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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brilliancy. It must be done with such knowledge that there is no
suggestion of an hotel about it. Console tables, and large and dignified
chairs should be used for furniture. Nothing small and fussy in the way
of ornaments should be put in the rooms, for they would be completely
out of scale and ruin the effect.

Every house does not need these rooms for the elaborate side of life,
and the average drawing-room is a much simpler affair. If both kinds are
required the simpler one should be in the same general style as the
great rooms, but not on so grand a scale. If the style of Louis XV is
chosen for all, in the family drawing-and living-rooms the paneling, or
dado, and furniture should be of the simpler kind, and beautiful, gay,
and home-like rooms, evolved with soft colored brocades, Beauvais or
Gobelin tapestry, and either gilded or enameled or natural walnut
furniture. The arm-chairs or _bergères_ of both Louis XV and Louis XVI
are very comfortable, the _chaise-longue_ cannot be surpassed, and the
settees of different shapes and sizes are delightful. There need be no
lack of comfort in any period room, whether French or English.

A music room, to be perfect, should not have heavy draperies to deaden
the sound, and the window and door openings should be treated
architecturally to make this possible. In a French music room the walls
may be either paneled, or have a dado with a soft tint above it. This
space may be treated in several ways: it may have silk panels outlined
with moldings, or dainty pastoral scenes painted and framed with wreaths
and garlands of composition. The style of the Regency with its use of
musical instruments for decorative motifs is also attractive. The chairs
should be comfortable, the lights soft and well shaded side-lights, with
a plentiful supply near the piano.

[Illustration: A beautiful doorway in the bedroom of the Empress,
Compiègne. The fastening shows how much thought was expended on small
matters, so the balance of decoration would be kept. The chairs are
Louis XVI.]

[Illustration: An exquisite reproduction of the bed of Marie

[Illustration: A simple but charming Louis XVI bed in enamel and cane.]

A piano is usually a difficulty, for they are so unwieldy and dark that
they are quite out of key with the rest of the room. We have become so
used to its ugliness, however, that, sad to say, we are not so much
shocked by it as we should be, thinking it a necessary evil. If we walk
through the show rooms of one of the great piano companies we shall see
that this is a mistake, for there are many cases made of light colored
woods, and some have a much more graceful outline than the regulation
piano. Cases can be made to order to suit any scheme, if one has a
competent designer. A music room should not have small and meaningless
ornaments in it; the ideal is a restful and charming room where one may
listen with an undistracted mind.

The modern dining-room with all its comforts is really of English
descent. In France, even in the eighteenth century, only the palaces and
great houses had rooms especially set apart for dining-rooms. Usually a
small ante-chamber was used, which served as a boudoir or reception room
between meals. To our more established point of view it seems a very
casual method. At last, late in the century, the real ideal of a
dining-room began to gain ground, and although they were very different
from ours, we find really charming ones described and pictured. The
walls were usually light in tone, paneled, with graceful ornamentation,
and often there were niches containing wall-fountains of delightful
design. The sideboards were either large side-tables, or a species of
side-table built in niches, with a fountain between them which was used
as a wine cooler. These fountains where cupids and dolphins disported
themselves would be a most attractive feature to copy in some of our
rooms, in country houses especially. The tables were round or square,
but not the extension type which came later from England, and the chairs
were comfortable, with broad upholstered or cane seats, and rather low
backs. There should be a screen to harmonize with the room in front of
the pantry door. We also add hangings, for, as I have said many times,
our window-frames are not a decoration in themselves. Old prints show
most delightfully the manner in which curtains were hung when they were
used; the very elaborate methods, however, were not used by the better

A morning-room should be furnished as a small informal living-room, and
the simpler style of the chosen period used.

