' ., r.i . . . 211

A List of Books on Period Styles and Furnishing . ,., . . . 218

The Illustrations

A modern dining-room. Period of Italian Renaissance Frontispiece

Facing Page
Modern Italian Renaissance fireplace and over-mantel ... 8
Doorways and pilaster detail, Italian Renaissance ., . . . 9

Two Louis XIII chairs . ,. ^2

A Gothic chair of the fifteenth century . ,. . . . . . £3

A Louis XIV chair 82

Louis XIV inlaid desk-table 33

Louis XIV chair with underbracing . . . . . > .33
Regency paneling, Metropolitan Museum of Art ,., .. i., . 40
A modern room showing Louis XV console tables . ,. . . 41
A modern room in the white and gold paneling of Louis XV . 44

Louis XV hergere 45

Louis XVI panel from Versailles . . . ,. . . ,. ,. 48

Marie Antoinette's boudoir 49

Louis XVI bench . . ,. . . . .50

Louis XVI chair from Fontainebleau . . . ,. . . • , ^■'•
Bed of Josephine . . . :. ,. . . . i. [. ;.i i. . 64

American Empire sofa .., |., i., . . . i. i., i., t.. . 55
English carved oak chest .........;.. 60

Apostles' Bed of the Tudor period .,...,.... 61

Grinling Gibbons' carving . . . i. i. . ;., i., t. i. 64
Original Jacobean settle ....... i. i., i. i. . 65

Reproductions of Jacobean chairs . . ... . i. . .65

Reproductions of the Queen Anne period 72

Reproduction of a William and Mary walnut chair ... 73
Ribbon-back and Gothic type of Chippendale chairs . i. .78
Chippendale mantel mirror showing French influence ... 79


Facing Page

Chippendale fretwork tea-table 79

Chippendale china cabinet 82

Typical chairs of the eighteenth century — Dutch, Chippen-
dale, Hepplewhite and Sheraton 83

Chippendale and Hepplewhite sofas 86

Adam mirror, block-front chest of drawers and Hepplewhite

chair .., l.. 87

Two Adam mantels ,.,.,.... 92

. ., . 93

I. J t.j I. yo

. ., . 97

,. . . 97

. . . 104

Reproductions of Adam painted furniture ., [.,
A modern Hepplewhite dining-room . .; . d
Old Hepplewhite sideboard . . . ,., . .,

Modern Hepplewhite settee

A Sheraton bureau , . . .,.,„.

Sheraton desk and sewing-table . ., ,., . . . . ,. . 105

Modern dining-room in white 112

A modern staircase hall with rare tapestries and a Boulle clock 113

Beauvais tapestries 124}

Tapestry with heraldry design 125

Flemish tapestry of the late fifteenth century ., . .., .. ,. 125 >

A group of old mirrors 140

A modem Georgian bedroom 141

Reproductions of Chinese Chippendale table and Hepplewhite

desk 144

Reproductions of Sheraton bureau and William and Mary

bureau i., . . . 145

A modern room in the French manner . . . ., . . .148

Doorway detail of the above . 149

Doorway detail from the bedroom of the Empress, Compiegne 152

Reproduction of Marie Antoinette's bed 153

Modern Louis XVI bed in enamel and cane 153

A craftsman living-room . 160

A fire-corner showing the craftsman's touch ...... 161

A modern Georgian hall 164

A rare block-front chest of drawers 165

Twin beds with cane head- and foot-boards
iWilliam and Mary settee ....


Faciko Pass

A modern Georgian dining-room . . .. ...... 168

Library door showing a modern adaptation of the Renaissance 169

. 172

. 173

. 173

. 184

. 185

. 192

. 193

. 193

. 200

. 200

. 200

. 201

. 212

. 213

Modern Hepplewhite dressing-table ........

The shaped valance for formal curtains ....

Informal curtain treatment for a summer home .

A rare antique Persian rug, " The Judgment of Solomon

Typical modern Bokhara rug

Modern Kirmanshah rug

Fine silk Persian rug .

