Saturday, October 6, 2007
Excerpts from THE ART OF HOME DECORATION 1921
Mary Harrod Northend (1850–1926) brought the colonial revival aesthetic to a wide middle-class audience through her articles and books. Using her prominent family connections, she gained entry into old New England homes and employed a photographer
to record the architecture and furnishings.
Mary Northend devoted a great deal of the book to the use of color.
The photographs didn’t come out very well in the online edition of this book, therefore I’ve only included a few of them.
Front Halls, Wall Treatments, Colors
The color scheme of the entrance hall may serve as a delightful inspiration for the development of the entire house. One individual entrance hall had walls of apple-green and white paper in an invisible check, divided into broad panels with white molding, embodying some of the joyous qualities of spring. The wainscoting was stained dark green and reached five-eighths of the way up the wall. On the floor was a green-and-white checked rug with a plain border, and against the wall were disposed a settee and two chairs with white woodwork and green upholstery. The white console opposite was beneath a mirror, while in a green and white lattice plant stand, purple and pale yellow iris carried out the illusion of spring. Box trees in green tubs stood at the foot of the white stair, and the whole charmed the eye and satisfied the senses.
An air of mystery pervaded another hallway with walls of an exotic red-orange, quite intense near the floor but merging into a pale cream near the ceiling. On the floor was a rug of brown-orange with a dark brown border, melting into the tone of the floor, and blending with the woodwork of antique oak. Two candlesticks of a dark-brown lusterware and an odd boat-shaped card dish of blue-violet stood on the long Italian table. Two oval mirrors, framed in antique oak, hung opposite each other on the wall. The recessed window near the stairway was curtained with blue-violet silk fringed with orange and the seat was upholstered in the same violet color. A gay pillow of brilliant orange silk, with its green Chinese tassel created a bright spot of color which relieved the monotony.
The inherent beauty of mahogany, which is especially suitable for hallway furniture is enhanced by a background of warm gray. Take for instance a reception hall with French gray walls and woodwork a little deeper in tone, as a background for consoles and a couple of graceful mahogany chairs. With the introduction of a bit of soft yellow in hangings or accessories, it is exceptionally inviting and yet exhibits the restraint so essential in a room like the reception hall to which both the invited guest and the much-maligned "book agent" must be admitted.
The cheer and joy of sunlight were introduced into one Colonial hallway by papering the walls with a two-tone lemon-yellow stripe. Creamy white woodwork contrasted with the rich tones of the mahogany furniture. On either end of the long table were candlesticks of dull, hammered brass, with its limitless range of lights and shadows, and between them a jade green bowl filled with yellow jonquils repeated the note of spring.
While spindles and rails of wood are the most used, wrought iron spindles after the French eighteenth century mode are regaining their one time popularity, and some of them possess a unique interest. No medium for contrasts in an interior is so successful as wrought iron. It requires a fairly plain background because its greatest beauty lies in silhouette. One stair of this type has balusters of square wrought iron rods painted white with formal inserts at regular intervals and a floriated polychrome newel. With a staircase of this kind, the lighting fixtures may be in harmony in many fanciful shapes, such as an old Italian lantern of wrought iron or star-shaped fixture, or dull sconces of the same material, having the naive crudity and vigor of line and finish that distinguishes all hand work.
Of all the treatments possible, there is none more attractive than paneling and wainscot, although the wainscot is not as commonly used as formerly, principally because of the prohibitive cost of lumber.
But as necessity is the mother of invention, substitutes for the old time paneling have been evolved which are proving eminently satisfactory in producing the effect of the paneling of the days of Henry III. The romantic associations of baronial halls and the feast following the hunt clings to paneling, calling up visions of the long festive table laden with boar's head and savory viands, the smoke of the guttering candles in the dimly lit room mellowing walls of richly carved Norway pine.
Excellent reproductions of the linen fold panels of Hampton Court and Waltham Abbey may be purchased and installed at very slight expense. For a large room, a study, dining room, or living room, there could be no more dignified and restful treatment.
The waits may first be covered over the plaster with canvas, forming an excellent foundation for the paneling. Or they can be veneered through the use of a thin piece known as "built-in." This consists of from three to five plies banded and glued together, so cleverly done that when applied to the plaster it would require an expert to distinguish the difference. This eliminates any danger of warping or checkng on account of different grains used. The panels when finished are three inches in thickness, framed in stiles and closely resembling ordinary lumber one inch in thickness. In order to determine how much will be needed, all that is necessary is to take a running measure of the room and multiply it by the height of the wainscot.
