Thursday, March 1, 2007

excerpts from THE FURNISHING OF A MODEST HOME 1908

Woodwork
If the woodwork is really beautiful, because of the modelling and musical spacing of delicate and refined mouldings and other details, as it was in the houses of fifty or more years ago, it is right that it should be given proper emphasis. This is best obtained, perhaps, through the use of white paint or enamel……..But the ordinary woodwork in the modern house cannot afford to have its uninteresting mediocrity or ugliness brought to the front. It should be stained or painted in low-toned colors that it may assume a very subordinate place in the room. In general, grayed, deep browns or greens are restful and unobtrusive, and are colors with which wall papers will harmonize. It is wise to avoid strong contrasts between walls and woodwork unless we know what contrasts are good. This applies to the halls, living room, dining room and kitchen. For the bathroom and the bedrooms, white is allowable, even with poor woodwork, because the furnishings and the wall papers are generally light in value, hence the light woodwork is not much in evidence. Moreover, where scrupulous cleanliness is so absolutely essential, the light colors are better.

………The practice of giving the woodwork several coats of varnish, producing a weak and unattractive yellow-brown, is unfortunate. The color itself is destitute of interesting character, and only brown wall papers will harmonizes with it. Rooms thus finished may be much improved by painting the woodwork a good color, even though the grain of the wood is sacrificed. Paint will cover a multitude of sins.

It is a mistake to suppose that highly polished or varnished woodwork is a mark of excellence. Quite the reverse is true. The woodwork should not shine, it should not catch and reflect lights as does a mirror; a very subordinate element in the room, it should remain unobtrusively in the background. Therefore, if rubbed in oil and pumice stone after varnishing, to remove the gloss, or if waxed instead of varnished, the effect is enriched. This statement does not apply to fine woodwork which is finished in white solely that its fine proportions and modelled details may be seen to the best advantage.
Interesting brickwork


Floors
They were still extolling the virtues of a clean wooden floor rather than the dust of a carpet.
Old people generally prefer carpets; let us not try to argue them from their right and privilege. But we,…..ought to know that from a hygienic point of view, the hardwood floor is by all means the proper one for our home. If our floors are not hardwood, they can be made very attractive indeed by painting them several coats to harmonize with the woodwork, generally a dull brown or soft gray green; occasionally, if a warm tone is necessary, Venetian red may be used.
Straw matting is the next best thing for our floors. Choose a good matting and one with comparatively plain ground; the best mattings are generally the most satisfactory in design and in service, and the best matting is less expensive than a good carpet. Moreover, it is cleaner and will wear about as long.

We have a perfect right to our likes and dislikes, and if we prefer carpets, let us choose those which are good in design. Carpets having large, separated spots of strong color are bad. ……Carpets composed of naturalistic designs of roses are not pleasing, for walking about upon a bed of roses is a thing which we would carefully avoid in the world of nature. The simple, old fashioned carpets which had little definite design are among the best; they were modest and dull in color and generally appeared to stay down upon the floor where a carpet belongs.
It is possible to buy a rug of domestic make for ten dollars. For twenty dollars, an Oriental rug of the same size may be obtained. In five years the domestic rug begins to show signs of distress, the foreign rug will wear a lifetime and longer. The domestic rug is almost invariably poor in color and design. A large rug manufacturer in this country says that the best selling rug he ever made was one portraying a Newfoundland dog! Imagine walking about on a big dog!
Correctly furnished floors, to summarize, are of hardwood, or are painted, or are covered with straw matting. The rugs may be few in number, rich and quiet in color, and for beauty of color and design and long life in service, in other words for true economy, are preferably of Oriental make.

A den


Wallpaper
Wallpapers in vivid contrasting colors, or with floral or fruit designs were declared to be in bad taste.
Always avoid large, pronounced figures. Shun all strong contrasts of light and dark or of color, select papers with the colors and values closely related. A room which will hold dark furniture should not have a light paper.
The bedroom with its light woodwork should have a light, delicate paper, cheerful and refreshing in color, dainty pinks, blues, or yellow-greens on a very light ground meet the requirements.

