One more principle is of universal application in the consideration of color effects. It is known as the principle of gradation. According to it the strongest tones of color belong at the base. In a room the floor serves as the base in any scheme of decoration. The floor covering, therefore, should carry the strongest tones, the walls should represent the next lighter tone and the ceiling the last step in the gradation. This does not imply any fixed line of demarcation for the varying tones. It is rather the statement of a general relation that is to be maintained among the various parts. The floors, walls and ceiling should sustain a certain relation to each other, while they are the setting for the furnishings. The application of this principle forbids the use of light gray paint for the floor with deep blue walls and ceiling, though blue and gray in some combinations might be most desirable.
The law of appropriateness if practiced would remove many things from our homes; the spider web tidies that protect nothing, the gilded spoon tied with a ribbon and hung in the parlor, the bric a brae from the sitting room mantel that must be dusted every day, the meaningless pictures, the very light and delicately upholstered chair from the sitting room, the pitcher that will not pour from the dining room. It would exchange this rubbish for one beautiful picture, or comfortable chair, or a table that will hold something and thus add simplicity and comfort to the house.
Diamonds are always valuable and beautiful but they are not the proper accompaniment of morning dresses. They show to better advantage among velvet and laces; so velvet carpets and real lace curtains are not to be expected in the living room.
Rooms must be considered not only as individual rooms but in their relation to the other parts of the house, if one would have the house a harmonious whole. To this end sharp contrasts in size of rooms, color and furnishings are to be avoided. One should not be ushered from a bright green parlor with handsome mahogany furniture to a dull and faded sitting room with the cast off and worn out parlor furniture. Such contrasts show that emphasis is put upon display rather than comfort in the house. Bright green is rarely if ever a suitable color for a wall, and half worn, cast off furniture is neither useful nor beautiful anywhere.
Design is another important factor in decoration, as is also the kind of material.
Certain general principles apply in the selection of decoration and furnishings. Avoid pretentious things. If real lace cannot be afforded, sham lace ought not to be allowed. Muslin curtains are better adapted to the purpose and much prettier than sham lace ones. Get simple things, few things, durable things and such as will harmonize with many others. Avoid the unusual; chairs with impossible twists in their legs; tables with glass and brass feet; settees, whose arms are "decorated" with hearts set on at irregular intervals and whose backs are "finished" with marvelous clusters of grapes glued on. These and their kind make a room a museum for the keeping of curios rather than a place of rest and beauty.