The style of Louis XVI is beautifully adapted to libraries, for they do
not have to be dark and solid in style, as many seem to think. In fact a
library may be in any style if carried out with the true feeling and
love of books, but of course some styles are more appropriate than
others. In a Louis XVI library the paneling gives way to the built-in
bookcases which are spaced with due regard to keeping the correct
proportions. There is usually a cupboard space running round the room
about the height of a dado and projecting a little beyond the bookcases
above. The colors of the rugs and hangings may be warm and rich as the
books give the walls a certain strength.

There are also beautiful reproductions of bedroom furniture, chairs and
dressing-tables, desks, chiffoniers and _Chaises-longues,_ and beds.

Andirons, side-lights for the walls and dressing-table, doorknobs and
locks, can all be carried out perfectly. Lamp and candle shades and sofa
cushions should all be in keeping. The walls may be paneled in wood
enameled with white or some light color, or they may be covered with
silk or paper, in a panel design, with curtains to match. There are
lovely designs in French period stuffs.

The rugs most appropriate for French period rooms are light or medium in
tone, and of Persian design. The floral patterns of the Persians seem to
harmonize better with the curves and style of furniture than do the
geometrical designs of the Caucasian rugs. Savonnerie and Aubusson rugs
may also be used, if chosen with care, and the plain carpets and rugs
mentioned later are a far better choice than gaudy Orientals of modern
make, or bad imitations.

_Country Houses_

The Country House is a comparatively modern idea, and one which has
added much to the joy of life. There are all kinds and conditions of
them, great and small, grand and simple, and each is a joy to the proud

Life was such a turbulent affair in the Middle Ages that country life in
the modern sense was an impossibility. The chateaux and castles and
large manor-houses were strongly fortified, and there were inner courts
for exercise. When war became the exception and not the rule, the
inherent love in all human beings for the open began to assert itself,
and the country house idea began to grow.

Italy was the first country where we find this freedom of attitude
exemplified in the beautiful Renaissance villas near Rome and Florence.
The best were built during the sixteenth century, and were owned by the
great Italian families, like the de Medici and d'Este. They seem more
like places built for the parade and show of life than homes, but the
home ideal with all its conveniences was another outgrowth of peace.

The plan of an Italian villa is very interesting to study, to see how
every advantage was taken of the land, how the residence, or casino, was
placed in regard to the formal garden and the view over the valley, for
they were usually on a hillside and the slope was terraced, how the
statues and fountains, the beautiful ilex and cypress and orange trees,
the box-edged flower-beds and gravel paths, all formed a wonderful
setting for the house, and together made a perfect whole. The Italian
villa was not necessarily large, in fact the Villa Lante contains only
six acres, which are divided into four terraces, the house being on the
second and built in two parts, one on each side. Each terrace has a
beautiful fountain, with a cascade connecting those on the fourth and
third. This villa is indeed, an example of taking advantage of a fairly
small space. It was built by the great Vignola in 1547, and although
slightly showing the wear of time, has all the beauty and charm and
romance which only centuries can give.

The Italian villa can be adapted to the American climate and scenery and
point of view, but it must be done by one of the architects who have
made a deep study of the Italian Renaissance so the true feeling will be
kept. There are some beautiful examples already in the country.

In France, the chateaux which have most influenced country house
building are those which were built during the sixteenth century, many
of them during the reign of Francis 1st. Among the number are Azay le
Rideau, Chenonceaux, and Chaumont. Blois and Amboise are also
absorbingly interesting, but belong partly to an earlier time. The
chateau region in Touraine is a treasure land of architectural beauty.
In the time of Louis XIV Le Nôtre changed many of these old chateaux
from their fortified state to the more open form made possible by a
peaceful life.

We turn to England for the most perfect examples of country houses, for
the theory of country living is so thoroughly understood there, one
might really say it is a national institution. Many of the manor-houses,
both great and small, are beautiful examples of Tudor architecture,
which seems especially suited to their setting of lovely green parks.
The smaller country house, which has no pretention to being a show
place, is as perfect in its way. The English love for out-of-doors makes
them achieve wonders with even small gardens, and the climate, being
gentle, helps matters immensely.

