Carefully chosen wall hangings will transform a dull room into a place of dignified charm
MARY AGNES PEASEFebruary11929
Wall Hangings of Distinction
THE HOME BEAUTIFUL
Carefully chosen wall hangings will transform a dull room into a place of dignified charm
MARY AGNES PEASE
PROBABLY the first attempts at decoration of the rude dwellings of our primitive ancestors were made on the walls, in the effort to give a touch of color and gaiety to otherwise dark and dismal quarters. Crude designs in pigment told the story of hunting exploits and the religious beliefs and aspirations of an untutored people. Man has progressed far in art since those times, and yet the very themes that were so crudely expressed by our forebears still persist in many of the pictures and decorative work that we hang on the walls of our homes to-day.
The pageantry of form and color stays longer in the memory than the story that it seeks to portray. I can remember perfectly an incident of my childhood which bears this out. I was taken to see a bride whose new house was of the Colonial type with large square rooms and high ceilings. The “parlor” was completely furnished in the late Victorian manner with dark woods and fabrics. Its dull appearance was further accentuated by long wall spaces, relieved only by a few small pictures hung high in accordance with the custom of the times, which rather emphasized the bareness of its walls. The bride showed us some of her wedding gifts, among them a large embroidered panel in gorgeous colors which had been sent to her from a relative in China, and which she described as “handsome but useless.” One of her visitors suggested that it be hung on one of the bare walls, and it was pinned up as an experiment. The effect was really remarkable. The room suddenly bloomed into beauty as though touched by a fairy wand. My memory of everything else in that room and even of the people who were there, is rather vague, but I remember that panel perfectly.
In the olden days, decoration, or furnishing to produce a pleasing effect, was limited to what was called the
“better classes,” but to-day wider distribution of wealth and education makes it possible for practically everybody to enjoy association with artistic surroundings. For'those of us who do not possess Chinese panels or the like, many charming effects can be secured at small cost that are unusual and distinctive. The small hanging, a photograph of which is reproduced with this article, is an example of this. It was made by a Belgian now living in Canada, who wanted a decorative hanging for his wall but had no money to spend on one. As a foundation for this hanging he used a canvas sack which he painted in rust and mulberry colors, using heavy twine to outline the various designs, and also to form the pleated borders. The white birds in the centre were cut out of old kid gloves, appliquéd on, and painted white with the necessary touches of black. The twine was brightened with gold paint which served to enhance the pattern of the tree trunks, leaves, etc. Altogether, it is a most ingenious and attractive hanging and cost no money to produce.
There are few of us who have not some treasured piece of woven silk or velvet, a Paisley shawl, or a bit of old tapestry that can be turned to good account as a wall hanging. In the much advertised winter sales, one may easily find beautiful remnants of material in the furniture shops that will transform a dark wall into a thing of beauty. If one is looking for such material, rare bargains in odds and ends of expensive chintz, hand-blocked India prints or hand-woven velvet can be picked up for next to nothing, any one of which will make a lovely hanging.
Sometimes a decorative piece of fabric can be used for other purposes than as wall hangings. I saw one recently on the back of a piano, the keyboard of which had been turned toward a window. The fabric was of heavy woven silk in blue and orange tones. Against this was placed a small table which broke the long expanse and on which a few books and a piece of blue pottery were placed. This arrangement quite dispelled the heavy effect of the long wooden back of the piano, and was in addition very satisfying to the eye. A Paisley shawl with a bright centre would also make an effective hanging for this purpose, provided, of course, that it was in harmony with the color scheme of the room.
Batiks in Oriental Designs
A CANADIAN artist who has recently returned from the Far East brought back some very beautiful hangings for his house. They are made of heavy silk richly embroidered. Two of them hang opposite each other in the dining room and are the only decoration on the walls. One of the chief charms of these hangings is the entertaining and amusing stories that they tell. A dinner party is much more likely to be successful if it has something colorful and interesting to look at as well as to eat. A diverting wall-hanging contributes its bit by providing a topic of conversation. It would be rather a mistake, however, to select pictures or hangings for a dining room that suggested sumptuous feasting if the food served by the hostess was unlikely to be remarkable for its quality or quantity. This brings to mind the story of Balzac who described the sad state of some poor little pensionnaires who were served wretched food in a dining room, the walls of which were painted with tantalizing scenes of a sumptuous banquet.
Oriental art has been the inspiration of many Western peoples throughout the centuries. The two large panels illustrated, which are owned by the RyrieBirks Company, of Toronto, are instances of this. They are the work of the late Homer Conant, an artist well-known for his beautiful mural decorations: and were produced after a lengthy visit to the Orient where he studied the art of the Orientals as well as ancient history and costumes.
