Art and Decoration for Town and Country Homes
EASTERN FURNISHINGS IN WESTERN SETTINGS
ARLEIGH JEAN CORBETT
FEW of us know that the progress of art has always been from the East. With our centuries of handicraft and art behind us it is hard to realize that when our European ancestors were primitive peoples the Oriental countries had achieved a culture and expression in art that is still a wonder in its variety, imagination and technique. In recent years Eastern art is becoming more and more appreciated and sought after and the study of it has endless possibilities and pleasures. Connoisseurs and decorators are making interesting collections, and the decorators are evolving many new and original plans and color-schemes with Oriental art as the inspiration.
amateur they may be classified as Persian, Turkish, Turkoman, Caucasian, Chinese and Indian. The Persian rugs are the most valuable and for many purposes the most beautiful in texture, color and design. They include the Kermanshah, Keshan and Sarouk as well as many other and are very useable for living-rooms, as they come in subdued colors that go well with woodwork and general decorative schemes.
One must be very careful in the choice of Oriental rugs. The dominant color must be a part of the color-scheme of your room. Lovely tones of blue, mulberry, terra-cotta and brown may be found in Persian rugs. Rugs with mulberry tones blend well with mahogany, and blues and browns go well with walnut and oak. For halls or rooms where there is very little or no furniture, rugs with brighter colors and more decided patterns such as Royal Kazaks, Saronks, Kabistans, etc., may be used, or they are sometimes adaptable to quietly-furnished dens.
One does not have to acquire a taste for most of these Eastern art treasures. Their beauty is something that appeals at once, but we western peoples must be careful in buying and using them so that they are not incongruous in our western settings. So many persons buy Oriental rugs just because they think it is the thing to have Oriental rugs. They then use them indiscriminately in rooms for which they are entirely unsuited in color, design and texture; and so with many other Oriental objects. They are things so beautiful in themselves that great judgment must be used in placing them or much of their beauty is lost and they are quite out of place, in relation to other things about them.
Eastern decorations include such a vast number of useable objects, running from rugs, screens, cabinets, chests, trays, pottery, lamps, cushions, linens, silks, embroideries, brasses, china, Japanese prints, carved Indian tables, down to tiny ivory and jade ornaments, that one article on the subject cannot hope to be very comprehensive.
RUGS may perhaps be considered first, as they are no doubt the most useful and easily acquired objects in the list. The manufacture of rugs was one of the earliest incentives for blending of colors in such harmony as to please the eye and satisfy the mind. Oriental rugs show such rich design and elaborate workmanship that they are sometimes used for hangings, laut one must have the proper sort of room in which to do this, and spaciousness and simplicity are essential for the background. A really beautiful rug is a constant joy to the beholder. Cleopatra realized the power of this beauty when she had herself wrapped in a wonderful rug for her first meeting with Caesar!
Oriental rugs include many kinds and come from various countries but to the
Chinese rugs are not so well known as the Persian and Turkish, as none were brought to this country until after the Boxer uprisings. Chinese rugs are very lovely. They have simpler backgrounds and less involved designs, so that they are more restful in certain rooms. They abound in lovely blues and yellows and are very pleasing in a room where blue is the prevailing color. Although blue can be both restful and exhilarating if used in a room that has plenty of sunlight (it is cold in a north room) it has been used rather too much for living-rooms lately and has become almost common. For the last five or ten years so many brides have decided to have blue living-rooms that one has become very tired of blue rugs, curtains and chesterfields—lovely as the color is. If you are going to have a rug with blue background try to use a little originality in the rest of your room and
stress the other color of your combination —perhaps the soft yellows and fawns that are often the contrasting color in a blue Chinese rug.
There is one more point to be considered in the use of Oriental rugs and that is the great judgment required in using more than one in a room. Unless a room is very large, one Oriental rug looks better than several, as they are almost like pictures in themselves and show up much better on clear spaces. Even a large room looks well with one good rug although it may be small, but never use Oriental rugs placed near to one another, unless they are very similar, as they only detract from each other and are tiring to the eye. If your room is so large you need to use more than one rug place them far from each other and in relation to a certain piece of furniture. Only put rugs parallel with the walls of your room or at right angles to the pieces of furniture in front of which you place them. Never use them diagonally, as it disturbs the balance of your room.
