This section is from the book "A Treatise On Architecture And Building Construction Vol4: Plumbing And Gas-Fitting, Heating And Ventilation, Painting And Decorating, Estimating And Calculating Quantities", by The Colliery Engineer Co. Also available from Amazon: A Treatise On Architecture And Building Construction.
141. The study of decoration demands something more than an elementary knowledge of the art; it calls for attention to the masterpieces left by the artists of past ages. The decorator of today must be, indeed, original, but his originality will be broadened and developed by study of the successes achieved by those who have preceded him.
Nothing is, to the practical decorator, more important than a keen appreciation of the value of color-good work being frequently marred by an injudicious arrangement of tints. Much time is often lost in attempts to match the color of the wall paper with the painting of the woodwork. The true artist, instead of matching the paper, ascertains the most appropriate contrasting colors; for, the harmony of contrasts is the key of successful decoration.
142. A useful table of direct color contrasts is the following:
Blue contrasts with orange;
Blue green contrasts with red orange;
Green contrasts with red;
Yellow green contrasts with red purple;
Yellow contrasts with purple;
Yellow orange contrasts with blue purple.
In the decoration of a cornice or frieze, the general tone of whose color having been decided on, the contrasting colors for the various members may be, by this table, readily found, and the massing or blurring of the parts easily avoided. The style of contrast depends, of course, upon the design and purpose of the room. An inside room, for instance, to which sunlight rarely finds its way, requires different treatment from a bright, airy room on the sunny side of the house. The ground color of any wall paper being noted, reference to the list will at once give the color demanded by the figures on the paper or the woodwork. Thus, a blue-green ground requires a reddish-orange tint, the effect being to define the boundary of wall and cornice with elegance and distinctness. Care should be taken in tinting a cornice that the colors, as they approach the ceiling, recede from the eye, an effect attained by reducing the strength of the colors employed until that, which on the lower members is a distinct color, becomes at the top a mere tint, preserving only the original tone. Attention to this point prevents the ceiling from appearing to be too low. Decoration of any kind tends to give this effect of lowness to the ceiling; when, therefore, the light tints are kept in accord with the general color of the room itself, the more pleasing, because less obtrusive, the effect.
The stencil plate may, with advantage, be employed for the embellishment of coves of cornices, the frieze of a wall, or the panel of a ceiling. Stenciling has, in recent years, grown in favor with the decorator, the result being that a number of highly effective polychromatic combinations, never seen in the earlier days or works, have been made by the use of various sets of stencils to form one harmonious design, produced with the greatest facility and precision.