Art and Decoration for Town and Country Homes

"Wills” and “Won’ts” of Color

BEATRICE HAMILTON November 15 1924

Art and Decoration for Town and Country Homes

"Wills” and “Won’ts” of Color

BEATRICE HAMILTON November 15 1924

Art and Decoration for A own and Country Homes

"Wills” and “Won’ts” of Color


THERE are some people who have an instinctive feeling for line and color.

They may not paint pictures, but they are artists nevertheless. Suzanne is so gifted. The clothes that she makes for herself are never in their proper “homemade” class. There is always something—a cluster of tucks, a quaint little pocket, an unexpected sweep of line or a flash of color that carries them far away from the family sewing-machine and into the rarefied realm of the “little French frock.” Asked why she has done thus and so, Suzanne will study the question with a vaguely puzzled air.

“Well,” she will probably answer, “it just seemed to need it someway.” Then, as likely as not, she will give her inexpensive little hat a tweak that, on the instant, changes it from “anybody’s hat” into “Suzanne’s hat” and be on her way.

Janet is different. Of course, Janet has never had to make her own clothes. Janet’s frocks and suits always have the labels of exclusive little shops tacked to their linings, but even so, Janet is different. She appreciates pretty things and knows when anything looks right and when it does not. But she has not the instinct-knowledge of how to make things look right and she has never thought about studying the problem of how other people do it.

Three years ago both Suzanne and Jane were “brides-to-be.” One day, with a group of friends around the tea table, Janet told her plans for furnishing her new house.

“What Harry and I want is a real home,” said Janet. “Harry has been boarding for years and he’s crazy for a place of his own. Dad has bought us that new house at the corner of Centre and Wellington Streets, you know, for a wedding present, and we’ve got quite a lot of things for it already. Next week we’re going to Toronto to buy rugs and curtains and Harry says I’m to choose anything I like, that nothing can be too good for that house.” She paused and a flush crept into her cheeks. With eyes full of happy dreams she went on: “I’ve always dreamed that some day I’d have a living-room done in shades of taupe, but not long ago I read an article in a New York paper that described a living-room done in crushed raspberry and grey. It sounded perfectly fascinating so we’re going to do ours in those colors. Then the dining-room I’m going to do in blue and orange. Mary has her dining-room in Vancouver in blue and orange and I’ve always said I wanted one just like it. Off the dining-room there is a sun-room and we’ve got the loveliest black painted wicker furniture for in there. I saw the furniture at the furniture show and the minute I saw it I wanted it, so mother bought it for me and then I got chintz with a black ground and white birds of paradise and pink roses to go with it.

“The hall we’re doing in buff and green and upstairs I’ll have one of the two big bed-rooms in yellow and one in rose. There’s another goodsized room up there that we’ll make into a sort of den and have all Harry’s junk there.

At the top of the stairs there’s a little bit of a room that I’m going to make into an extra bed-room. It’s simply tiny, of course, but mother’s given me the furniture that’s in my room at home and it’s got to go there because I don’t want it in either of the other rooms.

I don’t know how I’ll ever get it in, and Harry says that if I do, whoever uses the room will have to be put in with a shoe-horn, but I don’t care, it will look pretty anyway.”

What An Awful Effect!

THE faces around her glowed with sympathetic interest.

Which of us can hear the plans of two young people for their first home without a pull at the heart-strings?

To be sure, Suzanne’s brows

did pucker and once she nearly spoke but as no opinion was asked for none was given.

So with plenty of money Janet went ahead and furnished her house and the effect when she had finished was quite as awful as you have been thinking it would be. Not, mind you, that Janet bought anything that in itself was ugly or in bad taste or that each room in in itself was not commonplacely pretty. It was just that from an artistic point of view the whole place was utterly wrong.

Now Suzanne had quite a different way of going about her home making.

“For,” said Suzanne, “it may be all

very well to be vague about why I do this or that to a dress or a hat, but I don’t believe it would be very safe just to trust to intuition when it comes to decorating and furnishing a house. At their best a dress or a hat are only good for a matter of months and if I go wrong with them I am the only one disappointed. But this house is to be Tom’s as well as mine and it is the only one we are likely to have, for a good many years anyway. I think what we had better do is to give it some thought and study before we make any silly mistake. We haven’t a great deal of money to spend, which makes it all the more important that we

should know what we are doing before we do it.