The Japanese Idea
THE Japanese idea of decoration might well be more generally followed in our own schemes, and that idea is—absolute simplicity of surroundings so that the art object may receive its full value of attention and not be detracted from by other nearby objects. The Japanese will hang only one beautiful picture on a wall or even in a room and the wall will be so plain that all the attention is focussed on the work of art. One fine piece of pottery will be used in a room, or a jar with a single flower, and these decorations are changed sometimes with the seasons, particularly in homes of the wealthy. On entering a Japanese house one is confronted by a beautiful screen which almost cuts off the more intimate part of the house from the formal entrance hall. This
screen, in the more wealthy homes, is repainted or replaced every season. Just so the picture on the wall or the piece of pottery on the cabinet. In our use of Oriental objects this principle of simplicity of arrangement and lack of crowding of articles is very necessary or they may be quite out of place and an irritation to> the eye rather than a joy.
If one will read some of the delightful' Japanese stories and sketches written in English by Lafcadio Hearn, one will notfail to have a finer appreciation of Japanese art and decoration. The lovely old! legends that are woven into their art and! the romantic reasons for some of their' customs, give one a greater knowledge’ and pleasure in making use of Japanese: objects.
SCREENS are very beautiful where properly used—but they must be used as screens and not solely as ornaments.. An ugly radiator or dull corner may be: effectively covered by a lovely screen, but make sure that the color and size of your screen harmonizes with the color and purpose of your room. Don’t use a Japanese screen of perhaps black and gold in a room that might be done in a modem treatment of cream and blue or a room of French characteristics. In a spacious room with Oriental rugs of reds and! yellows, with perhaps black painted furniture, black satin cushions, brass lamps, gay red or yellow eastern pottery, one of the lovely black screens so beautifully embroidered in gold would be charming. Almost any very simple hall-way would be enhanced by such a screen.
There are some lovely lacquer screens that come in colors that would be adaptable to many rooms but these are rare and expensive.
The Ontario Museum of Art in Toronto has the finest collection of Coromandel screens to be found on this continent. These are Chinese screens given to the' Chinese Royal family as birthday gifts, and Canada has good reason to be proud of having obtained these as connoisseurs, come from great distances to see them.
The subject of screens might also imclude the Chinese table screens of which each Chinese bride is given two. They are beautiful pieces of workmanship and carving in ivory, jade, or coral. They are purely decorative pieces and should be
used on a table that has very little else on it so that their extreme beauty of design and coloring may be appreciated.
Chests and Cabinets
KOREAN and Syrian chests are wonderfully planned and executed pieces of furniture and should be given a place of distinction in a decorative scheme. These are originally bridal chests and are of great value. They are often of rosewood, sandalwood or ebony and are bound and ornamented with brass or inlaid with Mother of Pearl. The cabinets contain large and convenient spaces and have intriguing little secret drawers and mysterious locks.
One of these cabinets is useful and particularly decorative used in a room with a fine Chinese rug on the floor. It should stand by itself, that is, not grouped with other kinds of furniture. A Chinese jar or two, or some Korean brass candlesticks might be used on top.
Trays come from China and Japan in lacquer, in ebony set with Mother of Pearl, in brass from China, or Jaipur brass from India. Oriental trays are something that can be used in most homes, for if they do not suit the decorative schemes they may be kept out of sight and when they are needed they are always pretty.
ORIENTAL pottery is such a big subject that only, a few of the betterknown kinds can be mentioned here. Chinese porcelain in blue and white is very lovely in certain rooms. It became popular in England during the reign of William and Mary, so popular, indeed, that Thomas Chippendale designed a cabinet especially for holding and showing off these treasures. A single jar or piece of Oriental pottery may be used on a bookcase or mantel-piece, or if it is very rare on a pedestal in a simple corner. An indiscriminate placing of beautiful jars of various designs and colors about a room is worse than nothing. See that your jar has the right color note for your room, that it blends with the piece of furniture on which you place it, that it does not stand in front of a picture or anything else that would detract from the color or design of the jar itself, and that it is in balance with ita background so that you
may get all the pleasure from it that its maker intended as he wrought it.
The cloissonne ware which comes from Japan is one of the most marvelous creations in handicraft that has ever been evolved by human beings. The designs are woven in fine wires on a metal base and filled in with enamel. These are jars, bowls and sweet-meat boxes. Setsuma ware, also from Japan, comes in lovely colors and makes charming tea-sets. Lacquer ware is used for many articles and comes in lovely shades of red with black. It is used for screens, trays, book-ends, boxes, bowls and even tea-pots. Jars of China Mirror Black have many uses as they are so plain they can be used in many schemes. The “Mirror-Black” ware is like a luminous inky pool, such depth, such lights and yet so black! These jars may be used for lamps and will, of course, go well with any color of lamp-shade.