Antique Anatolian rug .

Antique Saraband rug . ..;

Antique Chinese rug .

A comfortably furnished porch

An uncovered terrace .




To try to write a history of furniture in a fairly short
space is almost as hard as the square peg and round hole
problem. No matter how one tries, it will not fit. One has
to leave out so much of importance, so much of historic and
artistic interest, so much of the life of the people that helps
to make the subject vivid, and has to take so much for
granted, that the task seems almost impossible. In spite
of this I shall try to give in the following pages a general
but necessarily short review of the field, hoping that it may
help those wishing to furnish their homes in some special
period style. The average person cannot study all the sub-
ject thoroughly, but it certainly adds interest to the prob-
lems of one's own home to know something of how the
great periods of decoration grew one from another, how the
influence of art in one country made itself felt in the next,
molding and changing taste and educating the people to
a higher sense of beauty.

It is the lack of general knowledge which makes it possi-
ble for furniture built on amazingly bad lines to be sold
masquerading under the name of some great period. The
customer soon becomes bewildered, and, unless he has a de-
cided taste of his o^vn, is apt to get something which will



prove a white elephant on his hands. One must have some
standard of comparison, and the best and simplest way is
to study the great work of the past. To study its rise and
climax rather than the dechne; to know the laws of its per-
fection so that one can recognize the exaggeration which
leads to degeneracy. This ebb and flow is most interesting :
the feeling the way at the beginning, ever growing surer
and surer until the high level of perfection is reached; and
then the desire to " gild the lily " leading to over-ornamenta-
tion, and so to decline. However, the germ of good taste
and the sense of truth and beauty is never dead, and asserts
itself slowly in a transition period, and then once more one
of the great periods of decoration is born.

There are several ways to study the subject, one of the
pleasantest naturally being travel, as the great museums,
palaces, and private collections of Europe offer the widest
field. In this country, also, the museums and many private
collections are rich in treasures, and there are many proud
possessors of beautiful isolated pieces of furniture. If one
cannot see originals the libraries will come to the rescue with
many books showing research and a thorough knowledge
and appreciation of the beauty and importance of the sub-
ject in all its branches,

I have tried to give an outline (which I hope the reader
will care to enlarge for himself) , not from a collector's stand-
point, but from the standpoint of the modern home-maker.


to help him furnish his house consistently ,s^ to try to spread
the good word that period furnishing does not necessitate
great wealth, and that it is as easy and far more interesting
to furnish a house after good models, as to have it banal
and commonplace.

The first part of this little book is devoted to a short re-
view of the great periods, and the second part is an effort to
help adapt them to modern needs, with a few chapters added
of general interest to the home-maker.

A short bibliography is also added, both to express my
thanks and indebtedness to many learned and delightful
writers on this subject of house furnishing in all its branches,
and also as a help to others who may wish to go more deeply
into its different divisions than is possible within the covers
of a book.

I wish to thank the Editors of House and Garden and
The Woman's Home Companion for kindly allowing me to
reprint articles and portions of articles which have appeared
in their magazines.

I wish also to thank the owners of the different houses
illustrated, and Messrs. Trowbridge and Livingston, archi-
tects, for their kindness in allowing me to use photographs.

Thanks are also due Messrs. Bergen & Orsenigo, Nahon &
Company, Tiffany Studios, Joseph Wild & Co. and the John
Somma Co. for the use of photographs to illustrate the re-
production of period furniture and rugs of different types.

Egypt and Greece

Egypt and Greece

THE early liistory of art in all countries is naturally
connected more closely with architecture than with
decoration, for architecture had to be developed be-
fore the demand for decoration could come. But the two
have much in common. Noble architecture calls for noble
decoration. Decoration is one of the natural instincts of
man, and from the earliest records of his existence we find him
striving to give expression to it, we see it in the scratched
pieces of bone and stone of the cave dwellers, in the designs
of savage tribes, and in Druidical and Celtic remains, and
in the great ruins of Yucatan. The meaning of these monu-
ments may be lost to us, but we understand the spirit of
trying to express the sense of beauty in the highest way
possible, for it is the spirit which is still moving the world,
and is the foundation of all worthy iichievement.