So Suzanne set her nimble wits to work and the result is Suzanne’s and Tom’s little halfstone - and - half -stucco - and - timber house which, on the outside, is so much a part of the ground where it stands, that the spruce and oaks and maples that climb up to it from the bottom of the ravine on whose edge it perches, seem, in some way to have worked themselves into the upsweeping lines of its roof and tall chimneys, while some force of Nature herself, might have drawn the stones of the walls together and scattered the flags of the pathway—so absolutely is Suzanne’s home a part of its surroundings.

“That lot just needed that house, didn’t it?” Suzanne asked one day with unaffected delight in her own creation.

That is exactly how it seems. While if Suzanne’s and Tom’s lot “just needed” the house they built on it, then, in turn, the house they built “just needed” the colors and furnishings Suzanne put into it.

It is three years now since Janet and Harry and Tom and Suzanne were married, and it is only now that Tom and Suzanne’s home is finished to the last of its delightful details for, as Suzanne said, there was not much money behind them to help hurry things along. It has, indeed, needed a little pinching here and a little pinching there, all through the three years and Tom’s strong fingers and Suzanne’s clever ones to make it what it is to-day. But each pinch, and each idea worked out together has made it just that much more their very own.

Janet and Harry’s house, as you know, was finished and furnished before they ever moved into it. Of course, in three years there have been changes, some new curtains, a rug or two added. The room that in the first place was given up to Harry’s “junk” has been turned into a nursery. But taking it by and large, the general effect is the same, and, try as she would to fight against it, before the first year was over Janet herself had realized that something was-decidedly wrong with that effect. But she said nothing to anybody. Janet, you know, was never one to ask advice.

Asking for Real Advice

HOWEVER, one October afternoon, when she and Suzanne sat before Suzanne’s dancing fire, knitting great balls of bright wool into warm little sweaters, Janet did break the musing silence of the moment and her silence of three years by asking abruptly: “What’s the matter with my house, Suzanne? Don’t bother being polite. Tell me just what you think. I know it’s all wrong some way. I’ve known for years that it was but I can’t find out what’s the matter with it. There doesn’t seem to be anything ugly in it and still it doesn’t look a bit the way I want it to. It’s clean and it’s comfortable but I want it to be something more than that. I want it to have distinction and it’s just as commonplace as it can be. Your house is just as clean and just as comfortable as mine but it has the very thing mine lacks. What’s the secret, Suzanne? What have you and Tom done that Harry and I haven’t?” Suzanne’s eyes left her knitting and wandered caressingly over her bright living-room before they met Janet’s questioning gaze.

“Well,” she said at length slowly, “of course we’ve done so much of it ourselves, perhaps that makes a difference.” “Now you’re hedging,” Janet exclaimed indignantly. “You can’t tell me that it is just because you did things yourselves instead of getting other people to do them for you that makes it different. Any good workman or sewing-woman could do all you two have done if they were told what to do. It isn’t that you did the things. It’s how you knew what to do that puzzles me. Now you

didn’t make that blue pottery bowl in the hall for instance, that you chose in exchange for the copper one I gave you last Christmas. I thought the copper one would be exactly the thing when you said you wanted a big bowl for your consol table in the hall. It never crossed my mind to get the blue one when you have the old gold walls and bronze green curtains. Yet when I saw the blue one there I could see that you were right. It is perfect. But it has puzzled me ever since to guess how you knew to get it.” Suzanne laughed.

“Well, you see my hall just needed that blue bowl,” she said, her eyes twinkling. “It wasn’t necessary to have a bowl,_ of course, but my hall needed something blue in it to show how bright and sunny the other colors are, and the minute I saw that bowl I knew it belonged in my hall.”

“Yes, you probably did,” said Janet drily. “But what I want to know is how did you know it belonged there? I’m always buying things I think belong in my house and when I get them there they’re just like so many strange cats humping their backs and spitting at everything else in the place.”

Suzanne laughed again.

