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

. (page 9 of 12)
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 9 of 12)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

there are silks and velvets and velours, aurora cloth, cotton crêpe and
arras cloth, and a thousand other beautiful stuffs that are cheap or
medium-priced or expensive, whose names only the shopman knows, but
which win our admiration from afar. The curtains for a country house are
usually of less valuable materials than those for a town house, and this
is as it should be, for winter life is usually more formal than summer
life. Nothing can be prettier, however, for a country house than
cretonne. It is fresh and dainty and gives a cool and delightful
appearance to a room. Among the many designs there are some for every
style of decoration.

[Illustration: The arrangement of sofa and table are excellent, but
there should be other centers of interest in the room. As it is, this
room just misses its aim, and is neither a strict period room nor a
really comfortable modern one.]

The height and size of a room must be taken into account in hanging
curtains, for with their aid, and also that of wallpaper, we can often
change a room of bad proportions to one of seemingly good ones. If a
room is very low, a stripe more or less marked in the design, and the
curtains straight to the floor, will make it seem higher. A high room
may have the curtains reach only to the sills with a valance across the
top. This style may be used in a fairly low room if the curtain material
is chosen with discretion and is not of a marked design. If the windows
are narrow they can be made to seem wider by having the rod for the side
curtains extend about eight inches on each side of the window, and the
curtain cover the frame and a part of the wall. This leaves all the
window for light and air. A valance connecting the side curtains and
covering the top of the net curtains will also make the window seem
broader. A group of three windows can be treated as one by using only
one pair of side curtains with a connecting ruffle, and a pair of net
curtains at each window. Curtains may hang in straight lines or be
simply looped back, but fancy festooning is not permissible. There is
another attractive method of dividing the curtains in halves, the upper
sections to hang so they just cover the brass rod for the lower
sections, which are pushed back at the sides. These lower sections may
have the rod on which they are run fastened to the window-sash if one
wishes. They will then go up with the window and of course keep clean
much longer, but to my mind it is not so alluring as a gently blowing
curtain on a hot day. I have seen a whole house curtained most
charmingly in this manner, with curtains of unbleached muslin edged with
a narrow little ruffle. They hung close to the glass and reached just to
the sill with the lower part pushed back at the sides. The outside view
was most attractive, and the inside curtains varied according to the
needs of each room.

[Illustration: A charming window treatment, in a room whose color scheme
is carried out in the garden, giving a unique and delightful touch.]

Casement windows should have the muslin curtains drawn back with a cord
or a muslin band, and the side curtains should hang straight, with a
little top ruffle; if the windows open into the room the curtains may be
hung on the frames. The muslin curtains may be left out entirely if one
wishes. Net curtains on French doors should be run on small brass rods
at top and bottom, and the heavy curtains that are drawn together at
night for privacy's sake should be so hung that they will not interfere
with the opening of the door. There should be plenty of room under all
ruffles or shaped valances where the curtains are to be drawn to allow
for easy working of the cords, otherwise tempers are liable to be
suddenly lost.

All windows over eighteen inches wide need two curtains, and the average
allowance of fullness is at least twice the width of the window for net
and any very soft material, while once and a half is usually enough for
material with more body. Great care must be taken to measure curtains
correctly and have them cut evenly. It is also a good plan to allow for
extra length, which can be folded into the top hem and will not show,
but will allow for shrinking.

Stenciling can be very attractively used for curtains and portières for
country houses. Cheesecloth, scrim, aurora cloth, pongee, linen, and
velours, are a few of the materials that can be used. The design and
kind used in a room should be chosen with due regard to its suitability.
A Louis XVI room could not possibly have arras cloth used in it, while
it would be charming and appropriate in a modern bungalow. Arras cloth
with an appliqué design of linen couched on it makes beautiful curtains
and portières to go with the Mission or Craftsman furniture.

