Art and Decoration for Town and Country Homes
THE ROOM IN COLOR
ANNE ELIZABETH WILSON
THERE have been three lessons taught by the new comprehension of interior decoration as it has progressed during the past ten years. The first is that fundamental wish for simplicity and purity of line; the next, enrichment with color in such
possibilities as had never before been dreamed of; and the third, the employment of texture for effect. In previous articles, especially in those dealing with the various types of architecture in which we have gone into interior detail, much has been said of purity and simplicity of line. Color and texture are two subjects which must be dealt with by themselves, although they are the close running mates—in fact, the essential companions—of the purely treated interior.
The old effects of richness were got in sundry ways. Gorgeous drapery, elaborate and opulent furniture, great spaces and surfaces provided backgrounds for presentations of magnificent inspiration. It took a long while for that tradition to fade in the minds of the individual whose home was never built for tapestry or resplendent damasks, but represented the moderate-sized dwelling of the twentieth century. There was only one conception of something “fine” and that was a miniature reproduction of the splendor of the “hall.”
It is only in recent years that the realization of modern interior beautification has been brought into scale—not only with the actual physical requirements of the dwelling of to-day, but with the mental feeling of the time. “Beauty” is understood in terms more vital than ever before, and values demand something more real than mere fabrication and detail to satisfy that understanding.
Never before has the ordinary layman so thoroughly realized the significance of color—the vast possibilities. The hackneyed shades pall upon him; the old combinations strike him with an unsatisfying sameness. He is getting his aesthetic pleasure in actual development of a new sensation. Little though we may realize what has happened to him and his taste, he will manifest the change nevertheless. He looks upon a room belabored in the old manner as “stuffy” or “old fashioned,” he may not be able to tell you why.
No more than perhaps six or seven years ago, I remember two elderly ladies of the “old school” were horrified one morning by my placing in the living room a bouquet of mixed garden bloom which represented perhaps every color in the kaleidoscope. It sat in a low bowl table, and was as bouyant a sight as could be imagined. “But my dear, they clash so!” To their anaemic conception of color combination, undoubtedly nature’s laying on of pigment was too intense. To-day, it is doubtful if such a bouquet would call lorth anything but an exclamation of approval for its richness—even from my two old ladies. For it is with color
and texture that richness is to be securedagainst pure line and simple backgrounds'
THE English first discovered the delightful qualities of chintz in upholstery and drapery—indeed the “slipcover” is a most intensely British accessory. And chintz, too, has had much to do with the banishment of the overheavy materials in the smaller home. In its brilliant designs and varied treatments and weight, it is possible to accommodate it to almost any requirement, and it is now recognized as equally suitable for the winter home as for the summer. What is warmer than warm color? Chintz and a roaring fire—is there any picture that more vividly symbolizes the delightful Canadian home? So having embraced chintz, where are we to use it?
Like every other good thing, it must not be overdone, or it loses the strength of its qualities. Two or three big comfortable chairs upholstered or slipcovered in chintz, or perhaps fewer chairs and a chesterfield, are about all that you can manage in one fairly well-proportioned room. Don’t overdo it. If there
are seats to be covered in smaller chairs, if there are footstools, don’t pepper your effect by covering them all in the same upholsterywith your big pieces. You may, however, further carry out your chintz pattern in one side of your portieres, or in your long over - curtains, pro-
vided they are net too numerous. If you have a pair of French doors, for instance, such drapery would not be too much there. But it is usually inadvisable to continue two or three windows in design, where it has been much used elsewhere about the room.
Now, for your secondary materials/ It is often a good plan to have one large piece of furniture in upholstery entirely different from anything else in the room, and that as plain and as near one color as possible. It may be your chesterfield or a big arm chair, but to avoid monotony provide a different note. The velvetycushioned effects, or the heavy, tapestrylike surface will furnish you with the required variety. As to its shade, it may be lighter or darker than your prevailing figured material, according to the needs of the room. For more general second upholstery or hanging material, for curtaining or incidental pieces, there are figured denims, small diapered chintzes or those with a smaller design which are most effective. The glazed sateens in dark or brilliant color are extremely smart, and have a crisp wellgroomed appearance.