Egypt and Assyria stand out against the almost impen-
etrable curtain of pre-historic days in all the majesty of
their so-called civihzation. Huge, massive, aloof from the
world, their temples and tombs and ruins remain. Research
has given us the key to their religion, so we understand
much of the meaning of their wall-paintings and the build-
ings themselves. The belief of the Egyptian that hfe was
a short passage and his house a mere stopping-place on the


way to the tomb, which was to be his permanent dwelhng-
place, explains the great care and labor spent on the pyra-
mids, chapels, and rock sepulchers. They embalmed the
dead for all eternity and put statues and images in the
tombs to keep the mimimy company. Colossal figures of
their gods and goddesses guarded the tombs and temples,
and still remain looking out over the desert with their
strange, inscrutable Egyptian eyes. The people had tech-
nical skill which has never been surpassed, but the great size
of the pyramids and temples and sphinxes gives one the
feehng of despotism rather than civilization; of mass and
permanency and the wonder of man's achievement rather
than beauty, but they personify the mystery and power of
ancient Egypt.

The columns of the temples were massive, those of Kamak
being seventy feet high, with capitals of lotus flowers and
buds strictly conventionahzed. The walls were covered with
hieroglyphics and paintings. Perspective was never used,
and figures were painted side view except for the eye and
shoulder. In the tombs have been found many household
belongings, beautiful gold and silver work, beside the offer-
ings put there to appease the gods. Chairs have been
found, which, humorous as it may sound, are certainly the
ancestors of Empire chairs made thousands of years later.
This is explained by the influence of Napoleon's Egyptian
campaign, but there is something in common between the


two times so far apart, of ambition and pride, of grandeur
and colossal enterprise.

Greece may well be called the Mother of Beauty, for
with the Greeks came the dawn of a higher civilization, a
striving for harmony of line and proportion, an ideal clear,
high and persistent. When the Dorians from the northern
part of Greece built their simple, beautiful temples to their
gods and goddesses they gave the impetus to the movement
which brought forth the highest art the world has known.
Traces of Egyptian influence are to be found in the earliest
temples, but the Greeks soon rose to their own great heights.
The Doric column was thick, about six diameters in height,
fluted, growing smaller toward the top, with a simple capi-
tal, and supported the entablature. The horizontal lines
of the architrave and cornice were more marked than the
vertical lines of the columns. The portico with its row of
columns supported the pediment. The Parthenon is the
most perfect example of the Doric order, and shattered as it
is by time and man it is still one of the most beautiful build-
ings in the world. It was built in the time of Pericles, from
about 460 to 435 B. c, and the work was superintended by
Phidias, who did much of the work himself and left the mark
of his genius on the whole.

The Ionic order of architecture was a, development of the
Doric, but was lighter and more graceful. The columns
were more slender and had a greater number of flutes and


the capitals formed of scrolls or volutes were more orna-

The Corinthian order was more elaborate than the Ionic
as the capitals were foliated (the acanthus being used), the
columns higher, and the entablature more richly decorated.
This order was copied by the Romans more than the other
two as it suited their more florid taste. All the orders have
the horizontal feeling in common (as Gothic architecture
has the vertical), and the simple plan with its perfect har-
mony of proportion leaves no sense of lack of variety.

The perfection attained in architecture was also attained
in sculpture, and we see the same aspiration toward the ideal,
the same wonderful achievement. This purity of taste of
the Greeks has formed a standard to which the world has
returned again and again and whose influence will continue
to be felt as long as the world lasts.