If we place the picture moulding (or a narrow shelf) a foot or more below the ceiling and carry the ceiling color or paper down to this moulding, the ceiling seems lower than when the wall color extends directly to the ceiling. If all the rooms in the house appear to be too high studded, this plan is an excellent one to follow. Place the picture moulding the same distance below the ceiling in each room, thereby giving a consistent and agreeable effect throughout the house.

Drapery
The portiere had its origin in the desire to bar out draughts of air, or noise. Probably later, it was discovered that portieres oftentimes serve to soften the lines of the woodwork. From the nature of the service expected of them it should be seen at once that they should be hung upon rings so that they may be easily moved. They should not be swathed about a pole (as -if the pole were suffering from tonsillitis), …... Portieres made from ropes, beads, bamboo, shells, spools, buttons, or string beans serve no purpose, and merely illustrate the craving for novelty associated with an untrained mind.


There is no excuse for window curtains reaching to the floor; as well buy chairs with backs seven feet high! In color, window curtains should repeat in lighter vein the general color scheme of the room. White lace curtains are out of place unless the woodwork and the furnishings and the wall paper are white or very light. Delicate transparent color tones, aside from being in themselves more pleasing than white, suggest the color seen in nature through the windows, for such color is always tempered and softened by distance, and invariably appears delicate compared with the window frame itself.

Furnishing the front hall
…... As has been suggested, its general color scheme should be a cheerful one, extending a cordial welcome to the guest. Its furnishings are not a complex matter. They should be simple, suitable, and rather formal in character. A coat rack is a necessity, one with plain brass or wrought iron nails or coat hooks is best. In the furniture store, hasten by those racks having hooks fashioned into wonderful scrolls, from which it requires time to disentangle a coat. Hasten faster when passing the incongruous creations which are composite in character, those which combine shoe box, umbrella stand, settle, bureau, shaving glass, and coat rack. They are cheap in design and workmanship, and no one feature can be utilized in service without discommoding some other, the box is inaccessible unless everything is removed from the seat, the seat is uncomfortable when the coats are hung in place, the coats hang into the umbrellas, the umbrellas when removed bring down a coat and a hat or two, and all the width of the mirror must be given up to mirror thus causing the coat hooks to be placed in a vertical row instead of along the horizontal line as they should be for service.
The umbrella stand should be ample in size, that by mistake one umbrella may not be thrust through another, and to render withdrawal an easy matter. It should have a metal pan at the base, and should be open at the sides for adequate exposure in drying. Drain pipes with fleur-de-lis painted upon them are symbolic of wet territory, but the place for umbrellas to dry is neither in a marsh nor in a pond, but where the dry air can circulate freely about them. Umbrella stands are best made of some coated material impervious to moisture.
Choose a good plate glass for the mirror, neatly framed in plain stained hardwood. Hang it in a good light, that is, a light which falls on the person, not the mirror. It is a good plan, if feasible, to place small artificial lights on either side. Immediately inside the entrance door there should be placed a thick, rough rug. One or two formal chairs, and perhaps if there is plenty of room, a small table and settle will complete the hall outfit.

Living room
It may have as the center of interest a large fireplace of brick, …. When we want to see how a fireplace ought to be built, we have to go back to those of our ancestors. They constructed fireplaces for service. The simple way of doing a thing is the only way which shows a complete understanding of the problem. Their solution of the problem makes us heartily ashamed of the modern average result, which is built wrong end to, it is all place and no fire. This modern concoction gives one the feeling that some architect seized the offered opportunity to design something in wood, it does not matter what, so far as results tell us; that the fireplace itself is the thing wanted is an idea which apparently never occurred to the designer. Brick is as serviceable as anything for the fireplace; tiles are sometimes employed, but should be those without a glazed surface.

In this room there is no reason why the furniture should be in sets of like pieces
The objection has been raised that some of the arts and crafts furniture needs a derrick for moving it about, and some of it does. On the other hand, a chair, for example, is not built to be trundled about the room after the manner of a go cart; it need be moved but little and at infrequent intervals.

This almost successful living room has been injured by overcrowding the low toned wall areas with pictures having white mats.