What of the Rugs?
UNLESS you can afford real Oriental rugs, eschew any design in floor covering in your living room. There is a very soft gray-lavender rug manufactured in France called “Franco-Persian” that
has very much the same effect, and which is permissible in its soft, almost undiscernible design. However, there is a great feeling in the new interiors for onecolor floor covering. The fine deep naps of the domestic carpets in plain buff, mulberry, blue, gray, lavender and pastel green, offer delightful choices. Remember that your rug, like your walls, is a background. It is a foundation upon which the color of your room may be built—not one of its color features. Confine yourself wherever possible to neutral effects as much as possible, providing for cool or warm color as the requirements of the room demand.
“ UOUR walls do not a prison make, nor " iron bars a cage”—but a room in hectic or dismal paper can do more toward making life miserable than many more obvious causes. Of late the figured papers have been coming back into vogue in extremely modernistic and beautiful patterns—and the result has been that upholstery and curtaining has had to take refuge in the stripe or plain material, wherever it has been used. On the other hand, the perfectly plain unpapered wall, tinted either in water color or oil painted, has had an equal vogue. The cottoning and painting process especially with panelling, has been adopted very widely in the modern living rooms. Of course, with the figured papers, it is almost impossible to hang pictures. Here, in reality, you are getting the major part of your effect with color. The idea of background is just reversed with the figured papers—walls become the high point of interest in this treatment, and the drapery and upholstery become subordinate. In the perfectly plain wall treatment, a few beautifully toned pictures in rich color will be all that you require. Each picture should be a well of beauty to the eye, and beauty cannot bear repetition in too close proximity. Note how this rule is carried out in the accompanying picture.
What is New in Color?
I WAS much amused recently to read in a book published not more than five or six years ago, directions for table dressing, in which the author advises the use of pink or blue “but no stronger colors.” And indeed it was not so very long ago, that bedrooms were considered from but two angles (like layettes for babies) in either “pink” or “blue”! Then there were the «“conservative” colors for living room and dining room. Dark blues and browns were considered “good taste,” and I’m sure none of us will ever entirely recover from the prejudices we received about that time for red and green! True enough, with the treatment they received, they were terrible enough, but even they have been redeemed in the new schemes. There is nothing new about color but knowing how to treat it. When you have learned to manage and appreciate it; or when you have learned to manage it so that others are pleased, they know not why, then you have achieved the first principle of its ministry.
The first division you will have to understand is the difference between “warm” and “cool” colors. In a north room, your first consideration is to create a feeling of sunlight which does not exist in actuality—and your warm colors are indicated. In a room flooded with sunlight, you can get your best effects with the deeper if not always cooler colors. Blue is the primary “cool” color, and all its mixtures follow suit. Consider then on the cold side of your palette, blue, green, lavender and gray. Gray is not a color, but a shade, and a cool one; it is a foundation upon which actual color may be laid. Now on the sunny side, are all the ramifications of crimson to rose, burnt umber to canary yellow and buff. What may be considered new is their combination where fear kept them long apart. Especially do the pastel shades lend themselves to unions which would formerly have been considered productive of a “fight.” For instance, have you ever thought of the combination of metallic yellow and gray? Can you picture in your mind, the blending of yellow, black, cerise and purple? It is the natural color of the exotic poppy, and there are many ways of introducing it into the room without the slightest
effect of affectation or a sensation of “incense-laden atmosphere.”
What is Texture?
BUT color is not everything in the final balance of your room. There is that all-important matter of “texture,” and it plays an even more important part nowadays than it formerly d’d. You can readily understand that, where architectural treatment is as severe as is the modern tendency, much of the effect of opulence which is produced must emanate from the actual physical character of the materials used in decoration as well as their color; and vice versa. So though you may bedeck your room with the “warmest” of colors, if they be laid upon fabrics which have no body in themselves, your effect will still be fundamentally meagre. A thin cretonne or China silk, no matter what properties of cheer they may possess, can never take the place of the full-bodied chintz or silky velvet. So in your bedrooms—you cannot weigh them down with over-heavy taffetas and brocades, no matter in what cool or dainty colors, and expect them to have the same properties of airiness as if treated in a crisp, glazed percale, for instance, or with sash curtains of tarletan. And in the dressing of your windows, remember the filtration of light. It must not be shut out, but diffused, and the lighter materials such as the nets and sleazy silks, will be your best friends in this department. Do not be afraid of a little color in your under-curtains. The faint golds, roses and lavenders are very effective in regulating your light—while the tarletans and many-colored marquisettes may be used in any and every color and require no further window-hanging.
