The fireplace, which is the centre of attraction in the winter, becomes somewhat of a white elephant in the summer, when there arises the difficulty of knowing how best to treat it. One wishes it were as in the old days, a mere iron basket in the centre of the room, capable of being removed altogether.
Seeing, however, that there will probably be an extremely cold day or two in midsummer when fires would be required, such a plan would have its disadvantages. Indeed, it is inadvisable to have any arrangement that cannot quickly be displaced to allow the fire to be lighted. If on no other account,
An artistic two-fold screen, with fluted silk panels and ormolu decorations Messrs. Shoolbred this alone would form an objection to filling the grate with pots of ferns or flowers, as some people love to do. But there is another reason against this plan, and that is the downward draught which makes such a procedure come under the heading of "cruelty to plant life."
The almost universal solution of the difficulty is the little two-fold or three-fold screen, or the cheval screen. The latter presents a straight surface, and is supported at the base on feet.
To begin with the fold screens. First, there is the Japanese paper style, the greatest recommendation of which is that it is extremely inexpensive. For the rest, it is not particularly pretty in itself, nor is it, as a rule, in harmony or connection with the rest of the room. Indeed, when it comes to be placed in conjunction with French furniture it is particularly incongruous.
It was probably the great popularity of Adams, Georgian, and French rooms that made it necessary to bring out something in the shape of an inexpensive screen that would suit a room furnished in any one of these styles. A little t w o - f o 1 d tapestry screen is well adapted for the purpose, and can be had in a. variety of colours and designs. Or such a screen may be covered with the fabric actually used in the upholstering of the room. A very attractive edition of this may be bought for 12s. 6d., with a little trimming in the way of bands of fancy braids.
The more elaborate version of the fold screen is that with a polished wood frame, and either pictorial panels or merely soft silk gathered and stretched on rods between the wooden mouldings. A cheap imitation of these in stained wood is not at all satisfactory, and one of the tapestry screens described is infinitely preferable if something very inexpensive is desired. For quite a moderate
A fine example of a three-fold screen, in mahogany, with pleated silk panels. The design of the woodwork is distinctive and artistic
Messrs. Shoolbred price, however, from about 18s. 6d., a very simple design in walnut, mahogany, or rosewood is to be obtained; and for a somewhat larger sum a screen with a Sheraton moulding, with a little inlay, can be procured. When the fire-screen becomes in this way an actual piece of furniture it will be found most economical in the long run to buy something as good as the purchaser can possibly afford.
The screen made on these lines, with wooden panels instead of the silk, is a luxurious, and may be a very beautiful affair. Fashioned of inlaid satinwood, it is particularly attract i v e, and looks extremely well in a room furnished with the same wood.
We come next to the cheval screen. For a French room this may be of carved French walnut, gilded in the Louis XV. or XVI. style. It should have the decoration carved out in the wood, for if added in carton pierre it is apt to break off. The centre panel is usually upholstered in brocade, to match the room. A handsome and durable screen of this kind costs about three guineas.
For a dining-room the metal cheval screen, with a drawn-silk panel, is one of the
A two-fold wooden screen, in which picture panels are used with excellent effect best devices, and designs are now carried out in keeping with the styles of various periods. This kind of screen is suitable also for a drawing-room, as it has the great merit of simplicity. Between the two top bars there will sometimes be a little fine French old or ormolu work. In another model, the sole ornamentation is a looped string of gilded beads.
These screens are not by any means always gilded. Indeed, most of the newest are treated, like other metal-work, with an oxidised silver finish. Oxidised copper also enjoys a good share of popularity. Both of these treatments produce a delightfully soft effect, to which, to a certain extent, they owe the appreciation with which they meet; but they have the yet greater merit of not tarnishing, and requiring little in the way of cleaning. This gives them an advantage over wood, which needs constant polish-ing. A brass cheval screen can be bought for 23s. 6d., one in oxidised silver costing rather more.
A very clever and inexpensive manner of filling in the fireplace in summer is to have a wooden frame made to fit exactly in between the supports of the chimney-piece, and to gather some silk with a little heading on to the upper and lower rod. The silk should match the wallpaper in colour. It is not really even necessary to have a frame if the silk is put on to a couple of rods, and the top' one has a small piece of indiarubber glued to the ends so that it can be pushed into place, and will remain firmly glued there. The wooden rods sold for one penny each for hanging muslin blinds will do capitally. With this arrangement it is best to take the fender right away, which has the desirable effect of giving extra space. A rug can be drawn up level with the chimney-piece.
An adept at the art of furnishing once said when discussing the question of the fireplace in summer, "I like to ignore it as far as possible, and I always turn the chairs with their backs to it." It certainly is advisable to alter the arrangement of the furniture in the summer, and the idea of turning the chairs with their backs to the chimney-piece contains a useful suggestion, though it is not, of course, feasible in all rooms, especially in a narrow one, or1 one with a projecting fireplace.
Though growing plants in the fireplace are unsuitable, yet in the autumn a beautiful effect can be gained from placing there large jars of tinted foliage. Earlier in the year, lilac and other flowering shrubs may be used to fill in the grate in a delightful manner. Such a treatment looks specially well in a large open grate with the dog grate temporarily removed.
The Writer has an unforgettable mental picture of a grate filled in this way, with branches of purple lilac in a Cornwall earthenware jar, that looked as though they were growing. In a small room this is sometimes the only way to dispose satisfactorily of large branches of greenery.
For a fireplace filled in with drawn silk on rods, it would be an immense improvement to place in front of it a big bowl or vase of flowers, or greenery.
There is one kind of screen that remains to be mentioned, and that is the one exhibiting some proof of the talent of the owner of the room, either as an artist or as a needlewoman. It is the cheap version of fashions that condemns so many of them to death, and so it has been with the painted screen of cathedral glass. Some of these screens were painted by a woman who had a genius for seizing the decorative aspect of flowers, and found an inspiration even in the teazles growing at the side of the road. But the vulgarised edition of these screens has put even the better examples out of fashion. This is not the case with needlework screens, however. They accord well with most rooms, especially those possessed of an individual character. They need framing in good wood, and the needlework should be of a super-excellent description.
A simple and inexpensive arrangement for filling in a fireplace. In a wooden frame that exactly fits the fireplace is stretched a piece of gathered silk, finished by a heading at the top and bottom. If necessary, two rods can be used instead of a frame