In America we are taking up the English country house ideal more and
more and adapting it to our own needs. The question of architecture is a
question of personal choice influenced by climate, and there are now
numberless charming houses scattered over the length and breadth of the
land which have been built with the purpose of being country homes. They
are not for summer use only, but all the year round keep their
hospitable doors open, or else the season begins so early and ends so
late, that, with the holiday time between, the house hardly seems
closed at all. It is this attitude which is changing country house
architecture to a great extent. The terraces and porches and gardens and
glasshouses are all there, but the house itself is more solidly built
and is prepared to stand cold weather.

For the average American the best types of country house to choose from
are the smaller Tudor manor-houses, Italian villas, Georgian
architecture in England, and our own Colonial style which of course was
founded on the Georgian. In the south and southwestern parts of this
country a modified Spanish type may be used in place of Tudor, which
does not give the feeling of cool spaces so necessary in hot climates.
The bungalow type is also popular in the South.

There are many architects in this country who understand thoroughly the
plan and spirit of Colonial times, and who succeed in giving to the
comforts of modern days the true stamp of the eighteenth century. The
style makes most delightful houses, and with the great supply of
appropriate furniture from which to choose, it would be hard to fail in
having a charming whole.

The house and garden should be planned together to have the best effect.
Each can be added to as time goes on, but when a plan is followed there
is a look of belonging together which adds greatly to the charm.

[Illustration: A hall to conjure with - although a Hepplewhite or
Sheraton chair would be more in keeping.]

In an all-the-year country house a vestibule is a necessity as much as
in a town house, and the hall should be treated with the dignity a
hall deserves, and not as a second living-room. In many English houses
of Tudor days the stairs were behind a carved screen, or concealed in
some manner, which made it possible to use the hall as a gathering
place. Our modern hall is not a descendant of this old hall of a past
day (the living-room is much more so), but is really only a passage,
often raised to the _n_th power, connecting the different rooms of the
house, and should be treated as such. The stairs and landing and vista
should be beautiful, and the furnishing should be dignified and in
perfect scale with the rest of the house. Marble stairs and tapestry and
old carved furniture and beautiful rugs, or the simplest possible
furniture, may be used, but the hall should have an impersonally
hospitable air, one which gives the keynote of the house, but reserves
its full expression until the privacy of the living-rooms is reached.

[Illustration: A very rare block-front chest of drawers with the
original brasses.]

The average country house is neither very magnificent nor very simple,
but strikes the happy medium and achieves a most delightful home-like
charm, which at the very outset makes life seem well worth living. It is
rarely furnished in a period style throughout, but has the modern air of
comfort which good taste and correct feeling give. For instance, the
hall may have paneling and Chippendale mirror, a table, and chairs; the
living-room furnished in a general Colonial manner mixed with some
comfortable stuffed furniture, but not over-stuffed, lovely chintz or
silk hangings, and a wide fireplace; the morning-room on something the
same plan, but a little less formal; and the drawing-room a little more
so, say in Adam or simple Louis XVI furniture. The library should have
plenty of comfortable sofas and chairs, and a large table (it is hard to
get one too large), some of the bookcases should be built in to form
part of the architectural plan of the room, and personally I think it is
a better idea to have all the space intended for bookcases built in in
the first place, as this insures harmony of plan. Another important
thing in a library is to have the lights precisely right, and the
window-seats and the fireplace should be all that their names imply in
the way of added charm and comfort to the room. The dining-room should
be bright and cheerful and in harmony with the near-by rooms. A
breakfast-room done in lacquer is very charming.

The bedrooms should be light and airy, and so planned that the beds can
be properly placed. They may be furnished in old mahogany, French walnut
in either Louis XV or XVI style, or in carefully chosen Empire; painted
Adam furniture is also lovely, and willow furniture makes a fresh and
attractive room. The curtains should be hung so they can be drawn at
night if desired, and the material should be chosen to harmonize in
design with the room.