There is an old farmhouse on Long Island that has been made over into a
most delightful country house, and the furnishing throughout is
consistent and charming. The curtains are reproductions of old designs
in chintz and cretonne. The living-room, with its white paneling to the
ceiling, its wide fireplace, old mahogany furniture, and curtains gay
with parrots and flowers, hanging over cool white muslin, is a room to
conjure with.

In town houses the curtains and hangings must also harmonize with the
style of furnishing. When the windows are hung with soft colored
brocade, the portières are usually beautiful tapestry or rich toned
velvets, and care is always taken to have the balance of color kept and
the color values correct. There are silks and damasks and velvets, and
many lesser stuffs, made for all the period styles, whether carried out
simply or elaborately, and it is the art of getting the suitable ones
for the different rooms which gives the air of harmony, beauty, and
restfulness, for which the word home stands.

In hanging these more formal curtains the shaped valance is usually used
with the curtains hanging straight at the sides of the window, so they
can be drawn together at night. The cords and pulleys should always be
in perfect working order. Another method is to have the curtains simply
parted in the center, either with a valance or without, and drawn back
at the sides with heavy cords and tassels, or bands of the stuff. If a
draped effect is desired great care must be taken not to have it too

If the walls of a room are plain in color one may have either plain or
figured hangings, but if the wall covering is figured it gives a feeling
of unrest if the curtains are also figured. Sometimes one sees bedrooms
and small boudoirs where the walls and curtains show the same design,
but it must be done with skill, or disaster is sure to follow.

Plain casement cloth or the different "Sunfast" fabrics are attractive
with plain or figured papers, especially in bedrooms of country houses.

If one has to live in the town house through the summer do not make the
fatal mistake of taking down the curtains and living in bare discomfort
during the hot season. If the curtains are too handsome to be kept up,
buy a second set of inexpensive ones that can be washed without injury.
It is better that they should stop the dust, and then go into the tub,
than that one's lungs should collect it all. Curtains are useful as well
as ornamental, and a house without them is as dreary as breakfast
without coffee.

_Floors and Floor Coverings_

In planning a room the color values should be divided into the natural
divisions of the heaviest, or darkest, part at the bottom, which is the
floor; the medium color tone in the middle, which is the wall; and the
lightest at the top, which is the ceiling. This keeps the room from
seeming top-heavy and gives the necessary feeling of support for the
wall and ceiling. The walls and floor serve as a background and should
not be insistant or startling in color; and the size and height of the
room, the amount of wall space, the position of doors, windows and
fireplace, the quantity and quality of the light, and the connecting
rooms will all be factors in the color scheme and materials chosen.

The floor of a room must be right or all the character of the
furnishings will be lost. One should first see that it is in perfect
condition. If it is a hardwood or parquetry floor it should not be
finished the bright and glaring yellow which is sometimes seen, but
should be slightly toned down before the finish is put on. Samples of
different tones should be submitted to be tried with samples of the rug
and stuffs to be used before the decision is made. A wax finish is
better than the usual coats of shellac, for the wax has a soft and
beautiful glow, while shellac has a hard commercial glare. A waxed
floor, if properly taken care of, which is not difficult, wears
extremely well and does not have the distressingly shabby appearance of
a partly worn shellaced floor. If the floor is old and worn and is to be
painted or stained all cracks should be filled, and the color chosen
should be a neutral color-in harmony with the rest of the room, the wood
shades usually being the best, with the exception of cherry and the red
tones of mahogany. Teak is a good tone for hard wood. Soft wood floors
of such woods as pine, fir, and cypress can be made to have the
appearance of hardwood if first scraped or sandpapered and then stained
with an oil stain and finished with a thin coat of shellac and two coats
of prepared floor wax.

The usual ways of using floor covering are: one large rug which leaves a
border of hard wood floor of about a foot all around it; several small
rugs placed with a well balanced plan upon the floor; and carpet, either
seamless or of strips sewed together, made into one rug or entirely
covering the floor.