In order to secure the soft bloom of age, a few little shadows of water color, the rubbing in of a little black wax, and presto! the work of a century has been accomplished in a few hours.
But in connection with wood paneling, a word to the wise is essential. Do not panel your small room. This treatment seems to shut it in like a box, though it lends dignity, repose and richness to the apartment of large or medium size.
If you desire to carry out the Colonial idea in your home to the very nth degree, there could be nothing more appropriate than wall paneling of ivory white, or a white wainscot, with one of the old pictorial papers above it. Time has come and time has gone but decorators have yet to discover a more striking background for the dark ruddy glow of polished mahogany furniture.
The white wainscot need not necessarily be confined to the hallway. It may extend much further into the interior. A country cottage in New York has a dining room with ivory white paneling extending up about three-quarters of the way to the ceiling. The upper wall is tinted a pale buff, and the windows are hung with thin silk of dull green-blue. Cottage furniture painted the same color contrasts with the purity of the walls. A bowl of brilliant red-gold marigolds gives just the proper touch to enliven the little room of sea and snow.
A substitute for paneling fast coming into popular favor is wall-board. Time and again have I heard this product maligned on the ground that it "looked cheap;" that it buckles and it bulges; and a score of other allegations, but the fact remains that more and more of it is being used in homes, and that it has invaded nearly every room in the house. With the use of discretion, some exceedingly attractive effects may be contrived.
Certainly it has its advantages. It is clean, it is easily installed, it is adaptable to any number of different finishes. Though nearly everyone in these days of general advertising is familiar with the product, let me say for the benefit of those who may not be cognizant of the fact, that wall board is a wood fiber product having the appearance of cardboard about a quarter-inch in thickness. It comes in panels about 32" or 48" wide and of varying lengths. These panels are nailed directly to the studding or rafters or over old plaster or any foundation material.
Then, after the wall-board has been nailed around the room, it may be tinted, painted or enameled any hue you desire. If grained, it might be stained or varnished, and with strips of wood nailed over the joinings to hide them, the panel effect is excellently carried out. As a matter of fact, the panel treatment is almost essential to cover the joinings, but there are panels and panels, so there is enough variety to suit every whim and fancy.
For the dining room, there is a grained board simulating wood, for kitchen and bathroom, a tiled board to be white enameled. The product may be conscienciously recommended for its resistance to the passage of heat, cold, sound, strains, fire and moisture.
As a general thing, the average homebuilder considers wall paper as the obvious covering for his walls. Without a doubt, the range in selection offered by dealers is broad enough to permit a choice being made to suit every requirement, and even more to the point - to suit every pocket-book.
The painted wall is coming into its own of late. It owes much of its popularity to the wide range of soft tints possible. One of the most utterly charming of the painted wall treatments is known as stippling. The process is simple and I imagine the work could be done "by hand" by some enterprising housewife bent on combatting the high cost of decorating.
The effect of this two-tone process on almost any room in the house is surpassingly lovely. The "apparatus" required consists merely of a sponge with a good, even, open texture. The bottom of the sponge is the surface best suited for stippling and should be trimmed or sliced off to get a flat printing surface.
Wring the sponge in water so as to soften and open it up. When ready to stipple which can be done as soon as the foundation color is flatted out and fairly hard pour or brush out a small quantity of the first stipple color on a piece of tin or board, as convenient. The sponge is to be rubbed into this instead of dipping into the can. Tap the sponge once or twice on the board to remove any surplus paint and stipple directly on the wall.
When stippling, tap the sponge straight on the wall. No turning or twisting motion is necessary. A firm but not too heavy stroke is best. A separate sponge must be used for each color specified.
There is a simple Colonial home on Long Island stippled from cellar to garret. The entrance hall was silver gray and ivory on the silver gray foundation, with ivory white woodwork, a cool yet friendly little apartment, greeting one like the sincere handclasp of a friend.
A door on the right gave on the living room with walls mottled gray-green with the faintest pinkish tint gleaming through, like the glimmering of coral in the depths of seagreen water.
Ivory white woodwork was used throughout the house. Here in the living room, Windsor chairs with the addition of a couple of simple armchairs, table and white settles flanking the fireplace, carried out the spirit of the Colonial and preserved the atmosphere of dainty coolness that pervaded the entire home.
