This section is from the book "Arts & Crafts Magazine Vol1-2", by Hutchinson & Company.
Despite the great improvements that have marked the arrangement of our rooms during the past decade or two, the tendency is to fill the home with beautiful things rather than to make the house itself a work of art. We are suffering from bric-a-brac indigestion. In all fine epochs there was but little furniture in use. The Italians of the Renaissance, for example, used it sparingly in their homes, but each piece introduced was a work of art. Even common things had beautiful forms. That is what we want. We could imitate to advantage the old Italians in their moderation and in their judicious choice of such objects as were to meet their eyes daily. We have also the example of the Japanese, who have influenced in such large measure our taste in decoration. Nothing can be more simple than a Japanese interior. A vase perfect in form and colour, a tine old bronze, is placed where it may receive all the homage that is its due. Then some other beautiful object takes its place. That is real appreciation, a very different thing from crowding a cabinet with Japanese jars, however pretty they may be. If a man wishes to make a museum of his house, that is another thing - epochs, periods, styles, may jostle and confound one another. But if he wants to decorate and beautify his home, then he is on the wrong road. The adjustment of our surroundings should contribute to mental repose. One's attention is distracted by a multiplicity of objects clamouring for notice. Concentration of thought, even for the purposes of conversation, is more or less difficult amid such surroundings. A room should possess unity as well as character - that is to say, it should have some definite purpose of style, and everything should tend to further this. It may be composed as an easel picture is composed, with regard to masses, groups, colour, line, and lighting. How easily can an artist fritter away and dissipate the unity of his painting by bestrewing it with objects ! Instead of doing this, he gathers them into masses, and then disposes of his groups with reference to one another. He may be guided in these by consideration for line or for colour. The most important he sets forth, the others fall into subordinate places.
Above all let us have sobriety. It is often desirable to take the choicest object in a room and make it the key to the whole. One should not take a warm-toned painting of an Oriental scene and place it conspicuously in a cold grey room. But if with that for the note of colour, draperies and surroundings take the hint, the room might be like a burst of sunlight. Such treatment would exalt the dignity of the painting. As a general thing warm-hued paintings should be kept together and those of another key grouped by themselves. Etchings and engravings can seldom be hung in the same room with oil paintings. E. H. B.