In the majority of cases the use of a single large plain rug is by far
the best plan, for it gives the feeling of an unobtrusive background
whose beauty of color serves to bind the room in the unity of a well
planned scheme; and this sense of dignity and solidity goes a long way
on the road to success. It is one of the most satisfactory methods of
covering a floor imaginable. These plain carpets come in several grades
and many colors and are woven in widths from nine to thirty feet which
can be cut in any desired length. This makes it possible to have a rug
which will be a suitable size for a room. The colors are very good,
especially the soft grays, tans, putty color, and taupe. There are also
some good blues and greens, a very beautiful dark blue having great
possibilities. There are also, besides these wide carpets, narrow
carpets from twenty-seven inches to four feet wide which can be sewed
together and made into rugs, or the carpet can cover the entire floor.
In some cases this is the most attractive thing to do, for it will make
a room seem larger by carrying the vision all the way to the wall
without the break of a border; and it also covers a multitude of sins in
the way of a rough floor. In these days of vacuum cleaners the old
terrors of dust have lost their sting.

A plain carpet or rug may be used with propriety in any room in the
house, provided the right color is chosen for the surroundings. Some
people, however, prefer a figured carpet in the dining-room on account
of the wear and tear around the table. This risk is not very great if
the rug is of good quality in the first place. A two-toned all-over
design is often chosen for halls and stairs because of the special wear
which they receive, and a Chinese rug is a good selection to make with a
stair carpet of soft blue and yellow Chinese design to match. A small,
figured, all-over design is a good choice for a nursery.

Bedrooms may have either one large rug or be covered entirely with
carpet, or have several rugs so placed that the floor is practically
covered but is easily kept clean. Plain rugs are more restful in effect
in bedrooms than figured rugs, and with plain walls and chintz are fresh
and charming. These carpet rugs should be made with a flat binding which
turns under and is sewed down, as this looks far better and lies flatter
on the floor than the usual over-and-over finish, which is apt to
stretch. All rugs should be thoroughly stretched before they are
delivered as otherwise they will not lie flat.

There is a kind of plain woven linen rug, with a different colored
border if desired, which is very good to use in many country houses.
These rugs come in a large assortment of colors and sizes, and, when
sufficient time is allowed, they can be made in special sizes.
Old-fashioned woven and hooked rag rugs are not appropriate in all kinds
of rooms, even in the country. They should only be used in the simple
farm house type and in some bungalows, and should be used with the
simple styles of old furniture and never with fine examples, whether
copies or originals.

[Illustration: This attractive Colonial hallway shows a good arrangement
of rugs. The border on the portières spoils the effect, but the lamp is
well chosen.]

The light in a room must be taken into account in choosing a rug, and
cold colors should not be used in north or cheerless rooms. The theory
of color in regard to light has been explained in other chapters, very
fully in the chapter on wallpapers, and its principles should be applied
to all questions of furnishing, or disappointment will be the result.

[Illustration: The Oriental rug used on the stairs harmonizes with those
used on the floor.]

[Illustration: This bed-room is a good example of a simple Colonial
bed-room, and the rag rugs are in keeping with it. The repeat design of
the wallpaper ties the room into a unified whole.]

The question of whether to use Oriental rugs or plain rugs is one which
many people find hard to solve. One of the deciding factors is often
finding just what is right for the room, for really beautiful Oriental
rugs in large or carpet size are rare and also expensive, but soft-toned
Persian rugs with their interesting floral designs, and Chinese rugs
with their wonderful tones of blue and yellow are works of art and well
worth the trouble necessary to discover them and the price asked. They
are best adapted to some libraries and halls and some dining-rooms, but
they should not be startling in either design or color. To my mind
Oriental rugs are not well suited to the majority of living-rooms and
bedrooms because of the constant and varied use of these rooms. When
Oriental rugs are used there should be plenty of plain effect in the
room; the walls, for instance, should be plain. I have never seen a room
which was successful if both walls and rug were figured. A fine tapestry
may be used with Oriental rugs, but that is quite different from a
figured wall. If several rugs are to be used in one room they must be of
the same color value and the same general color tone or the floor will
appear uneven. One does not wish to have a room give the uncomfortable
effect of "the rocky road to Dublin." A rug with a general blue tone
must not be put with other rugs of many colors or an overpowering amount
of red, but should be matched in color by having blue the chief color of
the other rugs also. The color value, too, must be even, for a light
rug next to a dark has the same disagreeable effect. It is impossible to
have a beautiful room if the rug seems to rise up and smite you as you
enter. Persian rugs with their conventional floral designs should not be
used with the marked color and geometrical designs of Caucasian rugs.
These points are important to remember and follow, for otherwise unity
of scheme for the room will be impossible.