The dining room on the left of the hallway was one to render any sort of food tempting to the most capricious appetite, its walls of sage green dappled with buff, cottage furniture of taupe stenciled with small bunches of brilliant posies and curtains of green and buff striped sunfast.
The vista through the three rooms was enchanting, the color notes of each room leading the eye onward to further visions of tranquil harmony.
Covering the radiator
The ordinary radiator is as out of place in a dainty white and chintz bedroom as a kitchen sink in a dining room, but screened within a built-in enclosure equipped with grills it takes on the semblance of a bit of delicate lacework let into the solid fabric of the room wall.
There is a portable enclosure within the means of every householder. This is in reality a three-sided frame with a top, the opening equipped with a decorative grill of a pattern in harmony with the general scheme and purpose of the room. The frame may be constructed by any man reasonably adept at amateur carpentry, and I dare say, by many women. The grill may be purchased from a number of manufacturers in many excellent designs and the whole may be tinted any shade you desire.
There is no one immune to the charm of the window seat. It exerts a spell over the most energetic of mortals, a call to comfort and lazy intro-
spection. And think of the opportunity it affords for obscuring the unsightly radiator.
I recall one room in particular where the source of the welcome warmth that pervaded the apartment was shrouded in mystery, yet the temperature proved that such a source existed, even though not in evidence something missed yet not mourned. Before the three long windows at one side of the room was the deep window seat, cushioned with old blue velvet. The wainscot and built-in cupboards on either side of the window giving a balanced grouping, were stained deep walnut and the same stain blended the grill below the window seat into an integral part of the wall background and completely concealed the heating apparatus. Consider the discord that might have been wrought by a gilded radiator in that harmony of dull blues and soft rich browns! The very thought makes me shudder.
When it is impossible to place and conceal radiators beneath windows of the living room or library, another good place for installation is in the lower part of built-in bookcases. Here they may be enclosed in low cupboards with the same kind of openings just noted. When this method is employed, the radiator must have a metal hood or reflector at the back, sides and top and the cupboard must be lined with asbestos air cell insulation to protect the adjacent woodwork sufficiently. Such installation in the base of bookcases permits the use of the ordinary type of radiator which may be obtained in low sections. It is one solution of where to place the radiators in old houses and may also be used in new ones where windows extend all the way to the floor or where, for some reason or other, installation beneath windows is undesirable.
Perhaps it would be best to paint them white and keep to the Colonial white in your trim in this treatment, but the grill may easily enough be painted any hue you desire, preserving the same color note as that of the woodwork in the room.
One of the most effective concealments of a radiator that I have seen was beneath a staircase. The white stair spindles were repeated, extending from the baseboard of the hallway to the baseboard of the stair. Behind this graceful ambuscade lurked the radiator, its existence as guilefully hidden from the eye as though it really were some skeleton in the family closet.
Let us say, for instance, that you want a brown living room. Most people seem to, but certainly you do not want yours to be like those of the other ninety and nine. You wish infused into it your own personality, a small portion of your own soul, and who would admit to the possession of a dark brown soul? An optimistic glint of gold in the dark places, a dash of rose for that is the stuff that dreams are made of, a touch of deep blue and perhaps just a thin line of scarlet somewhere, for it stands for courage as well as deviltry, you know. Yes, indeed, your room will be different even as you are different.
Here is a recipe for a brown room which will never fail. Tint the walls the color of oak leaves in the fall pale yellow merging into golden tan with the faintest ruddy suggestion here and there of frost-nipped maple for warmth. The woodwork may be a bit darker in tone. Paint the floor a very dark brown and have a couple of oval braided rugs, deep blue, old rose and leaf brown, picked here and there with gold. Before the windows hang thin curtains the color of misty sunshine, with over-drapes of rough blue silk.
The brown comb-back Windsor chairs, gate-leg table and quaint settle before the fireplace all have their happy little spots of color. The rose and blue cushions of the settle, the dull orange of the lamp on the table, the glowing crimson, gold and blue of book bindings forming a rich tapestry along the wall on built-in bookshelves. Would a room like this leave a dark brown taste in your mouth?
