Always consider the spaces in rooms before furniture is selected or you may awaken to the fact that the beautiful things selected do not fit in.

After the necessary articles have been chosen, the big thing is to get them together so that they serve the purpose best and appear attractive. Usefulness is evident and tangible, but beauty is more vague and left to the tastes of those responsible. Certain elements of beauty must be considered.

Unity is that quality which draws the room together as a whole. There must be one important element throughout, with other elements subordinated to it. This dominant element in line may be the graceful curve which can be repeated in furniture and hangings or the straight line designating strength and formality.

A dominant color in the scheme of decoration is necessary to give the desired substantial background. Other colors are keyed to this one. If the background is a value of neutral tan the ecrus, golds and tans key in better than does a silver or gray. The room as a whole should have a dominant element or center of interest, as a fireplace and mantel or an arrangement which features an attractive and useful group of windows. In carrying out a dominant element, do not overuse it. It must be just strong enough to tie all parts of the room together, giving that feeling of oneness. The element, unity, spells restfulness but beware that it does not change its name to monotony. The room in values of brown is a very dull, drab and depressing place unless it is relieved with bits of cheery contrasting colors, such as orange or blue-green.

1Adapted from Furnishing the Home. Home Economics Bull. 42. Iowa State College, 1928.

Variety is the element of contrast. It breaks monotony and adds interest. Contrast stimulates through opposition, consequently it must be used very sparingly to prevent confusion.

The graceful curved line is given more character by the use of an occasional straight line. Dark tones are given more charm when opposed by bits of lighter tone. Subdued colors are given snap by a splash of bright color. It takes variety in unity to produce beauty.


To make a room seem to grow together just as if every piece belonged there, good proportions must be emphasized. The apparent proportions of a room may be improved. Low ceilings give the feeling of restfulness, while high ceilings tend toward formality and stiffness. Features which decrease apparent height of ceiling:

1. Ceiling not extremely light.

2. Direct lighting system.

3. Horizontal lines in furniture.

4. Straight line molding in wall decorations.

5. Floor emphasized by use of large rug of heavy texture, rich color and design.

Features which increase apparent height of ceiling:

1. Ceiling very light.

2. Central lights to call attention to ceiling.

3. Vertical lines in furniture and window decorations.

4. No moldings in wall decorations.

5. Rug, small, plain and inconspicuous.

Features which decrease apparent size of room:

1. Dark colors.

2. Warm colors. Colors with red or yellow predominating.

3. Design in rugs, walls, upholstery or draperies.

4. Strong contrasts in color, line and design.

5. Heavy massive furniture.

6. Many decorations.

Features which increase apparent size of room:

1. Light colors.

2. Cool colors. Colors with blue or gray predominating.

3. Plainness instead of design.

4. Unity in color, line and design.

5. Light-weight furniture in graceful lines.

6. Few decorations as possible.

Balance is that element which holds the entire room in a state of equilibrium. Such features as color, form, texture and contrast have their influence in the problem of balance. The warmer and purer a color is, the more decorative weight it holds. A striking contrast will call attention and lend much weight. Coarse, rough texture adds more weight than a smooth fine surface. Heavy carved furniture seems heavier than light furniture with graceful curves.

Simplicity is desirable in the small, inexpensive living room

Fig. 54. - Simplicity is desirable in the small, inexpensive living room. The rough-plaster walls and the beam ceiling make ornamentation unnecessary. (Santa Barbara State Teacher's College practice-house living room.)

Bi-symmetrical balance divides the space in the middle and decorates exactly the same on the two sides. This is merely a mechanical process. It gives the effect of formality. A whole room could not be decorated in that way or it would become very stiff and uninviting. With the greater part of the room in rather informal lines, the bi-symmetrical wall groupings are very effective. The mantel is very charming with a picture or tapestry above, a low bowl in the center and candlesticks at the ends. A console table beneath a picture or mirror is held in position by the use of the candlesticks on the ends, and perhaps a piece of pottery in the center. A buffet makes a very attractive formal spot with a bowl of flowers in the center and candles at the sides.