If one has several fine rugs well matched in color value and design they
should be placed with a due regard to the shape of the room and the
position of the furniture. A rug placed cat-a-cornered breaks up the
structural plan of the room and makes it appear smaller than it really
is. The new lines formed are at odds with the lines of the walls and
interfere with the sense of space by stopping the eye in its instinctive
journey to the boundary of things. Oriental rugs should be tried if
possible in the rooms in which they are to be used before the final
choice is made, and one must always try the rug with the light falling
across the nap and also with the nap, for one way makes the rug lighter
and the other darker, and one of the two may be just what is wanted.

If one owns a rug which seems far too bright to use it can be toned
down, but the owner must take the risk of its being spoiled in the
process. To me it does not seem a great risk, because if the rug is so
bright that it is absolutely nerve-destroying and useless, and there is
a chance that for a small sum it can be made charming, why not take it?
I have never heard of one failing, but I suppose some of them must or
the stipulation would not be made.

If an Oriental rug is used it should give the keynote for the color
scheme, and the design of the rug will decide whether there can be any
figured material used in the room. It is far easier to build up a scheme
from a satisfactory rug than it is to try to fit one into a room which
is otherwise finished. One's field of choice is much wider. Samples of
wallpaper, curtain material and furniture coverings should always be
tried with the rugs, whether Oriental or plain in color, for the scheme
of a room must be worked out as a whole, not piece-meal. Each room must
be considered in relation to the other rooms near it, because, although
it may be beautiful in itself, if it does not harmonize with the
connecting rooms the whole effect will be a failure. Vistas from one
room to another should be alluring and charming; there should be no
violent and clashing contrasts of color or styles of furniture or sudden
change in the scale of furnishings. One room cannot shake off its
relationship to the rest of the house and be a success, and floor
coverings must bear their full share of responsibility in making the
whole house beautiful.

_The Treatment of Walls_

The walls of a house hold a most important place in the order of things
and their treatment requires much thought. The floor is the darkest
color value in a room, as it is the foundation, and the walls come next
in color value and consideration. What I have said in other chapters
about the necessity of connecting rooms being harmonious applies of
course to the selection of wall coverings.

The first question to be settled is: shall paint or paper be used?

If a house is new the walls are apt to settle a little making the
plaster crack, and it is far better in such a case to allow the walls to
remain white for a year. If the effect of plain white plaster strikes
one as too cold one of the many water tints may be used as this will not
interfere with any later scheme. In houses that have been built for a
number of years the walls are often so badly cracked and marred that to
put them into condition for painting would be more expensive than
preparing them for paper. Estimates should be given for both paint and

When the plaster has done its worst and settled down to a quiet life the
work of covering the walls appropriately begun.