“Oh it’s all very well to make a joke of it,” complained Janet, “but honestly, Suzanne, what is the matter with our house? I can’t see that there’s anything the matter with the furniture. It’s nothing wonderful but it’s good of its kind. Our rugs are all right, I know that; we haven’t a cheap one or a domestic one in the house. I can’t see anything wrong with the curtains and, even if we haven’t any very marvellous pictures or ornaments, what we have are pretty good and yet, when I look around, I feel as though I’d like to bundle everything out and begin all over again. But if I did,” she went on disconsolately, “I don’t believe I’d do any better. I’ve spent a lot of money as it is and haven’t got a bit the effect I want. The worst of it is that even though I know it is wrong I don’t seem able to find what mistake I made.”

For a moment Suzanne said nothing. She sat thinking. Then she said slowly: “Suppose the architect who planned your house had dreamed of building just such a house as it is. But suppose he had gone about it by making a separate plan for each room and had given all the plans to the builders and had them build each room on a separate part of the lot. Then when they hád been built, suppose he had them all moved to the centre of the lot and had tried to join them together and make one house out of them. It is vaguely possible that he might have evolved some sort of a place, but there is no remote chance that it would have been anything like your house, the house he had dreamed of building, is there?”

“No,” said Janet wonderingly, “I shouldn’t think so.”

“No,” Suzanne continued. “If you want to achieve a certain effect with a house you’ve got to have one complete plan for the whole thing. A plan in which each detail fits into or is related to the rest of the house, don’t you?”

She paused, and as Janet said nothing she continued:

“Well then, if you can’t build such a house as you might want to build by building a lot of odd rooms and trying to stick them together, are you any more likely to be able to furnish and decorate a house satisfactorily by going about it as though you were doing a lot of separate rooms that are going to be a mile away from each other, instead of being, as they really are in any house, each one a part of all the others?

“Now isn’t that the way you planned your furnishing and decorating? Didn’t you plan one thing for your living-room, another for your dining-room and another for your hall and so on?”

“Í suppose I did,” said Janet thoughtfully. “Is that where I made my mistake?”

“That’s the biggest one,” said Suzanne cheerfully. “You asked me for my opinion so I’m giving it.”

“That’s what I want,” Janet spoke a little ruefully. “I really want to know what’s wrong and I want to know how I can make it right if it is possible. Now what do you mean by having one plan for all the decorating and furnishing in the house? You have to furnish each room differently because each room is for a different purpose. I don’t see how you can have them all the same unless you have just one style, or period, of

furniture all through the house. Is that what you mean?”

“Oh no,” Suzanne answered emphatically, “that’s not necessary at all. It would be all right to do that if you were furnishing a sort of show place, but for the ordinary every-day house it is nice to have variety in the furniture. Of course the furniture you put in each room, depends upon the use you are going to make of it. But,” she paused impressively, “it is just because each room must be different from each of the others in so many ways that it is so important for you to use what means you can to hold them all together as one charming and artistic whole. Now the most effective means by which you can do this is through the colors you use in your house.

“Suppose you met a girl dressed in a red gingham dress, with a bright blue sailor hat on, black walking shoes and yellow lisle thread stockings. You wouldn’t think she had chosen a very artistic costume, would you?”

“Not unless I’d gone color blind!” Janet exclaimed.

“Good girl! That’s the point exactly. If you were color blind the costume would seem quite all right because a sailor hat and a gingham dress and lisle thread stockings and serviceable shoes, all go nicely together if the colors are right. And a chiffon velvet gown and a Paris hat and the heaviest of silk stockings and shoes of the finest cut and finish would make a very beautiful costume ij the colors were right. But if the gown was of red and the hat bright blue and the stockings yellow and the shoes black, the effect would be quite as ghastly as the same combination of colors in cheaper materials.”

“It would be worse,” said Janet, “because you’d expect more of it.”

Thinking of the Whole

“YAES, I suppose it would,” Suzanne

1 assented, “but the point is, that if anybody wants to look well and charmingly dressed they cannot think of their hat as one thing and their gown as another and their shoes and stockings as another. They must think of them all as one costume and build that costume from one definite color plan in which each detail of color fits into, or is related to, the dominate color of the whole costume. Every woman knows this and knows that it is equally true if she is planning a gingham costume to wear to market or a velvet one in which to be presented to the Prince of Wales, doesn’t she?”

