In the decorating of a house the convenience of those who are to live in it is some-imes obscured by the desire to elaborate the ornamentation of the rooms.
A room will not hold more than a certain number of cabinets, and, moreover, the floorspace they would occupy is much too valuable for the convenience of the household to squander it on room decoration. It remains, therefore, to utilise the walls for the storing of goods and chattels, and incidentally for the beautifying of the room itself.
It is not given to everyone to occupy a house of the eighteenth century, where the doors are furnished with elaborate cases and carved over-doors, but the door shown in the illustration has the right "feeling" in its flat wood frame, which is utilised for holding some dishes and plates of a fine old ironstone supper-service. The door is of dull green paint, the over-door and frieze-rail of the same colour; while the wallpaper is a true chintz pattern, matching the chintz coverings of the lounge-chairs and sofas. Such a structure can easily be made by an amateur or by the village carpenter, of 3/4-inch deal. It needs only to be fitted with a couple of brass plates for screws, and to rest firmly on the top of the door. If the pattern is cut out in brown paper, the most elementary workman can hardly go wrong.
The Collector's Paradise
Those who wish to beautify otherwise commonplace rooms will do well to devote much attention to doorways. When we stroll through the beautiful rooms at Fon-tainebleau, Hampton Court Palace, Chats-worth, or any of the stately homes where fine effect and work of great dignity and beauty has been achieved, we notice at once how much thought and labour has been lavished on the door-cases. Elaborate carving - a single line of it, or in a few examples in double or triple tier - varies the mouldings which surround the case.
It is a rare luxury now to have richly carved doorways, but it is possible to use the space between ceiling and door as a suitable place for fitting a finely carved head, grotesque if you like, and to build up a carven picture with foliage, fruit, or flowers.
Very often one is able to acquire a small portion of well-carved wood, which, on account of its size or shape, may be a bargain.
Old pillars of wood are sometimes to be found, and these, if placed on either side of a door, give a very handsome and uncommon effect. If these are flat on one side, they are easily placed against the wall. The search for a handsomely fluted pair with carved foliated tops may be long and arduous, but to the collector such a quest through the little shops where carved wood of every quality is stored has its own pleasures.
The old fluted doorways of the eighteenth century, with rose corners or with lions' heads, may sometimes be found. Such treasures are easily adapted. If, as is often the case, the old doorway is narrower than that which you wish to decorate, the upper part of the case can be cut in the centre, and a panel of plain wood, a rose, a grotesque head, or a carved panel with garland of fruit or flowers fixed in the space.
The enrichment of a door by the use of sections of old carved wood used as decoration
Again, pillars of old four-post beds can be utilised for the purpose of door decoration. Many of the Chippendale mahogany bedsteads show wheat-ear carving in low relief and richly fluted columns, these latter occasionally wreathed with ribbon or garlands. Two such bedposts are required, and they should, of course, match exactly. At the top of the door they can be made to look as if they supported a piece of wood similar to that shown in our illustration, which holds pieces of the ironstone supper-service.
It was the writer's fortune to witness the successful result of a long and careful search for a pair of fine Chippendale bedposts to ornament the sides of a door.
One that had been purchased was a very fine specimen, with ribbon carved work twining round the fluted pillar, and a long and exhaustive hunt ensued to procure a second pillar that would match exactly.
The task was not an easy one, and the collector was about to admit herself beaten, when an ingenious friend suggested that the unique specimen should be carefully sawn through. With such a hard wood as old mahogany this was possible, and by very careful work a pair of pillars, flat on one side to place against the wall, was obtained.
It is not only the small entrance doors which can be embellished so as to decorate a room. There are the wider doorways, or alcoves, which may be made a beautiful feature in an apartment that needs special attention on account of its otherwise commonplace and bare aspect.
The Folding-door Problem
Folding doors of the mid-victorian era are not infrequently a sore trial to the woman who longs to make of her house the home beautiful. Who does not remember the barren space of imitation grained wood, a travesty of the planed surface of wood?
The plan usually adopted to mask the horrors of folding doors is that of hanging drapery in front of them. Drapery is at the best of times but a makeshift, and at its worst a dust-trap. Nor does this plan suffice to beautify more than one side.
Doors that were not required for use we have seen successfully treated by filling in the recess with shelves, and thus turning the doorway into a bookshelf. Shelves were also placed above, so that china and statuary could be put in the best position as regards safety and decoration.
This method of fixing shelves at the top of a wide doorway is seen in the first of the illustrations.
The handsome shelves, placed so as to fill up the space above the doors, made an attractive china-cabinet; the doors themselves, which were of the cheap unpanelled type, were taken away and good thick curtains put in their stead. These curtains were not intended as ornaments only, nor for "softening the lines," but for practical use.
Such a doorway suggests private theatricals at once, and the room is at once marked down by amateur actors as a covetable one for tableaux, recitations, and rehearsing. This is a distinct asset to entertaining.