This section is from the book "Ideals In Art: Papers Theoretical Practical Critical", by Walter Crane . Also available from Amazon: Ideals in Art: Papers Theoretical, Practical, Critical.
As a rule, in modern drawing-rooms and living-rooms, there are too many colours, as well as too much furniture. The proportions of the architect and the scheme of the decorator hardly have a chance.
"Elizabeth in her German Garden" speaks of the charm of rooms newly distempered and papered, with no furniture in them; but though it might make a paper-hanger happy, I fear this would be too severe for ordinary English taste.
Flemish Fifteenth-Century Interior
Lucas van Leyden, "The Annunciation," Munich, Pinacothek
I remember a gentleman at Los Angeles, California, showing me with pride a room in his villa he had papered with a gorgeous wall-paper with lots of gold in it. He considered it sufficient in itself, an end and not a means, and apparently had no intention of disturbing or obscuring the design by pictures or furniture, except perhaps a chair or a couch from which to contemplate the splendours of the pattern.
I think there is a good deal to be said for the adoption of the Eastern idea of a divan for western salons - seats all round the room and in the windows, with small moveable coffee-tables. Ladies who entertain would find this a very convenient arrangement for "at home" days, and with a parquet floor the young people would only have to roll up the rugs to find dancing room at short notice. The hall, or house place of old English houses, no doubt easily lent itself to hospitable and social gatherings, the long tables and benches ranged along the walls leaving plenty of floor space for games or dancing, while the ingle-nook invited the gossips and story-tellers.
The revival of the hall or living-room with the ingle-nook is a noteworthy feature in recent country houses. In fact, in the design and construction of the small country houses or country cottages built of late years, mostly as retreats for workers in towns, artists and others, we find the most successful, attractive, and characteristic buildings of our time, probably. The cottages designed by Mr. C. F. A. Voysey, for instance, with rough-cast battened and but-tressed walls, green or Whitland Abbey slates,
Carpaccio's "The Dream of St. Ursula," Accademia, Venice
From a Photograph by Anderson green outside shutters, and white casements, have the charm of neatness, quaintness, and simplicity, an utter absence of pretentiousness and show, and a regard for the character of their site. There are some charming cottages of this type at Bournville, already referred to, designed by Mr. Harvey, the young architect of the estate. I give one here of my son's (Mr. Lionel Francis Crane) design - a timber cottage in the recent "Cottages Exhibition" at Garden City. In designing a country house, an architect is of course much less fettered than with a town or street site, and he can frame it in a garden, which is an important decorative adjunct or setting to a country house or cottage. It is possible also to make it fit into or even become a part of the scenery, especially if local materials are employed. Indeed, it seems to me, that the secret of harmonious effect in building lies in the use of local materials as regards country houses. The beauty of our old castles, abbeys, country houses and cottages is greatly owing to this. We feel they are in harmony with the character and colour of the scenery, and have become parts of these, independently of the effects of time.
In the present awakening of the public mind to the importance of the housing question, and the want of substantial, comfortable, as well as comely dwellings for the people, especially in the country districts, much attention has been directed to cottage building, and a practical effort is being made by the Garden City Association to solve the question in the competitive exhibition in cottage design and building they recently organized. The question is, as usual, complicated by the commercial question of profit and percentages on invested capital.
Were the object solely the national welfare,
Cottage in the Garden City, Letch-worth, Herts
Architect, Lionel F. Crane. Builder, Frank New-ton, Hitchin
Interior of Cottage at Letchworth
Architect, Lionel F. Crane. The Furniture by A. Heal (Messrs. Heal and Son)
Interior of Cottage at Letchworth
Architect, Lionel F. Crane. The Furniture by A. Heal (Messrs. Heal and Son) as it should be, cottages could be designed and built good to live in and seemly to look at. Objections have been made to the local bye-laws, but so far as I am aware these bye-laws are only intended to secure the minimum conditions necessary to health and comfort, and would in no way interfere with the erection of well-built and sightly cottages. Thatch, it is true, is I believe, in some counties forbidden on account of danger from fire (probably really increased by the use of low-flash oil in cheap lamps), but for detached cottages with the use of iron laths and reed thatch (as Mr. Robert Williams has pointed out) such danger is reduced to a minimum, and certainly there are thatched cottages and barns, and even churches, in England which have lasted hundreds of years, and thatch, after all, makes an excellent roof, cool in summer and warm in winter, and pleasant to look upon.
How charming a cottage can be made, how picturesque and pleasing though quite new, how perfectly in keeping with its surroundings and fitted to its site, I lately had an opportunity of seeing in the neighbourhood of Leicester. I allude to a certain cottage designed by Mr. Ernest Gimson. The interior also was an illustration of how decorative rooms could look with hardly any decoration. This is a hard saying for decorators, but my impression was that whitewashed walls, plain oaken furniture, only relieved by William Morris's printed cotton in the shape of window curtains or loose cushions here and there, were sufficiently decorative considering the designs and conditions of the structure of the house. With glimpses of the wild hill-side and the beautiful woodland landscape beyond them seen through the deep-setwindows, there seemed no need for landscapes on the walls - bad news for poor frozen-out picture-painters again!
Ernest W. Gimson
Architect Stoneywell Cottage, Exterior