Contrary to the usual belief, pictures are not indispensable in a well-furnished room. If the wall spaces are not too large and bare, if the walls are paneled or have an interesting covering, or if the draperies in the room are noticeably decorative in color or pattern, pictures may be superfluous.
However, if, as often happens in rooms with plain walls, a problem is presented by large empty spaces, a wise use of good pictures presents a solution. Such pictures being steady companions should be selected for their intrinsic worth of subject, color, and composition. Good photographs in brown or gray tones of most of the world's masterpieces may be obtained for a reasonable price. Some good color prints from both old and new masters are also available. Even a group of magazine prints, similar in size and harmonious in color, may be a worthy contribution to the decorative scheme of the room. These are far better than amateur efforts with paints or crayon.
Plate VIII - A few excellent types of mirrors and foot-stools that are both serviceable and decorative.
A good picture deserves a good frame. The frame serves to protect the picture and to enhance its appearance, but should never be so large, ornate or obtrusive as to assert itself at the expense of the picture. A frame for a mirror may appropriately be more decorative; the controlling thought in selecting such a frame is its fitness to the wall and other furnishings. The width, style, and color of the frame must be suited to the picture. Light pictures, like etchings and many water colors, look best framed in light, delicate moldings, with or without a mat, as the case may require. Photographs in gray or brown tones stand a heavier, darker frame toned to accord with the picture. Colored pictures often look well in gilt frames, but the gilt should be dulled and, like the frame of wood, should be toned to harmonize with the picture. If the frame alone does not sufficiently isolate the picture, a mat of harmonizing color may be used. Strong contrasts between frame, mat, and picture, such as is frequently seen in photograph or engraving surrounded by a white mat and black frame, should be avoided; they are too assertive to take a place in any color scheme.
The size and proportion of pictures should be adjusted to the wall spaces; a tall picture in a vertical space, a broad picture in a horizontal space, or a combination of these so arranged as to form groups of pleasing proportions. Pictures rectangular in shape harmonize better with the structural masses than round or oval pictures. Strong contrasts of color and value between wall and picture tend to destroy the harmony between the picture and its setting. Dark pictures on a light wall, light pictures on a dark wall, assert themselves unduly. The general tone of the picture should be related to that of the wall.
A few general points should be remembered in the hanging of pictures. They should be hung flat against the wall, not tilted out from it; they should be fastened securely to the wall or suspended from the picture-molding by two parallel vertical wires. The height of the pictures should be related to the level of the eye, and in general either the tops or bottoms of the frames should be at the same distance from the floor, unless a picture appears better hung in relation to some piece of furniture, such as a desk or bookcase. Pictures are often hung too high.