The minor arts were carried to the same state of perfec-
tion as their greater sisters, for the artists and artisans had
the same noble ideal of beauty and the same unerring taste.
We have carved gems and coins, and wonderful gold orna-
ments, painted and silver vases, and terra-cotta figurines, to
show what a high point the household arts reached. No
work of the great Grecian painters remains ; Apelles, Zeuxis,
are only names to us, but from the wall paintings at Pompeii
where late Greek influence was strongly felt we can imagine
how charming the decorations must have been. Egypt and
Greece were the torch bearers of civilization.

T^he Renaissance in Italy

The Renaissance in Italy

THE Gothic period has been treated in later chapters
on France and England, as it is its development in
these countries which most affects us, but the Renais-
sance in Italy stands alone. So great was its strength that
it could supply both inspiration and leaders to other coun-
tries, and still remain preeminent.

It was in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries that this
great classical revival in Italy came, this re-birth of a true
sense of beauty which is called the Renaissance. It was an
age of wonders, of great artistic creations, and was one of
the great epochs of the world, one of the turning points of
human existence. It covered so large a field and was so
many-sided that only careful study can give a full realiza-
tion of the giants of intellect and power who made its great-
ness, and who left behind them work that shows the very
quintessence of genius.

Italy, stirring slightly in the fourteenth century, woke
and rose to her greatest heights in the fifteenth and six-
teenth. The whole people responded to the new joy of
life, the love of learning, the expression of beauty in all its
forms. All notes were struck, — gay, graceful, beautiful,
grave, cruel, dignified, reverential, magnificent, but all with


an exuberance of life and power that gave to Italian art its
great place in human culture. The great names of the pe-
riod speak for themselves, — Michelangelo, Raphael, Botti-
celli, Titian, Leonardo da Vinci, Andrea del Sarto, Machia-
velli, Benvenuto Cellini, and a host of others.

The inspiration of the Renaissance came largely from the
later Greek schools of art and literature, Alexandria and
Rhodes and the colonies in Sicily and Italy, rather than
ancient Greece. It was also the influence which came to
ancient Rome at its most luxurious period. The impor-
tance of the taking of Alexandria and Constantinople in
1453 must not be underestimated, as it drove scholars from
the great libraries of the East carrying their manuscripts
to the nobles and priests and merchant princes of Italy who
thus became enthusiastic patrons of learning and art. This
later type of Greek art lacked the austerity of the ancient
type, and to the models full of joy and beauty and suffering,
the Italians of the Renaissance added the touch of their own
temperament and made them theirs in the glowing, rich and
astounding way which has never been equaled and probably
never will be. Perfection of line and beauty was not suffi-
cient, the soul with its capacity for joy and suffering, "the
soul with all its maladies " as Pater says, had become a fac-
tor. The impression made upon Michelangelo by seeing
the Laocoon disinterred is vividly described by Longfel-
low —

Trowlx i-i'ic C" Livingston, architects

An exquisite and true Renaissance feeling is shown in the pilasters


" Long, long years ago,
Standing one morning near the Baths of Titus,
I saw the statue of Laocoon
Rise from its grave of centuries like a ghost
Writhing in pain; and as it tore away
The knotted serpents from its limbs, I heard.
Or seemed to hear, the cry of agony
From its white parted lips. And still I marvel
At the three Rhodian artists, by whose hands
This miracle was wrought. Yet he beholds
Far nobler works who looks upon the ruins
Of temples in the Forum here in Rome.
If God should give me power in my old age
To build for him a temple half as grand
As those were in their glory, I should count
My age more excellent than youth itself,
And all that I have hitherto accomplished
As only vanity."

"It was an age productive in personalities, many-sided,
centralized, complete. Artists and philosophers and those
whom the action of the world had elevated and made keen,
breathed a common air and caught light and heat ^rom each
other's thoughts. It is this unity of spirit which gives unity
to all the various products of the Renaissance, and it is to
this intimate alliance with mind, this participation in the
best thoughts which that age produced, that the art of Italy
in the fifteenth century owes much of its grave dignity and
influence." * »

* Walter Pater: "Studies in the Renaissance."