Plain walls, whether painted, tinted, or papered, are more restful in
effect and form better backgrounds than figured walls. This is not a
question of the beauty of the design or the expense of the material, but
simply the fact that a plain surface is quiet, while a figured wall,
even if only two-toned, will at once assert itself more, and so be less
of a background. If many pictures and mirrors are to be used, or a
figured rug and much furniture, by all means have plain walls. If one
has some special object of great beauty and interest, it should be
treated with the dignity and honor it deserves and given a plain
background. A miscellaneous collection of lares and penates can be made
to hold together better by having a plain wall of some soft neutral
color rather than a figured paper, which would only make the confusion
more pronounced. Small rooms should have plain and light colored walls,
as they then appear larger. Plain walls give a wider scope in the matter
of decoration, for, beside the possibilities of plain stuffs, chintz and
various striped silks and linen may be used which would be quite out of
the question with figured walls, more flowers may be used, and
lampshades, always a bit assertive, take their proper place in the
scheme, instead of making another distracting note.

[Illustration: A built-in corner cupboard has an architecturally
decorative value for it supplies a spot of color in the paneled walls.
The modern china closet is bad, and the chairs have the failing of many
reproductions, the backs are a little too high for the width.]

The question of paint or paper has often to be decided by circumstances,
such as the condition of the walls or the climate. With paint one can
have the exact shade desired and either a "glossy" or eggshell finish.
With paper it is often a matter of taking the nearest thing to the color
wanted and changing the other colors to harmonize. Paint is better to
use in a damp or foggy climate, as paper may peel from the walls in the
course of time.

[Illustration: This fine well-curtained four poster, once the property
of Lafayette, the trundle-bed, cradle, chairs and table, are all
interesting, but the wallpaper appears to be of the ugly time of about
1880. Something more appropriate should be chosen.]

Walls may be tinted or painted, and paneled with strips of molding which
are painted the wall color or a tone lighter or darker as the scheme
requires. Also, the wall inside the moulding may be a tone lighter than
the wall outside, or vice versa, but the contrast must not be strong or
the wall at once becomes uneven in effect and ceases to be a good
background. Paintings may be paneled on the walls. If one has only one
suitable picture for the room it should be placed over the mantel, or in
some other position of importance, making a centre of interest in the
room. Using pictures and pieces of tapestry in this way is quite
different from having the walls painted in two sharply contrasting
colors, because the paint gives the feeling of permanence while the
picture is obviously an added decoration requiring a correct background.
I am speaking of the average house, not of houses and palaces where the
walls have been painted by great artists.

Painted walls are appropriate for all manner of homes, from the
elaborate country or city house all through the list to the farm house
or small bungalow, but if, for any reason, one cannot have painted
walls, or prefers paper, one need not forego the restful pleasure of
plain backgrounds, for there are many beautiful plain papers to be had.

Personal taste usually decides whether paint or paper is to be used.
Paint is thought by some to be too cold or hard in appearance (it is
only so when badly done or when disagreeable colors are chosen,) or it
is considered too formal, or, with the memory of New England farm houses
in mind, too informal. For those who wish paper, the possibilities are
very great if the paper is properly chosen. The reason why so many
people are disappointed with the effect of their newly papered rooms is
that they judged the paper at the shop from one piece, and did not
realize that a design which appealed to them there might be overpowering
when repeated again and again and again on the wall. When choosing a
figured paper several strips should be placed side by side to enable one
to judge whether the horizontal repeat is as satisfactory and pleasant
as the perpendicular. When an acceptable one is found a large sample
should be taken home to pin on the wall to show the effect in its future
environment. Samples of the curtains and furniture coverings should also
be tried with the sample of paper before the final choice is made. If a
paper with a decided figure is chosen pictures should be banished, for
their beauty will be killed by the repeated design. The scale of the
design in relation to the size of the room must also be taken into
account. A small room will be overpowered by a large figure, but often
the repeat of a small figure is quite correct in a large room as it
gives an all-over, unobtrusive effect. If the wall space is much cut by
doors and windows one should select a plain, neutral toned paper. It
would be a fatal error to use a figured paper, for the room would look
restless and chaotic and probably out of balance. If the windows are in
groups and the doors balance each other the danger is lessened, but not
done away with. One of the beautiful features in fine old Colonial
houses is this ordered position of doors, but in many a modern house the

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 9 11 12

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 9 of 12)