Grouping of uneven numbers are more artistic than those of even numbers.

Occult or informal balance is not a mere mechanical process. It is tying down one side against another by the use of articles not identical. In this case balance is not so evident, yet it exists in an easy, natural sort of way. Consideration of the decorative weight of furnishings is very essential in occult balance. If a group is heavy and seems to overbalance when against the wall, it may be placed nearer the center of the room, thereby decreasing the apparent weight.

A fireplace with a davenport, small end table and lamp on one side may be balanced by a table, chair and lamp on the other side. Balance from one end of the room to the other is secured by the placing of separate groups of furniture. Do not sacrifice the use of a chair or table to secure balance. Arrange in useful groups, or the stiff, lonesome atmosphere will creep in. Occult balance will be observed in the living room group.

Color is undoubtedly one of the most expressive elements in decoration.

A home without color seems to represent a colorless personality, while a home with too much color becomes gaudy and speaks of poor taste. The more highly the tastes are cultivated the less contrast in color and decorations is necessary to satisfy.

The background of the room should follow the general scheme found in nature - the floor the darkest area, walls second, and the ceiling the lightest portion. In general, the background should be kept in quiet, neutral tones. If the background is "noisy" in itself it is impossible to place decorations against it so that they appear to the best advantage.

Intense colors must be used only in small proportions to add life, interest and character to a room.

Contrasting color harmony is much more difficult to use than harmony of likeness, but is very effective. A room where a great deal of blue is used may look very solemn, dignified and cold unless it is cheered by some splashes of warm contrasting color. Orange will add the snap that is lacking. It may be supplied by a bowl of flowers, lampshades or pieces of pottery. As soon as the use of contrasting color is overdone, it loses its charming effect. Contrast is less sharp and effect is better with three harmonizing colors, instead of two.

Colors with red or yellow predominating impart warmth and make the room appear smaller, while those with blue as the dominant element are cool, solemn, dignified and give space. Light colors give more space than dark colors. It is well to consider the amount of sunlight and size of room when selecting a color scheme.

Persons should choose colors for their rooms and their homes to suit their own types. It is just as necessary that one should appear well in her home as a background, as to choose costumes that are of the appropriate colors. The house should be the frame and the family the picture of home life. The frame must always be kept subordinate to the picture and its colors chosen to enhance the beauty of the picture. The same is true of the home picture.

Design is very closely related to color. A room without design lacks individuality. In choosing design in rugs, cretonnes and tapestries avoid that which seems to have depth, or which is spotted. That type flies out to greet you when you enter the room. An indistinct all-over pattern closely related to its background is more dignified and restful.

Large, distinct and colorful designs take up space and should not be used in a small room. Wallpapers of plain or very indistinct patterns are best in all rooms because they are not tiresome, and make the ideal background.

A room lacks character with everything plain as well as with everything in design. It is essential to balance plainness and design. A little bit of design will balance a great deal of plainness. If a beautiful, designed rug is used on the floor, it should not be killed by the use of figured wall paper or figured over draperies, but they should be kept plain and subordinated to the rug. If the rug is plain, design may be introduced in the upholstery or draperies. If the wallpapers are figured, the window draperies should be kept plain. Pictures, tapestries and other decorations are not well used against figured walls.


After the determining principles have been studied, the actual placement of furniture is simple. In the first place, do not overcrowd. Eliminate all useless pieces. Line is the main feature to be considered.

In order to have a definite scheme of decoration, it is best to place the main pieces of furniture, as davenport, piano, large table and desk parallel with the walls, whether they are against the walls or not. Straight lines should be observed in the bedrooms in placement of bed, table and dressers.

The stiffness is broken by grouping furniture in the charming centers of interest and by placing minor objects, as chairs, small tables, etc., where they are really the most useful, regardless of line. An easy chair is scarcely ever placed at right angles with the walls and major pieces of furniture. In fact, it looks more inviting, if it is a little off the straight line.

Rugs should be placed straight on floors. To place them obliquely is similar to hanging a picture that way. The idea that the home-like atmosphere is destroyed by the straight-line arrangement is wrong.