Another way in which your brown room might be worked out just one of the other ways would be to have the woodwork pure white and the walls that faint foamy bisque tint of meringue. The floor should repeat the tone of the walls, deepened perhaps a couple of shades. On it place a rug of deep blue merging into an even deeper blue border. Curtain the windows with a creamy sun-fast banded with dark brown velvet. There may be copper candlesticks on the white mantel, copper-red cushions on the white settles flanking the fireplace and perhaps a velvety clot of purple in the pansies filling a copper bowl on the mahogany desk in one corner. An orange-shaded lamp with blue pottery base on the small sewing table, an armchair or two upholstered in brown, gold and blue cretonne. And there you are! Upon entering this room, you will know you are at home, for there is not apt to be another like it.
Perhaps you have, after due deliberation, come to the conclusion that the eternal brownness is a very stereotyped solution of the living room color problem. Yet you do not want to stray too far from the well-trodden paths of convention. Ah! A happy thought! Why not a green room? Surely color of which one should never tire, for Nature herself has proven that by using green more lavishly than any of the other hues in the spectrum. But stop! Is this quite true? Is there any one shade that the human eye could endure in the quantity in which it absorbs green, if there really were but one shade? I think not. For in green, Nature runs the gamut of a dozen different hues the delicate tint of the lilac leaf, the lush green of spring meadows, foam-flecked sea-green, yellow-green, gray-green oh, dozens of them there are, so interspersed with expanses of gray or blue, or broken by brown patches that never grow monotonous.
Is there anything lovelier than the elusive violet among its foliage, the Mayflower all one pink blush as it strives for seclusion in the meadows, the orchid and yellow shades of the iris in its clump of ashy-green spears? For each of these, green is a tint separate and distinct from all its other variations.
When you say, "I want a green room”, well and good if you actually know what the term implies and realize the possibilities for springlike freshness and beauty that may be realized there from…
I captured the spirit of spring in my own living room, captured and held her with all of her dancing, joy-filled, heady charm. She may flit in and out the opened windows at will for she is not chained within, but the all-pervading essence of her shy witchery permeates every corner.
This is how it was accomplished. I painted the walls of the square room a misty gray, the sort of background from which one would feel no shock to perceive fairy forms retreating and advancing in the meshes of some elfin dance. The woodwork was a bit deeper in tone, and the floor a bit darker still. The windows were hung with a foamy green silk gauze shot with silver with over-drapes of a rough gray silk bound with leaf green velvet.
For the furniture, I chose green painted things of delicate, graceful design. Before the long French windows leading out upon the garden, I placed a green-painted easy chair, upholstered in black satin, embroidered with a resplendent peacock, spreading his tail in a dazzling burst of color. The blue-green of the peacock was repeated in painted figures adorning the highboy at one end of the room, the small table holding the lamp with its shade of orchid and silvershot silk, the settle and other two chairs, and the exquisite curved consoles topped with silver framed mirrors which flanked the entrance from the hall. Just to bring a note of sunshine into the room and tie its ethereal unreality down to earth is my bowl of gold atop the highboy. The bowl itself is of amber glass. Sometimes it is filled with innocent yellow pansy-faces, sometimes with goldenglow or nasturtiums and one spring I tried the effect of massed dandelions and, believe me, for the introduction of pure, condensed happy color, there could be no better medium.
Your green room, too, may have the essence of springtime joy if you will but remember to interpret the color rightly, and allow it to retain that refreshing sweetness of all new young things.
While we are considering rooms of joy and happy color, let us consider yellow. "But, never yellow in a living room," you may say. "In a bedroom, yes. Or in a dining room, or perhaps a kitchen, but yellow is too bright for a living room." Is it? Let us see.
Can you fancy a room with gray walls powdered with gold, white woodwork, curtains of striped gray, green, black and gold, and furniture painted black, with bands of buttercup yellow on Windsor chairs, yellow cushions on the long settle and a brilliantly gleaming yellow silk shade topping the lamp base of King blue? Would you need your dark glasses for a room like that? Does it seem too bright to you or do the happy, singing pools of light gladden your heart and make you feel that "God's in his heaven, all's right with the world."
Another variation of the melody in yellow might be effected by using for the upper wall a heavy embossed paper like the rich golden samite of Arthur's knights. The soft bindings of books in black shelves may line the lower half of the walls. On the black painted floor, place a rug of deep -blue. The sunshine may be filtered through thin golden silk with overdrapes to the floor of blue, gray and black striped material. Chippendale chairs, and sofa upholstered in gold brocade, a couple of squat Chinese chairs flanking the black marble fireplace and mirrors framed in black and gold accentuate the Oriental note of the entire room. Here is a combination worth while for here are blended the inscrutable mystery of the Chinois-erie and the concentrated joy of yellow.