Dining room
The ruling color scheme of the dining room being warm and cheerful, we have a hint for the coloring of the furniture. Chairs and tables of dark brown or warm green enrich the appearance of the wall paper, whereas the paper in turn offers the return compliment to the furniture. The familiar yellow-brown varnished furnishings do but cheapen the effect of a room whatever color the walls and floor may be. A plate rail is an addition to the room providing it is not abused by placing upon it brightly or lightly colored plates. Pewter or the old plates of subdued color tones are better. …..If the china closet is filled with dishes, forego the display, and place inside the doors a colored drapery or curtain of cloth similar in tone to the prevailing color of the room.
It is customary to place under the dining table a large rug. It is a perfect nuisance there, catching as it does, all the crumbs which fall from the table. The rugs would better be placed about the table where they are of direct service to those approaching the feast.
A dining room in a small flat. The ceiling color has been brought down to the picture moulding to lessen the apparent height of the room. The walls are of a golden brown color, making a fine background for pictures and ornaments, each of which has been carefully chosen for its worth and appropriateness, and carefully placed upon the wall with due consideration as to the composition of the wall area.


Bedroom
All of us look back with pleasure to the unpretentious bedroom of our childhood. It may have been as cold in winter as Greenland, the roof may have claimed half its ceiling and walls, yet there was a charm about that room which we cannot forget. That charm was its simplicity. It was just what it pretended to be, a sleeping place. It lacked all extraneous furbelows, it made no exhibit of false luxury. We remember that it offered great possibilities in the way of fresh air, that its furnishings were light in color with woodwork painted white, that the thick homemade rugs became friends, and that the scanty furnishings were really ample. No great effort was required to keep the room clean for it was small and contained but little.
….A plain white iron bed is better, as a rule, than mahogany. From a strict hygienic view, an iron or a brass bed is always better than a wooden one.
The furniture is well chosen if of light colored wood, as maple or cherry in natural finish, or if it is painted.

If any room in the house is provided with a carpet, it should be the bedroom, but large rugs well placed with reference to their use are better for service and better in other ways. The furniture should be simple and straight lined, rather than scrolled-sawed and fluted. Double window shades prevent the possibility of interesting shadows being seen at night from without, and may be used to shut out the morning light in summer much more hygienically than did the draperies on the four poster bed.

Hanging pictures
Pictures should be hung with two vertical wires from screw eyes near the top of the frame, that the frame lines may remain horizontal and vertical, and the picture flat, or very nearly so, against the wall. …….The old method of using one picture hook or nail and a red or green rope, which outlined a triangle, is obviously bad. Always use fine picture wire for hanging, that it may be as little in evidence as possible.
Hang pictures, as a rule, so that the center of the picture comes somewhere near the eye level, slightly above it, rather than below; the room as a whole should present a unity in effect in this regard. ……..The wall should be considered as a complete composition, as truly as any single picture; the pictures should be so arranged that the wall as a whole is balanced, as the painter would say. This does not mean that they need be monotonously strung along, but one group should balance another. Colored pictures should have an area to themselves, they ought not to be placed adjacent to photographs; they disagree in kind and form an inharmonious unit.

Here are some of the things to be found in the modern home (and avoided )White doilies with designs of naturalistic violets in robust violet color, the violets being dropped around the border so as to suggest a jolly lot of tadpoles having the time of their lives on a merry-go-round; sofa cushions with girls' heads, yes, even horses' heads painted on them; glass slippers to be used as vases; match boxes in the semblance of animals, to open, remove the head; yellow silk carrots for pin cushions; for a match scratcher, a cat with sand-paper and the legend, "Scratch my back;" an egg dish in the form of a hen on the nest, to secure the egg, oust the hen; a butter-dish with a cover after the manner of a reclining cow; a plate shaped like a fish, and to hold matches; in the fireplace, a snow or a coal shovel, gilded, the blade with a picture of a lighthouse painted thereon, the handle adorned with a necktie of pink satin; an iron cuspidor in imitation of a silk beaver hat! What must the foreigners think!

THE FURNISHING OF A MODEST HOME

A decorating book with lots of pictures, unfortunately most didn’t come out well in the copying process. I managed to fix a few.

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