One of the charms of hangings such as these is that there can be no exact duplication of them because of the uncertainty of the dyeing process. It must have been
they lose their charm. They are meant to be free from the wall except at the point from which they are suspended. Large panels are charming if treated in a manner similar to the Japanese hangings in this illustration. For smaller ones, a row of hooks should be placed along the wall where the top of the hanging is to come, about seven inches apart. Then small rings should be sewn along the upper edge of the hanging sufficiently low so that they will not show when the hanging is in position. No other fastening is required. This method shows them off properly and also makes it possible to remove them easily for cleaning purposes,
extremely difficult to make these particular “batiks” because they are produced on very fine Japanese silk. In describing them, Mr. Conant said: “I couldn’t duplicate these panels if I tried, as the results in cracking, dyeing one color over another, etc., are more or less accidental. There is not only the picture to consider but also the difficult process of working on silk and not being able to change anything once it is done. After the design is made, I use hot beeswax, paraffin, rosin, and aniline dyes, and dip from light colors to dark, sometimes as many as fifteen times.” Compared with tapestries, these arrestingly beautiful hangings are more original in color and design but, of course, with many people nothing could take the place of the dignified examples of old needlework which call up a host of rich associations of an older day when ladies worked the stories of their times with brightcolored threads across the warp of canvases while awaiting the return of their warriors. Such heritages of the past have an indescribable tinge of history and romance about them which they impart to their surroundings.
Proper Hanging Important
'T'HE placing of wall hangings is an -I important consideration. To appear to the best advantage they should hang loosely from the wall; if stretched flat
It is sometimes desirable to line hangings. The large ones in the illustration are bound but not lined although they are very light in weight. Their length and method of hanging doubtless made a lining unnecessary. I saw some beautiful silk murals for wall decoration recently and found them in every case lined with a very thin cotton which had been dyed in one of the colors of the design. Needlework panels should always be lined, and it is often an improvement if the lining be brought out beyond the edge to form a border. In such instance great care should be taken that the border enhance as well as protect the panel.
In the case of a room which is large and for which a panel is the chief wall decoration, a central position should be selected for it over one of the largest pieces of furniture—a low sideboard or a sofa— which should be placed quite straight beneath it. If there is a fireplace in the room, the logical place for the hanging may be over that.
I do not know of any more desirable background for a sofa than a wall hanging. Too often the whole appearance of a room is spoiled by the arrangement of pictures behind this somewhat bulky piece of furniture. A decorative hanging seems to belong behind a sofa, and if it is of the right size and color it will add greatly to the beauty of the wood or fabric beneath it.
Wall hangings suggest endless possibilities of decoration. .Sometimes they are over-featured in a room and look as much out of place as a gypsy at a Quaker meeting. Hangings should foe made important but not all-important. The rich colors in them should be ¡reflected in other accessories such as a cushion, lampshade or vase. The ensemble idea should never be lost sight of in the decoration of a room.
Several of our Canadian artists have added to their other productions the making of panels somewhat in the form •of the Japanese ones illustrated. These are exceptionally attractive and decorative and are not prohibitive in price. I saw one the other day bearing the design of am ancient castle, colored in dull blues and greens which had been bought for fifteen dollars and which made a lovely background for an oak desk.
Indian Boldness and Habitant Quaintness
AN ARTIST in Western Canada is Lx. directing the work of some of our Indians who are reviving the art of their forefathers. Some of this work was exhibited at several Canadian art galleries where it was greatly admired for its boldness of design and coloring. I understand that a few of the panels exhibited have been purchased for useaswall panels.
For country houses the hooked rugs for which some Canadian Provinces have become famous, make splendid wall pieces. A New York visitor to the Handicrafts Festival at Quebec told me that he used these rugs entirely for both floor and wall decoration in his cabin in the woods. Our present interest in strong colors in fabrics gives well-designed rugs of modern make a plaee in the decorative scheme, but such decoration is, of course, more at home in rooms furnished in the cottage manner.
One of the many advantages of the use of a decorative panel is that it suggests space so that it may be properly admired. It provides so much furnishing and decoration in itself that no room could remain overcrowded with furniture after a beautiful panel had been hung on its walls for a short time. The Japanese have mastered this idea perfectly. To many their sparsely furnished rooms look bare, but there is an artistic simplicity about them that is very restful. Although there is seldom more than one picture or hanging in a Japanese room, it is always a beautiful one with a special meaning for the family that owns it.
So if you have a dull room or a bare room, why not consider the possibilities of a wallhanging for it? If carefully chosen it will not only lend gaiety and cheer to your room, but will add to it a large measure of beauty and dignity.
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