But if you have a house which is strictly Colonial on the exterior, exquisitely proportioned, nicely detailed and painted white with green blinds, you will want a living room as typical of the Colonial as is the exterior. Let me tell you of a Colonial living room which I actually had a hand in "doing over" so I have in it all the pride of creation.
The house was a very old one, as perfect an example of the Colonial as you would want to see, with a central staircase and hallway opening on either side into two large rooms, both with fireplaces against the inner wall and windows on two sides. The former owner of the house had carpeted the floors, painted and varnished the woodwork golden oak and papered one room with a green and gold metallic mixture, and the other with an ornate, pink flowered atrocity. Both fireplaces were boarded up and covered with paper.
Of course, the very first thing was to strip the walls of their objectionable coverings and open up the fireplaces. After much painful scraping and tearing, this was accomplished. The woodwork throughout the entire house was painted an ivory white.
The room on the left which was to serve as the living room was my particular concern. The walls were tinted gray with a powdering of white, and the floor painted deep gray. Oval braided rugs of rose, gold, black and gray were disposed before the fireplace and armchair. The windows were hung with ruffled muslin, caught simply back with old-fashioned muslin bands. The furniture consisted of a rich brown mahogany gateleg table, a couple of Windsor chairs and an armchair upholstered in cretonne in which gaily plumaged pheasants disported among tawny fringed chrysanthemums in a perfect riot of color. Above the mantel, between dully gleaming pewter candlesticks was a framed sampler worked in bright blues, greens and old red, adding its own touch of prim, quaint charm. All that the room needed to carry one back to Puritan days was a snowy-capped old lady to sit by the fire, placidly knitting or spinning.
The room on the other side of the hallway was done a bit more formally in deep blue and silver, with a dash of burnt orange to lend it piquancy.
There is no color better than orange for this purpose unless it be red. I wonder if you are one of those people who think of red as the cayenne pepper in their color cupboard something to be taken in exceedingly small doses. I hope so, for that is the only way in which it really "agrees." Yet interjected in just the proper place, what else can give the dash, the vigor, the stimulus to jaded sensibilities that can a splash of red.
Of what avail would be the golds and browns of autumn were it not for the blazing of maple leaves, the glory of hills clothed in flaming sumach against October's bright blue skies, and the glowing cloak of woodbine on gray stone walls.
"Red" is as elastic in its meaning as the term "person," for there are almost as many individual reds as there are people. And you must be quite as careful about growing too familiar with it as with the most peppery individual of your acquaintance. Rose, garnet, crimson, orange red, cerise, henna, scarlet, Chinese red you can probably name as many more.
You may be ever so fond of the color, yet it is never wise to indulge yourself in the doubtful luxury of a red room, particularly if it be a living room. You would find yourself dwelling in a state of perpetual aggravation, a sort of spiritual intensity that would soon prove worse than wearing. You may still have your red room, however, a room in which the color is so used that it sounds the dominant note of the entire scheme, gives point to other shades and a fillip to the imagination,
yet is rendered wholesome by judicious blending with sedative tones.
For the walls, choose bisque or marbled gray. You find your analogy in Nature for this in the subdued tone of tree trunks and the silver hue of misty distances. The floor may be a deep gray, with a rug a shade or so lighter. Hang curtains of deep garnet at the windows and have a couple of cushions of glowing garnet on the long sofa, upholstered in shining gray linen. Walnut furniture would be best, a long table at the back of the sofa, a couple of old tavern chairs with turkey red rep cushions quaintly fastened with brass nail heads and tassels and an armchair or so, its gray covering bound in red. With a small lacquered box or two for cigars or trifles of some sort, you will have all the red you desire.
I doubt if the rank and file of us would care for even so much, but if you wish it, I say that you should have it, for your living room is to bear your impress.
Now let me tell you of just one room that seems to me the very embodiment of livable-ness, a room dominated by a certain piece of furniture, in this case, an old Colonial dresser. At one end of the large apartment were two windows between which was the long dresser, with its shelves above, on which were several pieces of blue and white willow-ware. The walls were a pale buff and the woodwork white. The windows were hung with thin, white silk pulled back from the flowering posies on the deep sills, and framed with darkly glowing, old-fashioned glazed chintz. The white built-in china closet with its oval top was lined with deep blue. Ladderback and Windsor chairs, inviting armchairs upholstered in glazed linen of deep blue bound with chintz, and flowers everywhere, on long table, tiny Martha Washington sewing stand and window sills, all bespoke a cheerful existence there.
