Another field for design in dress is that of accessories, rather than of the dress as a whole. Here greater possibilities lie before the designer. A band, a bit of embroidery, or a medallion, to be used in small amount, may be much bolder in treatment than the material from which a whole garment is made. Stronger colors and larger figures are permissible, and there is greater opportunity for the exercise of imagination and skill. The main fabric of a garment must be rather conventional, but the ornament need not be limited by such narrow bounds. In these accessories of trimming, strength and character of both color and design are required. If the trimming is to add distinction to the dress it must have qualities which make for distinction.

In the selection of house furnishing materials the choice of design is much more varied. The surfaces to be covered in rooms are larger, the effect as a whole is less limited, and there is greater opportunity for skill in combining colors and in design. Here again, if the best results are to be obtained limitations must be recognized.

Frequently because of the choice of large figures and strong colors in wall paper a room is made to look small. The design in a rug may seem to rise up and greet one on entering a room. Confusion may be the result of too many figured surfaces.

Each type of furnishing material imposes its limitations on design. The hanging demands design that is not spoiled by folds. Where a diagonal stripe would be broken and would give an unpleasant effect, a vertical or horizontal stripe would be successful. Figures which break the surface and give variety of color but do not depend on being seen in their entirety are more successful than carefully developed designs which lose their charm if partly hidden. Similarly, fabrics for upholstery may be much less definite in design, because the surface is broken by buttons and the folds around the buttons. Rather indefinite foliage patterns give pleasing color variation and variety of surface, and are not dependent on large spaces for a good result.

Wall coverings or flat hangings have quite a different purpose to fulfill. They must either form a background for pictures and furniture, or they must furnish decoration. In case a background is desired, plain surfaces, two-toned designs, or simple, unobtrusive patterns are most satisfying. The wall covering should be of such nature that it will not dispute with the pictures the right to be noticed. When decoration in a narrower sense is demanded of this covering, it must possess some real value as design or as pictorial art. In houses of moderate means it is rarely possible to afford this latter type of wall decoration. In screens, sofa cushions, couch covers, and possibly in window hangings there is opportunity for expression of a love of the more unusual, the gay and the bolder design, by a bit of Japanese print. Oriental cotton, or gay English or French chintz. If the pocketbook can aspire to embroideries, there are many beautiful bits of imported silks and satins, exquisitely worked, which add a tone of richness to an interior.

The charm of Japanese designs lies largely in the grace and motion which they are able to express in the portrayal of the simplest objects, the fitness of their designs to the object decorated, and their exquisite use of color. In introducing Japanese designs into our houses, we should always bear in mind that in their native environment they are not crowded in with a great many other things, but have space enough to be appreciated.

The rug seems to furnish the most difficult problem to American manufacturers. We have already departed from the age of green dogs and purple cabbages in rugs, and are now emerging from the age of pink roses. The Persian and Turk have taught us that designs suitable for rugs must be of such a nature that they do not thrust themselves on the attention at once, but give variety of color and richness of surface without being immediately evident. Geometric and highly conventionalized forms in not too large units are desirable. Considerable variety in the design in order that the units need not be repeated at too frequent intervals produces a more pleasing result than constant repetition. Certain makes of rugs are limited in design by the mechanism of their weaving, but the better grades have practically no such limitation.

It has taken a long time to begin to teach the lesson of good taste in rug design, and the fact that it is now being appreciated is probably due to the great popularity of Oriental rugs. The design of these rugs may be copied by machines (although it becomes too perfect in the copying), but the lesson of color is still to be learned from these magic rug makers.

The subject of color and design offers a most attractive field for study, and one which is ever present. Observation of birds, trees, flowers, and other natural objects is a pleasure, and affords endless suggestions of form and color which may be adapted to decoration. Simplicity is a good watchword, for over-decoration has been a failing of the age.

References

Batchelder, Ernest A. Principles of Design. Ross, Denman W. A Theory of Pure Design. Ward, James. Colour Harmony and Contrasts.