"I'M sorry the draperies aren't up," said Mary as we were making ready to photograph the living-room of the house that Jack built. "They are really very attractive, in old-gold velours, with a classic galoon in dull metal. If you can come again next week, I'll have them hung."
"No, thank you, Mrs. Jack," I responded. "That is not at all necessary. Indeed, I think the photograph of the room will on the whole be clearer and more satisfactory without the draperies than with them." (See frontispiece.)
At this point, I should like to state that the upholstery of the sofa and window-seat (hidden by slip-covers in the illustration) is also in old-gold velours, with dull metal galoons used judiciously. The draperies themselves I later saw in the attic, hanging in their slip-covers and fragrant with camphor balls to protect them from moths.
"I always take them down very early in the spring and put them up again late in the fall," said Mary. "Jack and I like all the fresh air and sunlight we can get, and keep the windows constantly open as long as the weather permits. The two door-windows that open from the living-room upon the east veranda are never closed in summer."
"I like the rug," I said, indicating the excellent Gorevan, 12 feet by 16. "The browns and dull greens blend beautifully with the golds and creams, and give the weight desirable on the floor as distinguished from the walls. Then, too, the texture is good; not too fine, not too coarse, and above all the pile is just deep enough for the size and shape of the room. Rugs with very deep pile are suitable only for very large rooms with very high ceilings. Rugs with very short pile should be used in small rooms with low ceilings, or for table covers or wall panels."
"Why is that?" asked Jack.
"Because," I answered, "the deep pile swallows up more light than the short pile, and consequently looks nearer to the eye, raising the apparent level of the floor beneath the feet."
"Then if the floor were a mirror," commented Mary, "it would recede from the eye, and increase the apparent distance of the floor from the ceiling."
"Right you are," I responded. "That is the reason why pile rugs are the fundamental floor covering, just as tapestries are the fundamental wall hanging. The rugs not only are more solid beneath the foot, they look more solid and give what not only seems, but also is, a safe footing for the heaviest man. Parquet floors, on the contrary, seem to recede from the foot as it advances toward them; and they not only are slippery, but look even more slippery than they are."
"I understand about the rugs," said Jack, "but why do you call tapestries the fundamental wall decoration?"
"Because they lock into the architecture. The fundamental lines of architecture, the lines that distinguish man-made structures from those of nature, are horizontal and vertical - and not roughly horizontal and roughly vertical either, but exactly horizontal and exactly vertical, true to the plumb. So, too, the fundamental lines of tapestry. The surface of all wall tapestries consists of horizontal ribs in relief, from eight to twenty to the inch, crossed by fine vertical weft threads that often combine into slender spires of color, called hatchings."
"Well," said Jack, "that's a new one on me.
Jack's Open Porch.
I always regarded tapestries as a kind of woven mural paintings, and measured their merit by the reality of the illusion produced. But now I see I've got to cultivate a new sense, and see and study tapestries just the way Mary has studied paintings, before I shall be able to tell a good tapestry from a bad tapestry, or really understand why a good tapestry is good."
"You hit the nail on the head that time," I commented, with considerable admiration for Jack's quickness of comprehension. "It is with tapestries as it is with any other form of art. The ignoramus has no right to an opinion at all. In art as in letters, the alphabet must be acquired first. Those persons who without knowledge or training or experience boldly proclaim that 'they know what they like' ought to be ashamed of themselves."
"I often think that," said Mary, whose taste in dress is above reproach, "when I see some of the gowns that women wear. If those gowns are an expression of their personalities, then they ought to be ashamed of themselves."
Jack laughed and I laughed, and then Jack turned the subject.
"How do you like the mantel?" he asked.
"Very well indeed," I answered. "It is the right size for the room and has enough of the richness of the Italian Renaissance to render it a worthy frame for a fireplace with a $250 throat."
At this Mary laughed heartily. She evidently regarded the joke as on Jack. Then she began to rearrange the flowers on the table, as if repentant at having joined in the fun at her husband's expense. Jack, however, hadn't minded a bit. Indeed, I think he rather likes to tell the fireplace story, and also the story about building the road that climbs up from the highway. Houses that people build, or live in a long time, become endeared to them by association, and the stories of domestic haps and mishaps become part not only of their conversational stock in trade, but of their very characters.
"One thing especially I want to congratulate your architect on," I remarked to Jack, "and that is the molding that borders the ceiling. The ceiling is so high in proportion to its other dimensions that it needs the heavy molding not only to tie it to the ornamental plaster work of the main architectural feature of the room, the mantel, but also to make it seem a little lower than it really is."
"Does it really make the ceiling look lower?" asked Jack, regarding it from different parts of the room somewhat doubtfully.
"Indeed it does," I responded. "You can easily prove it to yourself by looking at a compartment ceiling with much relief ornament, like the one in the main reading-room of the New York Public Library. If that ceiling were plain and flat, it would pull skyward away from the rest of the interior, destroying entirely the symmetry and balance of its proportions. Of course, in the Library the polychrome treatment also brings the ceiling down. A ceiling looks highest when not only plain but also finished white."