Problem for Artistic House Decorators - The Character of the Landing - Appropriate Decoration for the Landing of a Small House - of a Large House - When Restraint Must be Practised - The Beauties of White Paint - Suggestions for a Landing - The Staircase Window and its Glazingsome Alternative Treatments of Such Windows
When dealing with so nondescript a place as the landing on the first floor, it is essential to keep a very firm hand not only on the decorator, but also upon ourselves, for we are not discussing this matter from the point of view of the woman who is planning a house, but from that of the woman who must make the best she can of the upstairs landing which she already possesses.
Unless we practise this restraint, the upstairs landing is apt to suffer from the decoration of the hall. This, if continued upstairs, becomes too elaborate for the landing, and if cut off abruptly, makes the next storey bare and under decorated.
Another pitfall for the woman who has no definite ideas for the landing is that, owing to its nondescript character, such a place is liable to be left with bare walls and a table or a couple of chairs, placed where no one wants to sit. Such often forms the sole furniture of this part of the house, because one must put something, and the table and chairs seem to belong to no particular room.
The character of a landing should be that of an open and airy space, a passage room, where one can move quickly to and fro. It should be so pleasingly decorated, however, that we may be tempted to linger because of its agreeable light and airiness. The landing should never be considered as a room. For this reason chairs are quite unsuitable in an upper landing unless there is someone of such delicate health living in the house that a chair is essential for rest before mounting the second flight of stairs.
The wall decoration of the upper landing of a small house should be the same as that of the hall, for it is better to have no violent break in colour when only a few steps lead from one part of the house to the other. In such a house, too, the simple self coloured, or canvas-covered walls of the hall will be equally suitable for the landing. In a house where the hall is large, or where it is used as a sitting-room, if the decoration is in elaborate panels or in leather paper, the landing must on no account be in the same style. The hall decoration should end at the beginning of the stairway, where an arch or pendent drapery will soften the break in continuity of decoration.
Unless the landing is very large, the stairway decoration should always be identical with it.
As regards a room, the matter is different; the effect of entering a differently ornamented space is pleasing, but the stairway and the landing naturally lead on to one another. The desire for as much light as possible naturally indicates that the colouring, if any, should be very pale. White or cream painting for all woodwork, including the sides of the stairs and the wainscotting, is most desirable, whether the house be in the country or in town. The extra cleaning involved is well repaid for the extra cheeri-ness and light effect. The balustrade, however, should not be white, this constantly fingered woodwork being usually of polished wood.
The walls should also be light, the sunniest tint of yellow being advisable in any dark stairway or landing. Plain papers, or those with invisible stripes, are so popular that we need hardly suggest the agreeable effect that such a scheme gives.
It should be remembered that all mural decoration should be in monochrome, so that the objects in the house stand out with telling effect. Especially is this the case with landing or passage-way decoration, when nothing arresting to the attention is required.
A suggestion for the artistic treatment of a staircase window. The plain glass ensures adequate light during the day, as does the Moorish lamp by night. A few plates firmly secured to the shelf lend a touch of colour and brightness
It is not advisable to have either a dado or frieze in staircase or landing. The lines of a dado running slantwise up the stairs are by no means pleasant; the same remark applies to the frieze border.
In our sketch an ordinary landing hall way to the drawing-room is shown. Here, sometimes, a bedroom door is placed at the end, sometimes a window. The suggestions in this illustration could be equally well adapted to the larger landing one usually finds in a country house, where the window, placed at the side, is most useful for lighting the staircase, and where there may be room lor the old oak dresser or dower chest, which is placed against the wall opposite.
It will be noticed that the curtains do not obscure the light in this space; the thinnest of net or muslin brise-bise are hung against the window, and thick Oriental or serge curtains should be dispensed with altogether. Thus an abundance of light, so necessary on a staircase, will be secured.
The feature of the drawing on the next page is the suggestion that the hard line above the staircase should be beautified with a double arch. This can be done easily by any carpenter, for only a thin piece of board, cut to the required shape, is needed. If desired, a small wooden pillar may be added in the centre, which would rest on the extreme edge of the balustrade. If it is possible to find an old Chippendale bedpost, such a pillar will be a really artistic feature.
This arch should be painted in the same colour as the rest of the woodwork. If a carved Chippendale pillar is used, it should not, of course, be painted, but merely polished.
One of the brass Dutch lamps, which can be found at any curio shop, would be a good addition when fitted with an electric bulb. In this position it would light that always dangerous place, the last or first step of the staircase.
Perched high upon some staircases there is a window which, though necessary for lighting purposes, gives the householder anxiety as to how to make the best of it.
Not infrequently the early or mid-victorian builder has greatly enhanced the ugliness of the window by placing dreadful panes of bright yellow, blue, or magenta glass at the outer edges. Even more terrible are the pains inflicted by them on the artistic beholder. It is essential that such atrocities be removed immediately, together with the ground glass which often fills up the rest of the window.
The pleasantest filling for the staircase window is either plain glass in small leaded panes, or the ordinary white bottle glass, with small round sections.
Our illustration shows how the two can be combined, the smaller panes making a kind of top border. These panes should be made to open, as in our sketch, for the thorough ventilation of the staircase and landings in a house is a most important detail. As the height and situation of this window precludes any idea of opening it, the ventilators can be manipulated by cords from below.
It is suggested in our sketch that small shields of coloured glass of an artistic design should hang below. These shields or medallions are extremely pretty, hanging against the light, and give the effect of real stained glass windows, without a great deal of expense.
A Moorish lamp is hung from a handsome chain, and either an electric light or a trailing plant can be placed in the shelf-like space beneath. But if the window is too high, watering the plant may be difficult.
Some fine Delft plates stand on the window-sill. These should be secured in their places by means of a couple of nails or screws in the wooden shelf to prevent their slipping. There is so much vibration in these days of heavy motor-lorry traffic and underground railways that such precautions are necessary, especially as the modern house is not built with too much stability. A bowl of spring flowers or a palm are the finishing touches to the decoration of this simple yet artistic staircase window.
If the expense of re-glazing an ugly window is not desirable, a short curtain of thin muslin should cover the window completely. A double arch gives a distinctive note to the general effect
For those who cannot incur the expense of leaded glass in small panes, we advise the taking out of the ugly coloured panes, and replacing them with plain sheet glass. The window should then be covered with a short curtain of Swiss net, with large squares woven upon it. This gives an excellent effect, as seen in the picture, and is not expensive.
When there is an ugly or depressingly dull outlook, as so often is the case in a town house, the blocking out of an opposite roof or wall is very important. Nothing achieves this better than curtains of an all-over pattern reaching to the sill. This simple drapery is so close that the view of an undesirable neighbour or ugly view is excluded without too much interference with the light.
Beautifying an ordinary landing and staircase. If curtains are considered desirable, they should be arranged with care and taste
If great cosiness is desired, the staircase window should be fitted with dark velvet or damask curtains as well as muslin ones. These must, if used at all, be of sufficient width to draw right across.
Dark curtains are never necessary on a staircase or anywhere else unless their use is for excluding draughts or making the house look more comfortable.
On no account have them of such length that they touch the floor, for the staircase is inevitably a dusty place if there is much going to and fro, and the dirt collects on the floor ready for easy removal by the housemaid. Her work must on no account be hampered.
With all these window decorations, do not forget that the primary use for a staircase window is to let in light and air, in order that the house may be aired and sweetened. Nothing must be arranged over or near the window to impede its frequent opening.