When you begin working out a color scheme, you will readily realize the necessity of the introduction of some little thing that will be different. It may be a cushion; it may be a footstool, a vase, a plaque or a figurine. The cushions which are such gorgeous bits of color and which give such character to a room, are often made up from the merest hodge-podge of materials. If you cannot secure them in unusual shapes, you can easily make them yourself in triangles, oblongs and the long sausagelike ones for floor or sofa-—even the cushion footstool. Across the end of one of these’triangular cushions, you might stretch a piece of gold damask or brocade —a remnant and inexpensive. Say that the body of the creation is black, glorify it with a corresponding band of rich stripes in taffeta at the other corner, perhaps with cerise at the third. Now appliqué—a wavering band of appie green across the centre from end to end. Attach a tassel to one corner, and you have one of those intensely decorative bits that give real individuality to your setting. Don’t be afraid of color. There is always some quiet corner of the room which requires just such a wakening up as a pillow of that kind can give it! Look in the gift shops at some of the marvellous cushion conceptions in batik and stencilling that are coming over from Italy, and you will have inspiration enough to make some of your own. For little or nothing you can pick up pieces of Czechoslovakian glass, the odd bit of Majolica ware, and even quite reasonably, sometimes, a Chelsea figurine. These are your “occasional” bits of color.
Here arethree color schemes illustrative of the theory under discussion:
For a Bedroom
A LAVENDER ROOM — Individual (upper and lower) sash curtains of peach tarletan. Lavender rug. Hangings of cretonne, chintz or glazed percale in design in which lavender predominates. Cushions, lamp or footstool in apple green.
A Rose Room—Rose dotted Swiss frilled tie-back sash curtains. Sofa or chair in blue, lavender and rose stripe. Prevailing chintz of rose, blue and lavender. Rug, lavender or gray. Blue cushions or any other incidental touch.
A Yellow Room—Yellow shading to orange marquisette top to bottom sash curtains. Lavender rug. Prevailing chintz or figured percale in yellow with touches of lavender. Light blue, gray and lavender cushions. An ornament of some very rich yellow with other touches of lavender and blue. Rug may be bordered in yellow flowered pattern or plain band.
A number of color schemes are also suggested in the following table:
For a Living Room
UPHOLSTERY WALLS CURTAINS PORTIERES First Fabric Incidental Second FabricChintz, polyPlum Diapered Second First Buff chrome fruit colored denim FabricFabricmonotone design, plum velvet old gold or Orientals color predomi(winter) with buff prenant Black glazed dominant sateen (summer) Dark blue allGold Small Large Second First Buff over invisible velvet flowered figured FabricFabricmonotone figure rep or (winter) wool chintz paper pattern, or Orientals Canary (like nunsyellow with buff yellow veiling I and burnt predominant glazed cream backumber presateen ground, and dominant (summer) flowers of warm gold or Figured Black Heavy rose First Gray lavender velvet poplin, Fabric; gray, monotone -chintz (winter) diapered or «•r paper or Orientals, Black soft blue gray predomiand white gray nant. Francostriped predominant Persians or sateen
For a Dining Room
WOODWORK WALLS HANGINGS Dark oak Natural stucco Burnt umber casement curtains in velvet (winter). Ribbed or corded striped silk with any warm color Ivory white Colonial scenic paper in predominant Metallic yellow (summer). velvet or blue, brown, green or gray ribbed silk or heavy cream chintz with small widely Mahogany separated Metallic blue flower. ribbed silk, or metallic yellow, bound with blue.