By Helen Mathers
Colour in the Dining-room - Pictures and their Value - A Panelled Room
A dining-room should give the impression of good cheer and comfort. If on entering the room, therefore, your palate is tickled or your sensitive eyes are irritated by light flashed full in them, there is something very wrong with that room, and the sooner you alter the disposition of its light the better.
The ideal way of lighting a dining-table is from the wall by electric light clusters with flat shades of pale pink against them, placed rather high, and for the table itself there is nothing better than silver candlesticks, with thick pink silk shades, edged with bead fringe to give weight, or an old high silver candelabra as in our illustration.
It is upon the table and its lighting that attention should be concentrated. The furnishing, even, is of secondary importance, and the colour of the carpet becomes negligible, at any rate at night. The object of a dining-room is to allow folks to eat their food in peace, in a diffused light which is soothing to their feelings and complexions, and just as every skilled hostess forbids the discussion of politics or religion at her dinner parties, so she should banish the discordant element of light in the wrong place.
Of course, there is always some idiot who hunts for snails in his salad, and protests that he likes to see what he is eating, and once when I had a cook with a glass eye, a man told me he would always expect to find it in the soup. Well, I don't advocate a light in which you would fail to see that eye, but I would rather risk that accident than sit at a charming table with a lamp suspended above it whose pink or rose-coloured petticoat is just two inches too short, so that the naked electric bulbs positively smite me full in the eye, and seem to gloat over my nauighty temper and discomfort.
In this, as in other cases, it is the inside of the matter that is neglected. Those bulbs should be covered with silk of the colour of the shade, and though the effect will not be so good as that of the wall lights and the silk-shaded candlesticks, it will still be possible to eat without malice and hatred ruining our digestions.
If in addition to this mercy you get the flowers on the table of the light shades, arranged in silver, you may count yourself happy. Gold plate is only bearable when wedded to pink flowers - with blue, red, or white it is hopelessly vulgar. In one instance, where I saw stands, epergnes, dishes, vases, all filled with, pink begonias, the effect was the feast of colour which, perhaps, gold and pink combined alone are able to furnish.
This room is in a house three hundred years old, full of old, beautiful things bought lovingly bit by bit
Granted, then, that the all-important problem of successful lighting is solved, how should a dining-room be furnished ? A soft, thick carpet, Turkey for preference, is desirable, and whatever is the dominant note of colour in the room, that colour should appear positively in the carpet, and, of course, the hangings, while almost any furniture that is good of its kind may go with it.
There are, however, dining-rooms and dining-rooms. There is the soundless room where the rich man eats, sunk deep in luxury, where soft-footed men serve food like priests conducting a ceremony, and pour out wine as if it were an oblation; and there are rooms through which a turbulent flood of young life flows daily. It is with this latter, the dining-room of every-day life, that this article is concerned chiefly. I can only make a few homely suggestions, easy to "follow, and insist on nothing being retained in any dining-room that is not for comfort, and that the walls should be left entirely undecorated. Unless pictures or prints" really worthy of the dignity of isolation are obtainable, it is well to remember that a striped paper all of one colour rests the eye much more than one with a pattern on it.
For a simple dining-room, one within the reach of a moderate purse, a capital effect is produced by a white striped paper, white woodwork, a red or blue Turkey carpet, bright red or bright blue silk curtains, sparingly appliqued with Oriental embroidery, an embroidered Persian overmantel, and table centre of either red or blue. Add a high screen of gold, red, or gold and blue leather paper, and a few, a very few, good engravings, and furnish with dark oak for preference, as it looks well, wears well, and is now, during the craze for old furniture, extraordinarily cheap.
For a red room, flowers of every shade from pink to bright red are admissible, but crimson must be excluded, whilst for a blue room nothing is prettier than mauve, purple, and blue. A dull-blue bowl filled with purple flags or mauve rhododendrons is a lovely sight in a blue room, just as a red bowl filled with pink sweet peas shaded to magenta is the right thing for a red one. In the latter you can get a wonderful effect by placing a tree of Japanese apple-blossom behind the red or scarlet screen, and putting some sprays in jars on the mantelpieces; but the most beautiful colour effect in flowers I ever produced was with masses of every shade of pink and rose poppies in a red dining-room furnished with oak.
For a dining-room, as in other rooms, you should, above all things, take care of your corners - a pedestal, a stand, anything that will carry high foliage up, and so break the flatness of the room, is extremely valuable in effect. Green boughs look better than anything else, if tall flowers of the right colour are not available.
For the possessor of good pictures a different scheme of colour altogether is required, or indeed almost a lack of it; though I must confess to a leaning towards certain shades of red as a background for oil paintings, and I have seen wonderful effects produced by Venetian gold frames hanging against blue. As a rule, a dull shade of green is the favourite.
Granted, then, that one has splendid pictures, and knows how to hang them, all the furnishings in the room should be soberly splendid and subdued, that they may not dispute supremacy with the glowing richness on the walls. Pictures are like human beings, and respond to harmonious lighting and surroundings.
The dining-room illustrated is a white room. On the right of it is a Jacobean cabinet of walnut and oak, inlaid with, mother-o'-pearl and gold spirals - a beautiful example of the art of the period. The round table is of polished mahogany, with a piece of wood running round the top, and meals are served on it without a cloth, and with worked linen doyleys under the plates. The spiral stand is a freemason's candlestick, and a Sheraton knife-box is hung against the wall. This room is in a house three hundred years old, on the Cots wolds, very quaint and full of old, beautiful things, bought lovingly bit by bit.
True beauty of surroundings does not depend on money, but on the elimination of foolish, useless things, on the prominence given to what ministers to the wants of either mind or body, and, therefore, is beautiful in its essential usefulness.
A good example of how to furnish a room panelled to a height of five feet in old oak may also be given.