It is to this unity of the arts we owe the fact that the
art of beautifying the home took its proper place. During
the Middle Ages the Church had absorbed the greater part
of the best man had to give, and home life was rather a hit
or miss affair, the house was a fortress, the family posses-
sions so few that they could be packed into chests and easily
moved. During the Renaissance the home ideal grew, and,
although the Church still claimed the best, home life began
to have comforts and beauties never dreamed of before.
The walls glowed with color, tapestries and velvets added
their beauties, and the noble proportions of the marble halls
made a rich background for the elaborately carved furniture.

The doors of Italian palaces were usually inlaid with
woods of light shade, and the soft, golden tone given by the
process was in beautiful, but not too strong, contrast with
the marble architrave of the doorway, which in the fifteenth
century was carved in low relief combined with disks of
colored marble, sliced, by the way, from Roman temple pil-
lars. Later as the classic taste became stronger the carving
gave place to a plain architrave and the over-door took the
form of a pediment.

Mantels were of marble, large, beautifully carved, with
the fireplace sunk into the thickness of the wall. The over-
mantel usually had a carved panel, but later, during the
sixteenth century, this was sometimes replaced by a picture.
,The windows of the Renaissance were a part of the decora-


tion of the room, and curtains were not used in our modern
manner, but served only to keep out the d)raughts. In
those days the better the house the simpler the curtains.
There were many kinds of ceilings used, marble, carved
wood, stucco, and painting. They were elaborate and beau-
tiful, and always gave the impression of being perfectly sup-
ported on the well-proportioned cornice and walls. The
floors were usually of marble. Many of the houses kept
to the plan of mediaeval exteriors, great expanses of plain
walls with few openings on the outsides, but as they were
built around open courts, the interiors with their colonnades
and open spaces showed the change the Renaissance had
brought. The Riccardi Palace in Florence and the Palazzo
della Cancelleria in Rome, are examples of this early type.
The second phase was represented by the great Bramante,
whose theory of restraining decoration and emphasizing the
structure of the building has had such important influence.
One of his successors was Andrea Palladio, whose work made
such a deep impression on Inigo Jones. The Library of
St. Mark's at Venice is a beautiful example of this part.
The third phase was entirely dominated by Michelangelo.

The furniture, to be in keeping with buildings of this
kind, was large and richly carved. Chairs, seats, chests,
cabinets, tables, and beds, were the chief pieces used, but
they were not plentiful at all in our sense of the word. The
chairs and benches had cushions to soften the hard wooden


seats. The stuffs of the time were most beautiful Genoese
velvet, cloth of gold, tapestries, and wonderful embroideries,
all lending their color to the gorgeous picture. The carved
marriage chest, or cassone, is one of the pieces of Renais-
sance furniture which has most often descended to our own
day, for such chests formed a very important part of the
furnishing in every household, and being large and heavy,
were not so easily broken as chairs and tables. Beds were
huge, and were architectural in form, a base and roof sup-
ported on four columns. The classical orders were used,
touched with the spirit of the time, and the fluted columns
rose from acanthus leaves set in an urn supported on lion's
feet. The tester and cornice gave scope for carving and
the panels of the tester usually had the lovely scrolls so
characteristic of the period. The headboard was often
carved with a coat-of-arms and the curtains hung from in-
side the cornice.

Grotesques were largely used in ornament. The name
is derived from grottoes, as the Roman tombs being ex-
cavated at the time were called, and were in imitation of the
paintings found on their walls, and while they were fantas-
tic, the word then had no unkindly humorous meaning as
now. Scrolls, dolphins, birds, beasts, the human figure,
flowers, everything was called into use for carving and paint-
ing by genius of the artisans of the Renaissance. They
loved their work and felt the beauty and meaning of every

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Online LibraryLucy Abbot ThroopFurnishing the home of good taste : a brief sketch of the period styles in interior decoration with suggestions as to their employment in the homes of today → online text (page 1 of 11)