The children's rooms should be sunny and bright and furnished according
to their special tastes, which if too astounding, as sometimes happens,
can be tactfully guided into safe channels.

The servants should be given separate bedrooms, a bathroom, and a
comfortable sitting-room beside their dining-room. Making them
comfortable seems a simple way of solving the servant question.

The bungalow type of small country house is usually very simply
furnished, and the best type of Mission furniture or willow is
especially well suited to it. Bungalows are growing more and more in
favor, and, although they originated in America in the West, we find
delightful ones everywhere, on the Maine coast and in the woods and
mountains. They are a tremendous advance over the small and elaborate
house of a few years ago.

Cretonne and chintz can be used in all the rooms of a country house with
perfect propriety, and is a really lovely method of furnishing, as it is
fresh and washable, and comes in all gradations of price. Willow
furniture with cretonne cushions makes a pleasant variety with mahogany
in simple rooms.

Fresh air and sunlight, lovely vistas through doors and windows of the
garden beyond, cool and comfortable rooms furnished appropriately, and
with an atmosphere about them which expresses a hospitable and charming
home spirit, is the ideal standard for a country house.

_The Nursery and Play-room_

We should be thankful that the old idea of a nursery has passed away and
instead of the dreary and rather shabby room has come the charming
modern nursery with its special furniture and papers, its common sense
and sanitary wisdom and its regard for the childish point of view. The
influence of surroundings during the formative years of childhood has a
deal to do with the child's future attitude toward life, and now that
parents realize this more, the ideal nursery has simplicity, charm and
artistic merit, all suited to the needs of its romping inhabitants.

The wall-papers for nurseries are especially attractive with their gay
friezes of wonderful fairy-tale people, Mother Goose, Noah's Ark and
happy little children playing among the flowers. Some of the designs
come in sets of four panels that can be framed if desired. A Noah's Ark
frieze with the animals marching two by two under the watchful eyes of
the Noah family, with an ark and stiff little Noah's Ark trees, will
give endless pleasure if placed about three feet from the floor where
small tots can take in its charm. If placed too high, it is very often
not noticed at all. Some of the most attractive nurseries have painted
walls with special designs stenciled on them.

If any one of these friezes is placed above a simple wainscot, the
effect is charming. The paper for nurseries is usually waterproof, for a
nursery must be absolutely spick and span. Another thing that gives much
pleasure in a nursery is to build on one side of the room a platform
about a yard wide and six inches high, and cover it with cushions.

The furniture in a day nursery should consist of a toy cupboard stained
to match the color scheme of the room and large enough for each child to
have his own special compartment in it. If the children's initials are
painted or burned on the doors, it gives an added feeling of pride in
keeping the toys in order. There are many designs of small tables and
chairs made with good lines, and the wicker ones with gay cretonne
cushions are very attractive. The tables and chairs should not have
sharp corners and should be heavy enough not to tip over easily. There
should be a bookcase for favorite picture-books. Besides the special
china for the children's own meals there should be a set of play china
for doll's parties. A sand table, with a lump of clay for modeling, a
blackboard and, in the spring, window-boxes where the children can plant
seeds, will all add vastly to the joy of life.

And do not forget a comfortable chair for the nurse-maid. White muslin
curtains with side hangings of washable chintz or linen or some special
nursery design in cretonne should hang to the sill.

The colors in both day and night nurseries should be soft and cheerful,
and the color scheme as carefully thought out as for the rest of the
house. Both rooms should be on the sunny side of the house, and far
enough away from the family living-room to avoid any one's being
disturbed when armies charge up and down the play-room battle-ground or
Indians start out on the warpath.

The best floor covering for a day nursery is plain linoleum, as it is
not dangerously slippery and is easily kept clean. If the floor is hard
wood, it must not have a slippery wax finish. It will also save tumbles
if the day nursery has no rugs, but the night nursery ought to have one
large one or several small ones by the beds and in front of the open
fire. Washable cotton rugs are best to use for this purpose.