“Certainly,” nodded Janet thoughtfully.

“Then you see now, don’t you, just how important a part color must play in interior decoration? You see that if it is so important to have a related scheme of color, in any type of costume—a related plan of color which is built up from one main or basic color—it must be just as necessary, in any type of house, to have a related plan of color which is built up from one main or basic color. That is, of course, if you want a house wnich is more than merely clean and comfortable.

“If you want a house to be artistic, to have distinction, it won’t make a bit of difference how much money you spend, it won’t matter a bit if you h^ng your walls with, silken brocade and have everything else in keeping, or if you finish them with wall board and color wash and have the most inexpensive furnishings, if your colors are wrong, your whole effect is going to be wrong That is clear, isn’t it?”

Janet nodded without speaking.

With eyes sparkling mischievously Suzanne went on:

“Now I suppose you know that there are really only three basic colors—red, yellow, and blue. What you must do, in the first place then, in making your plan either for furnishing a new house completely or for doing over an old one room by room, is to decide which of these three basic colors is the most becoming to your house and then go ahead.”

“Most becoming to my house!” Janet exclaimed. “What on earth do you mean, Suzanne?”

“Oh, houses, you know, are just like people,” explained Suzanne airily. “S,ome of them look their best in red, others in yellow, and others in blue. Now a house that gets plenty of light but very little sun looks its best in red or yellow. A house that is dark and gets little or no sun looks its best in yellow and a house

that gets heaps of sunshine is about the only one that can wear blue very successfully. You see how it is. Red makes a house seem warm and cheerful. Yellow makes it look brighter and more sunny and blue makes it look cooler and needs a lot of sunlight to balance it. So you see you don’t even have to decide your basic color yourself. Your house decides ’t for you.”

A Color for Your House

“DUT Suzanne, you’re not in earnest, -D are you?” Janet asked. “You can’t mean that anyone could do a whole house in red or yellow or blue. You didn’t do yours that way,” she added.

Suzanne’s eyes were dancing. “Oh, yes I did,” she said laughing. “My basic color all through this house is yellow, but that doesn’t mean that the whole house must be biliously yellow. In fact I haven’t one room in it that you could refer to ceremoniously as ‘the yellow room.’ You jump at conclusions too hastily, my dear. I didn’t say to do your whole house in one color. I said to do it with one main or basic color, which only means that all the colors you use in your house, all through your house, remember —if you want to create a really artistic effect—must belong to that basic color.

“Now when I took yellow as my basic color it meant that all the colors, and shades of color, that I used in my decoration must be influenced by yellow. That gave me all the neutrals that belong to yellow, such as old gold, ivory white, champagne, buffs, tans, sand and ecru to choose from for my walls and ceilings. Neutral colors are greyish colors, you know, not pure bright ones. These are nearly always better for walls, as they make a good background for brighter colors and for pictures. They also make a room seem larger.

“Then I had bronze greens and willow greens and apple greens and olive greens, all of them warm yellow greens, and I had the wide range of coral pinks and peach and apricot down to warm reddish mulberry. I had mauves and reddish violet. I had all the gorgeous shades of yellow itself to choose from right from palest canary to orange, pumpkin and Chinese red, which is really more yellow than red. Then, too, I had all the shades of brown from the golden autumn tints to brown that is almost black and I could use black too but not pure bluish white. All the white I used had to be ivory or cream.

“When I wanted to use blue with my yellow scheme it had to be just a bit here and there to bring out the bright sunniness of the other colors and it had to be a clear pure blue. This is the reason for the blue pottery bowl that puzzled you so and for that bright blue cushion over there beside the Chinese red one.

“So, don’t you see now how a house with its decoration built on a basic yellow may have an infinite variety of color, while still having all the colors holding to yellow? And don’t you see how by building your color plan on one basic color you will make each room in your house, no matter how different it may be in some respects, seem like a member of a closely knit, affectionate family rather than like some jarring relative whose presence must be endured?

