No problems of household management are perhaps more trying to the average woman than those of decoration and furnishing. The daily paper will provide her with menus for every day in the week, with directions for the preparation and the service of the food. The current magazine will give her numerous suggestions for her clothing, but she finds fewer helps in the line of decoration and feels a greater need for assistance there.
The subject is a large one. Let us begin with some questions.
What does decorate mean? To embellish; to adorn. The savage decorates his body with paint; his tools by carving them. The child easily learns to say "pretty," "pretty;" and the woman tries to express her sense of beauty in her house furnishings. Why does she so often fail? Usually for one of three reasons, viz.: (1) Because of a lack of trained color sense; (2) Because she overlooked the law of appropriateness; (3) Because of the lack of means. But no amount of money can compensate for the failure to appreciate the value of color and appropriateness.
The definition of decoration sometimes leads one astray by giving the impression that decoration applies to something added and has nothing to do with the original construction, while the truth is that good decoration in houses has its beginning in good architecture and that a room which has good lines and good proportions will require less decoration and look much better than one not so constructed.
A trained color sense is not an easy thing to acquire; it is born of association with the beautiful, and some people's opportunity for seeing the beautiful creations in the way of art treasures and good architecture has been limited.
However, one should not be discouraged. Nature shows us beautiful things in form and color, so most of us have access to at least one great teacher. Moreover, the world is waking up to the pleasure and profit to be found in developing the artistic instinct. Copies of the really good pictures of the world are being made for moderate prices. The school children are being trained in form and color, and William Morris's definition of decoration, "To give people pleasure in the things they must perforce use; that is the one great office of decoration. To give people pleasure in the things they must perforce make; that is the other use of it", is being appreciated more and more.
Where then shall the decoration begin? With the lines of the room. If the house be new, it is to be hoped that the builder has realized the truth of the statement, "Proportion is the good breeding of Architecture". If the room is not in right proportion, deco ration should begin in the consideration of what may be done to make the lines of the room good. If the ceiling be too high, the effect of lowering it may be given by allowing the ceiling paper (or calcimine) to extend a foot or more on the side wall. The picture molding may be put on where the ceiling paper meets that of the side wall. If the pictures are hung from this molding and brought down to the level of the eyes, one is helped to the impression that the molding marks the line of the ceiling. "Skied" pictures that one must stretch one's neck to see are never decorative. A wainscoting and frieze help greatly in breaking up a high side wall.
CHEERFUL LIVING ROOM. PLAN No. 5, PAGE 70.
A LIVING ROOM DEVOTED TO MUSIC. See House Plan No. 2, Page 62.