A former article (Part 9, page 1067) dealt with chimneypieces which are revivals of styles that were in vogue in former times.
This century and the preceding one, however, have an art of their own, the result of a movement at the head of which stands the name of William Morris, a name that suggests a style of decoration that will always have its devotees among the artistic section of the public. The present rage for reproductions is not unlikely to be followed by a reaction in favour of modern work, which, in capable hands, without doubt frequently is very beautiful, if only on account of its extreme simplicity.
A great advantage of many of the strictly modern hangings is the softness of the colouring, so that the rooms in which they are used have a wonderful effect of restful-ness, than which there is perhaps no more desirable quality to aim at in furnishing. But a marble chimneypiece is hopelessly out of keeping in a room of this character.
Something in light or dark oak to tone with the general colour scheme is what is wanted. The looking-glass overmantel is greatly out of favour, though a separate mirror framed in a handsome copper rim is still occasionally seen, and, of course, in the French and Adams rooms, gilt-framed mirrors.
As a rule, however, in the modern style of room it is preferred to have some such arrangement of the chimneypiece as will allow for the display of a few choice pieces of china, a little quaint pottery, or some pictures. In one room the whole of the chimneypiece was panelled. Three panels were arranged so that they came directly over the wide mantelshelf, and a fine print was hung in each. Indeed, the idea seems to be that the chimneypiece should be used to exhibit whatever is choicest among the owner's household gods. One chimneypiece, specially designed by a well-known architect, has small shelves to hold some interesting china and curios in the possession of the owner of the house The whole scheme, both of the chimney piece and grate, is very attractive. At the sides of the grate, instead of tiles, is some rough plaster painted in colours.
The origin of the etagere style of chimney-piece was that a man had some old china that he wished to show off to the greatest advantage, and ordered a chimneypiece to be made with shelves backed by looking-glass to hold it. Others followed suit, but reversed the order of things, and bought their china to fit their chimney-pieces. In this way objects quite unworthy of this post of honour came to be placed there, and the etagere consequently fell into disrepute for a time.
It is a chimneypiece which should certainly be avoided except by those who have a few really fine things to display, and then it is sometimes exactly what is wanted for this purpose.
Another chimneypiece has quite an interesting history. The panels in it were originally intended for exhibition at the Salon, but were not finished in time. It was suggested to the sculptor, Kate Bruce, that they should be applied to the decoration of a nursery mantelpiece. Uncouth as is the materia1 - ordinary cast iron - in which it is carried out, the artistic merit of the design in the panels is sufficient to make it a really beautiful thing, and no doubt on this ground many people who love to get something unusual will use it in their sitting-rooms.
The fact that it has one of the popular hob grates is an added attraction.
The panel on one side of this shows the mother holding a baby, that on the other represents the father with another child in his arms. Like all true art, the whole thing "gives one to think," as the French say, since it is suggestive of the idea that the responsibilities of the educa-tion and care of the children should not be left entirely, as has often been the case, to the mother, but should be shared equally by the father.
An Idea for the Country Cottage
For a sitting-room chimneypiece these panels could be made in armour-bright iron framed in the cast iron.
This would be a delightful design to use in a country cottage. Indeed, the country cottage demands a characteristic chimneypiece of some sort. In one such chimneypiece which has come under the writer's notice some red quarries left over from paving the kitchen floor were employed in place of the ordinary glazed tiles. Instead of a chimneypiece these were merely set in a wide band of dark oak like a picture-frame. The effect of this against a brown wall was such as to excite the admiration of all who saw it. In the hall of the same cottage the local builder was incited to make a chimneypiece of cement, scattered with tiny pebbles from the beach.
A charming modern design for a chimneypiece that can be carried out in either oak or mahogany. It has the merit of harmonising with almost any style of furnishing, and affords a good background for a few rare specimens of china or pewter Waring & Gillow
Photos, Messrs. Elsley
A chimneypiece which is an evolution of modern times, although it was probably originated for use with Chippendale furniture, is that made of panelled mahogany. Such a chimneypiece always looks handsome and good, and gives a great air of comfort to a room; moreover, it does not appear out of place with any style of room-furnishing. It costs about eleven guineas. A similar design carried out in light or dark oak is admirable for the typical " modern " room, to which reference was made at the beginning of this article. In either wood it can be used with equal success in a dining-room or a drawing-room.
Another development of this age is the iron chimneypiece painted white, which came into very general use about twenty-five years ago. Since then painted iron and wood seem to have alternated in popular favour. At present painted wood is liked the better of the two for sitting-rooms, though it does not, of course, wear as well as iron. The same designs can be had in both these materials, planned to suit rooms in the modern manner or in the French, Adams, Georgian, or any other style. These vary very much in price, according to the treatment and amount of decoration. A charming but simple pine chimneypiece, with just a little carton pierre ornament on the centre panel, can be had for as low a sum as £1 12s. 6d., the grate, of course, being extra. A similar thing in a very good quality and style will cost eight or ten pounds.
For bedrooms iron is a very usual choice, and the designs have recently become much simpler than they were. Something which has as little decoration as possible, and will be easy to have washed when the annual spring cleaning occurs, is best appreciated by the careful housewife. - Yet, despite this extreme plainness, and the fact that they are only made of cast iron, some of these little chimneypieces, owing to their design, are really delightful. As the grate and chimneypiece are usually made in one, they are also remarkably inexpensive, as the small sizes cost only about a guinea.
It is very pleasant to have small holes at the side of a bedroom grate, so that it is possible to retain a tiny copper or brass kettle to fill up one's hot-water bottle or make an early or very late cup of tea after the maids have gone to bed, or to use for any other homely purpose.
In filling the wall-space between mantelshelf and ceiling, nothing should be hung which heat will damage. The wall which contains a chimney is always the warmest in the room, and for this reason wax portraits, fine colour prints, and such treasures should be kept in other parts of the room.
Mirrors, on the other hand, are well placed on such a wall, since damp is most injurious to the silver or mercury backs.
All pictures should be examined carefully from time to time, for extremes of either heat or damp cause the paper that is affixed to their backs to crack or moulder. If once this paper backing is injured, dust or mildew will find an entrance inside the frame and spoil the picture.
A more elaborate design in either wood or iron painted white, that would look well in a room furnished in antique style