When children are very small, it is necessary to have sides to the beds
to keep them from falling out. The beds should be placed so that the
light does not shine directly in the children's eyes in the morning, and
there should be plenty of fresh air. The rest of the night nursery
furniture should consist of a dressing-table, a chest of drawers, a
night table and some chairs. There should be a few pictures on the walls
hung low, and beautiful and interesting in subjects and treatment. The
fire should be well screened.

Pictures like the "Songs of Childhood," for instance, would be charming
simply framed. If there is only one nursery for both day and night use,
the room should be decorated as a day nursery and the bed-cover made of
white dimity with a border of the curtain stuff or made entirely of it.


The modern window, with its huge panes of glass and simple framework,
makes an insistent demand for curtains. Without curtains windows of this
kind give a blank, staring appearance to the room and also a sense of
insecurity in having so many holes in the walls. The beautiful windows
of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in Italy, England and
France, give no such feeling of incompleteness, for their well-carved
frames, and over-windows, and their small panes of glass, were important
parts of the decorative scheme. Windows and doors were more than mere
openings in those days, but things have changed, and the hard lines of
our perfectly useful windows get on our nerves if we do not soften them
with drapery. In that hopeless time in the last century called "Early
Victorian," when black walnut reigned supreme, the curtains were as
terrifying as the curves of the furniture and the colors of the carpets.
Luckily most of us know only from pictures what that time was, but we
all have seen enough remnants of its past glories to be thankful for
modern ways and days. The over-draped, stuffy, upholstered nightmares
have entirely disappeared, and in their place have come curtains of a
high standard of beauty and practicality - simple, appropriate, and
serving the ends they were intended for.

The effect of curtains must be taken into account from both the outside
and the inside of the house. The outside view should show a general
similarity of appearance in the windows of each story, in the manner of
hanging the curtains and also of material. The shades throughout the
house should be of the same color, and if a different color is needed
inside for the sake of the color scheme, either two shades should be
used or they should be the double-faced kind. Shades should also be kept
drawn down to the same line, or else be rolled up out of sight, for
there is nothing that gives a more ill-kept look to a house than having
the shades and curtains at any haphazard height or angle.

And now to "return to our muttons." The average window needs two sets of
curtains and a shade. Sometimes a thin net or lace curtain, a _"bonne
femme"_ is hung close to the glass, but this is usual only in cities
where privacy has to be maintained by main force, or where the curtains
of a floor differ greatly. Thin curtains in combination with side
curtains of some thicker material are most often used.

Curtains either make or mar a room, and they should be carefully planned
to make it a perfect whole. They must be so convincingly right that one
only thinks at first how restful and pleasant and charming the whole
room is; the details come later. When curtains stand out and astound
one, they are wrong. It is not upholstery one is trying to display, but
to make a perfect background for one's furniture, one's pictures and
one's friends.

There are so many materials to choose from that all tastes and purses
can be suited; nets, thin silk and gauzes; scrims and batistes; cotton
and silk crepes, muslin or dotted Swiss, cheesecloth, soleil cloth,
madras, and a host of other fascinating fabrics which may be used in any
room of the house. The ready-made curtains are also charming. There are
muslin curtains with appliqué borders cut from flowered cretonne;
sometimes the cretonne is appliqué on net which is let into the curtain
with a four-inch hem at the bottom and sides. A simpler style has a band
of flowered muslin sewed on the white muslin, or used as a ruffle. It is
also added to the valance. There are many kinds of net and lace curtains
ready for use that will harmonize with any kind of room. Some of the
expensive ones are really beautiful examples of needlecraft, with lace
medallions and insertions and embroidery stitches.

When it comes to the question of side curtains the supply to choose from
is almost unlimited, and this great supply forms the bog in which so
many are lost. A thing may be beautiful in itself and yet cause woe and
havoc in an otherwise charming room. There are linens of all prices, and
cretonnes, both the inexpensive kind and the wonderful shadow ones;

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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 8 of 12)