Beauty, convenience and comfort these three I should list as essentials for your living room. And the greatest of these is comfort.
Today we have beauty, convenience and utility combined in the windows for our homes, not to speak of the variety in the designs of the windows themselves. The two types in general use are double hung and casement, the former consisting of two separate and movable sashes placed in a frame, the latter swinging either in or out and giving full use of the opening. Whichever type you employ, be sure to use the small panes instead of the large expanse of glass, for they add so much more character to the exterior of your home.
The tendency of late seems to incline toward the single large panes of glass rather than many small ones, but I am sure that the eight and twelve-light windows will eventually return to their former popularity if only in justification of the survival of the fittest.
Let good taste be your guide always, but the element of money expended need not enter into your reckoning at all. The stupidest person in the world can order rich materials, have her windows hung with heavy velvets and silks, but it takes cleverness and thought to evolve striking and dainty effects from muslin, scrim, gingham and calico. Yet you would unhesitatingly choose the result of cleverness and economy in preference to that of clumsiness and lavish expenditure.
And the strongest ally of cleverness in your curtains is color, strong, vivid, radiant, singing color or soft, happy, peaceful, smoldering color. Who cares for line when there is color to cloak its little deformities and shroud it in a misty veil of loveliness!
The thin curtain merely serves to filter the sunlight and diffuse its radiance, softening the glare of the direct rays. It should nearly always be of some pale tint, thin silk the flushed hue of the sky at dawn, suffused with a promise of coming splendor, a misty gray or smoky blue, any one of the obscure off-tones. Many people do not feel the need of glass curtains at all, particularly in the small home, and confine their draperies to the regulation over-drapes.
Not that they really are "regulation" for your own discretion is the only law that governs their selection. What would you think of a house curtained entirely in gingham? Unthinkable? But that is because you have not seen it. Consider a living room with walls and woodwork a pale gray-green and furniture just a little deeper in tone. The curtains are of orange and gray striped gingham tied back with plain gray gingham, and correspond with orange and gray striped upholstery of the chairs. The lamps have standards of Chinese red pottery and shades of gray silk lined with red-orange.
The appetizing little dining room has pale green walls, and green and gold checked curtains at the casement windows, beruffled and fluttering in the breezes. Here the furniture is of a pale sand color with green and gold painted motives.
You know you would never want to "come out of the kitchen" were it curtained with capable blue and white gingham, quite as though it had donned its apron to assist in culinary achievements.
Then above stairs, would not lavender-checked curtains make an effective contrast with pale yellow walls, with an occasional fleck of the green of iris leaves introduced in furniture and accessories? The nursery might be curtained with red, white and blue checked gingham, for the spirit of a sturdy child cares not for subtleties but wants vigor and directness in his surroundings. Though surrounded by checks, existence would be a far cry from a checkered one amidst such hangings.
But it takes a certain amount of moral courage to venture too far from the beaten path, and though none of us will admit to such cowardice, the majority are prone to confess that they would prefer to cleave a bit more closely to the conventional than to ginghamize their windows.
If you’re considering making curtains or drapes, you can read some of Mrs. Northend’s suggestions in the chapter on windows.
The dining room
So have your dining room light and airy, light both with actual sunshine and with that spurious radiance created by the use of proper colors. Its walls may vary in tint, of course, according to the scheme you have in mind for the entire room, but the plain wall is always a comfortably safe choice, and forms a most satisfactory background. Besides it leaves you free as the air in the selection of draperies and furniture.
For the covering of your floors, linoleum is a material whose advocates are continually growing in number. And with reason, for it combines practicability with beauty in a high degree. Europeans discovered long ago that linoleum of a soft, dark brown makes an excellent background for even the loveliest Oriental rugs.
It would be hard to find another material so effectively combining economy, sanitation, comfort, durability and beauty; economy because the very best costs less per yard than even a moderately priced carpet; sanitation because cleaning it is but the work of a minute; comfort because it is soft, quiet and resilient underfoot; durability because it outlasts even the more expensive car-
pets; beauty because of the charm and distinction of the many designs in which it is manufactured.
The color range is wide. Either plain or moire in brown, blue, green, tan, deep or pale grey and perhaps rose will do a great deal toward making your dining room inviting.
