Those people who make a hobby of their houses - and there are few more delightful hobbies in the world - find in its metal-work a wide scope for artistic decoration and for the expression of their own individuality. Door - plates and handles now come under this heading of metal-work, as the early Victorian porcelain edition of these things is a matter of past history. True, one has seen charming porcelain finger-plates daintily painted with flower designs that seem very appropriate for a bedroom; but when one remembers the original character of door furniture, one recognises that metal is the only suitable medium for these things.
The earliest door-fastening of all was merely a wooden staple with a bar passed through it. This, however, gave way to the work of the smith, and finally occupied the attention of the armourer. Some of the old locks are very interesting, and one of the time of William and Mary is here shown (Fig. 1). Finger-plates did not come into being until towards the end of the eighteenth century, and those who have a passion for genuine antiques, love to possess examples of this period. Now, however, the interest in door furniture is so universal that excellent designs adapted from various periods can be bought. Of these, the Louis XV. and the Adams patterns (see Fig. 2) are the most popular. The modern ormolu in which they are made is often very delightful, and if people realised the amount of labour and talent lavished upon its production, they would not begrudge the money it costs. Though much of it comes from France, a large proportion is evolved in the very heart of London itself.
Fig. I. A genuine old lock of the period of William and Mary, This interesting specimen is of fin-design and workmanship
Fig. 2. An elaborately wrought door-plate after
When one remembers the period of antipathy to anything gilded, the present rage for such things seems amusing. Really beautiful examples of modern ormolu are very expensive, 3 10s. being a by no means unusual price for an elaborate set, including plate-handle and escutcheon. Oxidised silver, which is also very popular, is nearly as costly. But, fortunately for those of average means, equally good, if simpler, designs are to be had in lacquered work at more moderate prices, and also in brass.
The essential point to avoid in inexpensive door furniture is over-elaboration. One of the best possible designs has a plain surface with no decoration, save for one of the delightfully simple little borders which are characteristic of the Louis XV. period (Figs. 3, 4, and 5). Of these borders the ribbon-and-reed and the laurel-and-reed are the most frequently chosen, and a complete set of door furniture in this style can be bought for about half a guinea. This would also accord perfectly with an Adams room.
Fig. 4. Shutter knobs and key-drop of Louis XV. design, with reed-andsome excellent modern work is being executed in Birmingham, which, being band wrought, lasts for ever, and never goes out of fashion. For this reason people are often ready to pay a larger sum than they would otherwise care to expend on such a thing as door furniture. One may also obtain in this way interesting and unusual designs, as in Fig. 6, where the door-plate is extended and the door-handle inserted through it. Cheap imitations of handwork are, however, not to be endured. Copper finger-plates, stamped out instead of being hand-beaten, are specially inexcusable, for, owing to their colour, they attract attention, and the onlooker at once recognises that they are utterly unworthy.
Artistic door furniture improves the appearance of any room, but in transforming the attic bedroom it works wonders. We also most of us know of delightful old sitting-rooms, reclaimed from attics, given over perhaps to the girls of the house, in which a cast-iron lock has been left on the door. This spoils the look of the whole room, and to complete the metamorphosis of such an apartment it is certainly worth while to invest in some new door furniture.
In these days of constant change of abode some may hesitate to expend much money in this way, but it should be remembered that new door furniture can be taken away by the tenant if the original fittings are replaced.
It should be considered an axiom of good furnishing that beauty is always best introduced in that which is essential. The reason why a room is often a failure is that people consider that the main features, what one might almost call the structural parts of a room, need not be essentially beauti-ful, but that beauty can be introduced afterwards in the form of ornamentation, such as pictures and china. It is the same fundamental error that leads the woman with a badly cut dress to overload it with trimming. Nothing can hide the original bad cut. So, too, such an apparently insignificant, commonplace necessity as door furniture should be made an excuse for combining the beautiful and useful. The rooms which give one a sense of pleasure and restfulness will always be found to be those in which individual attention has been given to such least details.
Fig. 3. A door-plate of simple Louis XV. design,showing the ribbon-and-reed border Messrs. Hampton &• Sons
In selecting door furniture, not only does design and workman-ship come under consideration, but the question of colour must also be taken into account in choosing the metal. Oxidised silver is found in the majority of houses, as it has the attraction of novelty; and there is a less expensive imitation of this also to be had. It looks particularly well in a dining-room, and harmonises delightfully with greens and blues. White woodwork is very generally used at present, a fact which permits a wide choice of metal fittings; but oxidised silver certainly looks its best on a blue, green, or some dark shade of paint.
Fig. 6. An original and interesting ex-ample of modern hand-made work, from the Birming-ham Guild of Handicraft
With regard to suitability of design, an equally critical judgment is needed. On one of the fine mahogany doors framed in white woodwork after the Adams style that have recently enjoyed a revival of favour, oxidised silver door furniture would be an anachronism that would not be permitted for a moment in these days of taste and artistic perception. On the other hand, the incongruity of French door furniture, perhaps in a Louis XIV. design, in a distinctly modern room is equally to be avoided.
A fresh item in the way of door furniture is the bed-room door knocker. Probably the first of these to be made was a miniature reproduction of the devil's head on the sanctuary door at Durham Cathedral. Visitors to this town bought these replicas as mementos, and had them fixed to their doors. They are now, however, found in a great variety of quaint and interesting designs, mostly of ecclesiastical origin.
Plication of the Louis
Fig. 5. A further apxv. ribbon-and-reed design