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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1911, 1912, MCBRIDE, NAST & CO.



Published, September, 1920

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[Illustration: _Trowbridge & Livingston, architects._

A principle which can be applied to both large and small
houses is shown in the beauty of the panel spacing and the adequate
support of the cornice by the pilasters.]



























_The Illustrations_

A modern dining-room _Frontispiece_

Italian Renaissance fireplace and overmantel, modern 8

Doorways and pilaster details, Italian Renaissance 9

Two Louis XIII chairs 22

A Gothic chair of the fifteenth century 23

A Louis XIV chair 32

Louis XIV inlaid desk-table 33

Louis XIV chair with underbracing 33

A modern French drawing-room 40

A drawing-room, old French furniture and tapestry 41

Early Louis XIV chair 44

Louis XV _bergère_ 44

Louis XVI bench 45

Louis XVI from Fontainebleau 50

American Empire bed 51

An Apostles bed of the Tudor period 60

Adaptation of the style of William and Mary to dressing table 61

Reproduction of Charles II chair 61

Living-room with reproductions of different periods 64

Original Jacobean sofa 65

Reproductions of Charles II chairs 65

Reproductions of Queen Anne period 72

Reproduction of James II chair 73

Reproduction of William and Mary chair 73

Gothic and Ribbonback types of Chippendale chairs 78

Chippendale mantel mirror showing French influence 79

Chippendale fretwork tea-table 79

Chippendale china cupboard 82

Typical chairs of the eighteenth century 83

Chippendale and Hepplewhite sofas 86

Adam mirror, block-front chest of drawers, and Hepplewhite chair 87

Two Adam mantels 92

A group of old mirrors 93

Dining-room furnished with Hepplewhite furniture 96

Old Hepplewhite sideboard 97

Reproduction of Hepplewhite settee 97

Sheraton chest of drawers 104

Sheraton desk and sewing-table 105

Dining-room in simple country house 112

Dining-room furnished with fine old furniture 113

Dorothy Quincy's bed-room 124

Two valuable old desks 125

Pembroke inlaid table 144

Sheraton sideboard 144

Four post bed 145

Doorway detail, Compiègne 152

Reproduction of a bed owned by Marie Antoinette 153

Reproduction of Louis XVI bed 153

A Georgian hallway 162

Rare block-front chest of drawers 163

A modern living-room 178

Curtain treatment for a summer home 179

Hallway showing rugs 188

Hallway showing rugs 189

Colonial bed-room 189

Dining-room with paneled walls 196

Four post bed owned by Lafayette 197

Modern dining-room 204

Four post bed 205

Reproductions of Adam painted furniture 222

Three-chair Sheraton settee 223

Reproduction of a Sheraton wing-chair 223

Slat-backed chair 223

Group of chairs and pie-crust table 232

Groups of chairs 233

Reproduction of Jacobean buffet 236

Group of mirrors 237

Reproduction of William and Mary settee 240

Adaptation of Georgian ideas to William and Mary dressing table 240

Two Adam chairs 241

Jacobean day-bed 241

Reproductions of Chippendale table and Hepplewhite desk 244

Reproduction of Sheraton chest of drawers 245

Reproduction of William and Mary chest of drawers 245

A modern sun-room 246

Sheraton sofa 247

Hepplewhite chair and nest of tables 247

Chippendale wing-chair 247

Modern paneled living-room 248

Empire bed 248

Hancock desk, and fine old highboy 249


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 subject thoroughly, but it certainly adds interest to the
problems 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 possible 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 decided taste of his own, 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 decline; to
know the laws of its perfection 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-ornamentation, 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 subject 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 standpoint, but from the
standpoint of the modern home-maker, to help him furnish his house
consistently, - 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 review 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

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, architects, 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 reproduction of period furniture and rugs
of different types.

_Egypt and Greece_

The early history of art in all countries is naturally connected more
closely with architecture than with decoration, for architecture had to
be developed before 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
monuments 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 achievement.

Egypt and Assyria stand out against the almost impenetrable curtain of
pre-historic days in all the majesty of their so-called civilization.
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 buildings
themselves. The belief of the Egyptian that life was a short passage and
his house a mere stopping-place on the way to the tomb, which was to be
his permanent dwelling-place, explains the great care and labor spent on
the pyramids, chapels, and rock sepulchers. They embalmed the dead for
all eternity and put statues and images in the tombs to keep the mummy
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 technical skill which
has never been surpassed, but the great size of the pyramids and temples
and sphinxes gives one the feeling 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

The columns of the temples were massive, those of Karnak being seventy
feet high, with capitals of lotus flowers and buds strictly
conventionalized. 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
offerings 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 capital, 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
buildings 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 ornamental.

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 harmony 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 perfection 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 ornaments, 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.

_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 Renaissance in Italy stands alone. So great was its strength
that it could supply both inspiration and leaders to other countries,
and still remain preëminent.

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 realization of
the giants of intellect and power who made its greatness, 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 sixteenth. 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 period speak for
themselves, - Michelangelo, Raphael, Botticelli, Titian, Leonardo da
Vinci, Andrea del Sarto, Machiavelli, Benvenuto Cellini, and a host of

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 importance
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 sufficient, the soul with its capacity for joy and suffering,
"the soul with all its maladies" as Pater says, had become a factor. The
impression made upon Michelangelo by seeing the Laocoön disinterred is
vividly described by Longfellow -

[Illustration: An exquisite and true Renaissance feeling is shown in
the pilasters.]

[Illustration: The Italian Renaissance is still inspiring the world. In
the two doorways the use of pilasters and frieze, and the pedimented and
round over-door motifs are typical of the period.]

"Long, long years ago,
Standing one morning near the Baths of Titus,
I saw the statue of Laocöon
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 from 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."[A]

[A] 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 possessions 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

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 pillars.
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 overmantel 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

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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 12)