“If I had used a red scheme, I would have had all the warm greys and cream color, ashes of roses and all the soft neutral greens to choose from for my backgrounds. That is to say, for my walls. My rugs could have ranged right through the shades of rose and taupe, warm greens and greys. For hangings and upholstery, cushion covers, lampshades and all the rest of it, I would have had all the rose colors from shell pink on down through the American _ beauty shades to richer rose color, reddish mulberry, garnet and maroon. I could have used pinkish lavenders, violets and bits here and there of clear pure yellow but no yellows like orange or pumpkin or Chinese red. I would have had all the warm greens from apple to dark bronze, olive, light and dark greys, taupe, and of course black. White with a red scheme would have been better. Cream or ivory and the blues I would have used would, more often, have been light and bright rather than heavy dark blues.

Other Schemes Possible

“TF MY scheme had been red, instead

1 of having my hall in old gold and bronze green with a dull blue pottery

bowl, I would probably have done the walls in medium grey; used the same cream net I have on the windows; had deep mulberry or dull rose or even the same bronze green for portieres, and put a brass bowl in place of the blue one.

“Now if my house had been turned right around and there had been heaps of sun and light, I could have chosen blue for the base of my color scheme, but blue is not so simple a scheme to handle as either red or yellow, because there are two kinds of blue schemes. There is the blue scheme that is combined with red and the blue scheme that is combined with yellow.

“With a blue scheme combined with red there are the silver greys and blue greys and cream colors for walls. There are all the smoke blues and French blues and deep sapphire blues. There are shell pinks and rose and lavender and bluish mulberry, and there are sage greens and grey greens and jade greens and, of course, black and white.

“If my scheme had been, blue and red, the walls of my hall would have had a silvery white covering. My window net would have been white; my portiers a rich French blue or deeper richer sapphire, and the bowl deep rose or lavender.

“Now if my scheme had been blue and yellow, I would have had all the greenish blues from turquois to deep dark peacock. I would have had ivory white, and buff and ecru and tan and old gold and champagne and warm grey to choose from for my walls. I would have had all the shades of yellow from canary to Chinese red, all the coral pinks and peach and apricot; the cool greens like jade and sage and myrtle and very green peacock blue and black and white.

“If my scheme had been blue and yellow, my hall would, most likely, have had old ivory or buff wralls. The net in the windows would have been white; the portieres a rich peacock blue, and my bowl copper or Chinese red or pumpkin color.”

As Janet sat looking thoughtfully into the fire Suzanne went on after a moment:

“You see now what I mean, don’t you? You see, don’t you, why you have been dissatisfied with your buff and green hall which belongs to a yellow scheme and your grey and raspberry living-room which belongs to a red scheme, and why it is that your blue and orange diningroom which belongs to a blue scheme has always fought with all the others? It is just the same with your black and rose sun-porch and with the rooms up-stairs. The colors in your house don’t belong to each other. Each room is charming in itself but there is no feeling of unity between them. Consequently they give you a sense of restlessness; a sense ol your house being unfinished while you don’t know what more to do to add to it. You asked me for my opinion,” she added defensively. “I hope you don’t mind.”

“It’s wonderful!” Janet exclaimed. “I see perfectly what you mean, but what am I to do? I can’t possibly throw out all the things we have. Don’t you think we could do something to improve our place and still use what we have?” she added wistfully.

“Why, of course you can,” said Suzanne heartily. “Your things are lovely. With a little changing about, some paint and dye you can work wonders. You should know a little about when to use chintz, or figured material, and when not to, but that is very simple too. I’ll tell you about it next time.”

Here is one of the many little conveniences that Suzanne has worked out for her house.

Materials for Sewing Screen

20 linear feet dressed white pine 7/g" x 1%"

1 dressed pine board 9%n x 12"

2 dozen 3" thin gauge finishing nails.

16 2" brass finishing nails (for spool


17 brass screw hooks.

4 lYt' brass hinges with screws.

1 brass handle.

1 brass hook and eye.

13" flat brass chain.

1 package tacks.

1 package brass-headed tacks.

Yi pint paint.

Í4 pint enamel.

2 yards chintz (reversible) 36" wide, 3

yards if not reversible.

Cost of materials for screen $3.50 or less.