So You Want a Dreamhouse

A woman once insisted on a black room. But you could go just as wrong in blue. Let an expert share the headaches


So You Want a Dreamhouse

A woman once insisted on a black room. But you could go just as wrong in blue. Let an expert share the headaches


So You Want a Dreamhouse


A woman once insisted on a black room. But you could go just as wrong in blue. Let an expert share the headaches


IF YOU are almost any Canadian husband one thing you don’t lack is a ready definition for interior decorating.

It means turning your home inside out, room by room, until the only safe place of refuge is that small space under the cellar stairs where you can sprawl on a sack of Prince Edward Island potatoes.

This phenomenon occurs because your wife has been reading a book called “Dreamhouse, Unlimited” (Chapter I: “Starting from Scratch—

Your Room in the Nude”). It says that every home must have its own distinctive personality, and every last piece of chintz must fall in line or be bundled off to the summer cottage.

There is no escape. Your wife tracks you down to your cellar Shangri-la and puts you to mixing paint. You’re in the act, bub, and you’d best have a look at the program.

For reliable information, head for your nearest department or home furnishings store, find the door marked “Interior Decorator” and have a quiet chat with the worried-looking fellow sitting at the cluttered desk inside. There’s only one woman in your life bent on psychoanalyzing her hearthside; his days are filled with them.

His face st ill contorts with pain when he remembers the woman who insisted that the most important room in her home be done entirely in black— walls, ceiling and floor. But he chuckles with ^satisfaction when he recalls the curve pitched him •by another woman who wanted an old basement , turned into a fancy rumpus room.

Dodge the Double Talk

TTER cellar was a jungle of pipes and pillars,” JI,JL he tells, “so we called in an artist and told him to make a real jungle out of it. We covered in the posts and pipes and he painted them to look like the trunks of coconut trees; branch pipes he disguised as palm fronds with monkeys swinging busily from tree to tree.”

The interior decorator will tell you that despite the headaches involved he and his opposite number in your favorite store are happy to help anyone with a redecorating or refurnishing problem, no matter how large or small. There’s no charge for his services (only the rare interior decorator in “private practice” charges a fee for advice). But play ball with him.

Stripped of the dreamhouse double talk the principles along which the experienced no-nonsense interior decorator operates are very simple. The basic aim: to make home sweet home livable and easy to look at.

A man can catch claustrophobia, for instance, in a small living room crammed with overstuffed chairs, footstools, smoking stands, end tables, coffee tables and potted ferns; he could just as well catch a chill in one of those barren cells featuring

three chrome-plated tubular chairs and a Dali landscape on the wall. The decorator with the wrinkled brow will tell you that if you boil down all the books, articles and 2 o’clock lectures on the subject, interior decoration is a lot like a savings account at the bank—an attempt to achieve balance with interest.

Item: Color. The bright warm sunlight of a

big-windowed room with southern exposure can be balanced by painting or papering walls in light cool shades (blues, greens, greys and white)—but the room will have more interest if one wall, a fireplace panel or other surface is finished in one of the warm tones of red, yellow or brown. The too high ceiling of one of those canyonlike rooms found in big old homes can be “lowered” by painting it a darker shade than t he walls. To add warmth to a room that goes shy on sunlight, or to lift the lid on a low-ceilinged room, reverse these treatments.

Item: Pattern. Striped or figured drapes will

enliven walls and rug done in solid colors—and a drapery pattern which reflects the colors of floor and walls will help tie the color scheme together. The one-two rule says that if drapes, rugs and walls are all patterned the effect may well be shattering; if all three are plain the result may be monotonous. So have one patterned item to balance two plain ones, or vice versa.

Item: Arrangement. Every room should have a centre of interest. That’s the “focal point” the books talk about. It means a fireplace about which your most comfortable chairs can be grouped, or a broad window commanding a picture view. Or, again, such an interest point can be created by proper placing of a brightly covered chair or suite.

Other arranging tricks: a tall cabinet or vertical mirror against a long, unbroken wall will stop the eye and seem to shorten the room. (Try such an item against the end wall and it will turn a long room into a tunnel.) A heavily styled dining room suite that is set off to advantage in a large dining room will be too much for a small one.

Color, pattern and arrangement—these are the three tools available to make your rooms seem lively, restful, attractive or dull. But always the underlying consideration in the sort of room you wish to achieve should be convenience and the use to which the room will be put.

Ever since the experts discovered the word functionalism they have been on the warpath against all unnecessary frippery. Functionalism is simply a four-dollar word to describe advances like today’s convenient kitchens and small, neatly framed fireplaces which provide useful warmth without occupying half the wall with a towering mantelpiece carved in curlicues.

Less elaborate examples: A bookcase beside the head of your bed if you like to read horizontally.

Good light, a table and ash tray to go with each chair so you can be sure of comfort wherever you sit in your living room. Serviceable dark upholstery for sofa and chairs in a room which is bound to be overrun by children—get your bright colors here in drapes and walls, the latter in washable paints or paper.

A sound knowledge of these fundamentals of interior decoration should be a great consolation when you find yourself intimately involved with a roll of wallpaper or pushing the piano from living room to parlor. There’s an alternate solution to the whole problem which has worked well in my own home.

Wait Till You See the Cracks

WHEN we returned from one summer vacation to find the landlord had dumped all our furniture on the lawn, we realized our lifelong ambition to buy our own little dreamhouse at the current rate of $10 per brick. As with all the finer postwar homes ours came complete with stairs to the second floor and three square feet of sod in front of the porch; no shrubs, no fence, no storm windows and no paint on the walls. But we found bare plaster rather quaint, like living up against that fence Tom Sawyer wras always whitewashing; and that’s wdien we evolved the daring idea not to interior decorate.

It’s foolish to decorate, friends told us (the ones we listened to), until the house has had a chance to settle and you know where the cracks are. “Wait till your walls are good and dirty—then you’ll know the time is ripe!” declared my wife’s brother, an electrical engineer.

Well, that was three years ago. Today our walls have mellowed to a rare old ripe olive and if that crack over the kitchen door gets any wider the whole house will sink by the bows. Considering we’ve been married nearly nine years, however, and our furniture has acquired that casual scuffed-about. look, our decorative scheme is in splendid harmony and balance.

Lately, I’ll admit, the neighbors who moved into their rubber-stamp replicas of early Canadian blockhouses about the same time we moved into our house have taken to wearing rose-colored glasses when they come over for a game of bridge. This is plainly just jealousy since they could think of nothing less bourgeois to do than decorate all their rooms three different shades the moment they were settled. Now their pretty color schemes are all shot through with cracks and tattooed with little fingerprints, and they’re stuck with them.

My wife doesn’t take their petty snobbishness so lightly, I’m afraid. Why, just the other night I caught her leafing avidly through what at the time I thought w7as some new novel of passion but which, come to think of it, looked a lot like “Dreamhouse, Unlimited.”

Say ... is this a paintbrush which I see before me, the handle toward my hand? ★

ROOMS FOR ARGUMENT ACCORDING to the experts who assisted in the preparation of these sketches, some of the rooms are good design, others are bad design. But each of them illustrates the application of an accepted basic principle of interior decorat ing. We're not going to be dogmatic about it and call this a quiz, but if you would like to match your judgment against the experts w&ve prepared a check list below, and for a key to the opinions of the interior decorators turn to page 26.

1. good bad

2. good bad

3. good bad

4. good bad

5. good bad

6. good bad

7. good bad

8. good bad

9. good bad

10. good bad

11. good bad