LAMPS are something akin to jars J and extremely beautiful ones are available, but whether they are porcelain, lacquer or brass be sure not to use them on a table or in a corner where they are not suited to the furniture or decorations around them. Not long ago I saw a lovely room done in blue and brown. The rug was plain soft blue, the pottery was all from Holland of that lovely Dutch blue. The walls were panelled in oak and the furniture was in Dutch design in carved oak, but on the table stood a large Chinese lamp, extremely beautiful in itself, of black and gold wonderfully wrought but entirely out of place in these surroundings so that it almost succeeded in spoiling this otherwise charming room.
Brass lamps, Indian or Korean, usually can be assimilated by most decorative schemes, but those beautiful Chinese lamps in colored porcelains with figures used as the base need very careful placing in order to give them their due.
Brasses and Linens
CANDLESTICKS, bells, trays, bookends, boxes, table-tops come in brass from India, Korea and China. Jaipur brass from Benares is particularly wonderful with its fine inlays of colored enamel. There are unique tables of carved teakwood with Jaipur brass tops that are beautiful and useful in certain rooms
where they won’t clash with other types of furniture. They could be used in a den or library which is rather austere in its appointments, as they are tables more suited for holding a few books than for ornaments since they are so ornamental in themselves.
During the last year or two lovely linens and laces have been imported from China. Luncheon sets, towels, centrepieces, napkins, tray cloths, runners and even bed-spreads are among the more useful articles. Mosaic punch-work is done on Irish linens or Chinese grass linen and combined with cut-work and embroidery in marvelously beautiful designs.
Many of the luncheon sets are embroidered in. colors with motifs of Oriental inspiration such as quaint designs of rickshaws, Chinese figures, lanterns, cherryblossoms, flying-storks, and representations of The Temple of Heaven. These are very effective when used with Chinese or Japanese dishes with the same note of coloring as the embroidery.
One can fancy a luncheon-table covered with a grass linen set embroidered in blue in a design of flying-storks, with plain poudre blue Japanese china and perhaps a blue and white Chinese jar for the centre holding a spray or two of pink cherry blossoms, or a plain blue bowl with bulbs of hyacinths or daffodils in bloom. Chinese and Japanese bowls seem particularly suited for bulbs.
A tea-table would be very attractive with a centrepiece of Chinese linen in cut-work and mosaic-punch-work, china of Setsuma ware in cream and red or black and red, a black bowl filled with red tulips or other red blossoms carrying out the red in the dishes, or black candlesticks with red candles. Some very lovely combinations can be made with these Chinese linens and Oriental pottery.
ANOTHER phase of Oriental embroidery is that done on silks and used as runners and panels for walls and
cushions. These embroideries are very rich in colorings and the needlework seems almost miraculous. Some of the cushions and runners for sale in this country have been made from the skirts and flaring panels of the bridal gowns of wealthy Chinese women. One lovely set of a runner and cushion I saw recently was of heavy silk in plain deep red and on this the embroidery was done in a beautiful shade of blue with touches of white. This panel on a clear wall behind a chesterfield of plain material with the cushion upon it would be very effective and the background would show up the marvelous colorings and workmanship. But do not fail to remember the principle of simple backgrounds and surroundings for such pieces.
Japanese color-prints are very famous. They are so different from western pictures. The coloring is always delicate and the detail of great importance. They should be framed in the simplest possible frames; usually narrow black frames are most effective. Color-prints should not be grouped with other pictures. One might make a small group of them on a wall away from other art works. There are many wonderful collections of Japanese color-prints in Canada, particularly in homes in Victoria and Vancouver. The late Sir Edmund Walker, of Toronto, had one of the finest collections in the Dominion.
Let us not forget the humble but incomparable Chinese and Japanese paper lanterns. Modern lighting effects of electrical bulbs can never be as soft, pretty and romantic as these colorful, graceful lanterns among the trees of a garden, along a walk, on verandas or little boats upon the water.
In buying any Oriental articles do not for a moment forget to visualize their use in your home or you may find when you get them there that there is not a suitable place in the whole house for them! However if you use them rightly they will be a source of great pleasure to you for years to come.