The painted floor, too, affords an admirable foil for small rugs, or border for a large one.
Too much stress cannot be laid upon the importance of lighting in the dining room. The light must be concentrated upon the table, and for this purpose, candles either with or without shades are excellent. Electric fixtures on the walls supply sufficient light for the remainder of the room.
The small dining room is necessarily a thing unto itself, for in its treatment, all preconceived ideas as to the "correct" equipment of an ordinary dining room must be laid aside, and the home decorator must start out with a mind unbiased by hectoring rules which apply only to the spacious apartment.
In the first place, when considering the floor, walls and ceiling, remember that pale, light tones and receding shades will give the room apparent size. In a lesser degree, neutral tones have the same effect. The wainscot wall which is so lovely in the large room, is unthinkable here, for it-creates the general effect of a tiny, wooden box. Keep the floor free from any patterned covering, for patterns, too, seem to decrease the area of the room.
A perfectly plain paper on the wall or one with scarcely noticeable self-toned figure, and a plain, one-toned rug or carpet on the floor will make the most of every inch of space.
Another thing to avoid is sharp contrast in color between walls and floor, and between walls and hangings, even though such contrast is harmonious and would be quite permissible in a room of greater dimensions. There need be no monotony, however, even though aggressive colors and strident contrasts are taboo.
For instance, with walls of plain putty gray, window hangings of thin apricot silk would create apleasing contrast, yet one which would have no diminishing effect upon the size of the room. On the other hand, were hangings of a garish chintz or cretonne used, whole feet would apparently be sliced from its dimensions at one fell swoop.
I think there can be no color combination more exquisitely cool and refreshing than that of blue and gray. I should like to conjure up before your eyes a room with gray walls, simply paneled in delicate moldings of warm blue, the same color being repeated in ceiling and in curtains of taffeta, edged with fringe of a deep plum color. The furniture, painted a soft gray, is decorated in plum and blue with a tiny bit of gold, and tops of dining table and consoles are plum. The delicate tones achieve a reposeful dignity possible only through the use of keen color perception.
If the room be of moderately large proportions, a decorative wall paper, such as a reproduction of one of the old Colonial scenic papers may be used. For instance, with cream woodwork and wainscot, a paper showing quaint scenes in delicate blues and soft dull browns on a cream ground is particularly lovely and suggests the rest of the furnishings immediately. The windows may be curtained with simple white ruffled muslin, tied back with soft blue taffeta.
On the warm brown, painted floor, braided rugs are typically Colonial, as are Windsor chairs and gateleg table in natural finish mahogany. Thus individuality may be achieved through the assembling of furniture in keeping with the background of the room.
An entirely different sort of setting is required for severe refectory table and chairs of walnut. Here walls painted pale mauve with moldings of green form an excellent foil for the warm, brown tones of the furniture. At the windows may be hung curtains of eighteenth century English block chintz showing much mauve, green and gold, bound with puffings of gold-color taffeta, and a mirror with antiqued green frame hung between them.
An old English dresser displaying on its quaint shelves a few pieces of silver and Copeland-Spode china in one of the colorful Chinese designs adds a delightful note of interest.
The acme of daintiness, but pleasantly livable, was a dining room with walls of cool buff, and windows curtained with brilliant jade green taffeta caught back to reveal inner curtains of thin apricot silk. The furniture was painted in buff with line decorations of green. It consisted of an oval table, chairs to match and a couple of consoles. On each console was a low bowl of hammered brass filled with deep purple violets.
The book can be read in its entirety online at
The Art of Home Decoration by Mary Harrod Northend
The chapters are:
I. The Entrance .............I
II. Hallways ...............13
III. Hardware ...............25
IV. Walls and Their Treatment .......38
V. Covering the Radiator .........50
VI. Living Rooms .............59
VII. Windows ...............77
VIII. Libraries ...............89
IX. The Use of Chintz for Color Scheme . . .100
X. Fireplaces ...............113
XI. Screens ................125
XII. Dining Rooms .............136
XIII. Built-in Furniture ...........150
XIV. Breakfast Rooms ............162
XV. Value of Glass Doors ..........174
XVI. Sun Rooms ..............182
XVII. Corners ................196
XVIII. Painted Furniture ...........205
XIX. Day Beds ...............223
XX. Bedrooms ...............231
XXI. Dressing Tables ............247
XXII. The Nursery ..............258
XXIII. The Attic ...............276