This section is from the book "Homes And Their Decoration", by Lillie Hamilton French. Also available from Amazon: Homes and their decoration.
NO divan should seem an excrescence in a room, a newly acquired purchase, a suggestion borrowed from a neighbor, a general catchall for pillows of every hue and description representing the work of amateur needles, Christmas gifts from friends, and purchases made on bargain counters.
Although a divan with its cushions should be made part of a distinct composition, this composition should not be so strongly emphasized that it proclaims itself over and above every other feature in a room. The ordinary divan unhappily does this.
Into a room with matting on the floor, a divan hung with Turkish stuffs will be introduced; thick hangings appropriate for out-of-door places will be looped over spears, or fish-nets will be used, suspended tent-fashion over the divan. Such an arrangement may be well enough in studios, when a room is large enough to subordinate them, and when the very nature of the environment makes possible a variety of effects. They are at times delightful in camps, but they are quite out of the question in ordinary houses, and altogether objectionable in small every-day rooms and apartments.
The most perfect example of a divan and its surroundings that I know is that which is found in the studio of an American artist living in Paris. (See illustration.)
Every detail has been carefully studied. Nearly all the materials are genuine, and belong to some one distinct period of Moorish art, - the hangings, the plaques, the pots. It will be noticed that no attempt has been made at drapery, and that therefore there is no possibility for any hanging being made a receptacle for dust. The drapery at the top does not fall far out over the divan, and was placed there to break the uninteresting wall above. The geometrical designs shown are embroidered in silk on gauze of a soft old yellow. The thin, light bars are linen embroidered in silk. The divan, which is long and wide, is covered with old-rose on a gold ground. The pillows are covered with embroideries to match. The artist devoted many years to the collection of these materials.
The color for a divan must be studied from the point where it touches the floor, over the mattress, to the ceiling. The color should not only blend with that of the floor-covering, but with that of the wall-space or the background, from which it blends with the colors above. A divan upholstered in green may, for instance, be out of the question in a room hung with green, even when the rest of the furniture is covered with the same material. This difficulty would arise in a room in which a divan was placed directly in front of a dark bookcase filled with colored bindings, the floor being covered with a Cashmere rug in which blues appeared among the yellows and the reds. The green of the other pieces of furniture would have been separated from the rug by an empty space, and by the polished mahogany of the framework. The green of the curtains would have been separated by the dark stain of the floor bordering the rug. The divan, however, having no wooden framework and running to the floor, would, with its cover, come against that of the rug, and should be considered in relation to it.
"EVERY DETAIL HAS BEEN CAREFULLY STUDIED".
Such a divan, then, should be covered with a figured stuff, that the break between the floor and the background would not be felt. To use a plain green would be to introduce a streak. The figured stuff should repeat some of the colors of the rug. Its cushions again should take up these colors, yet make one tone predominate, - a yellow, for instance; if there were much yellow in the room, perhaps a figured yellow, like that of shadow silk.
A bookcase makes an excellent background for a divan, with pictures above. This brings a book just within reach of the hand. The shelves, when they are wide enough, become convenient resting-places for pipes and letters.
"THE UPHOLSTERER CAN MAKE A BACKGROUND TO MATCH THE DIVAN ".
The upholsterer can make a background to match the divan (see illustration), which in reality transforms the divan into an article of furniture possessing a certain formality, suggesting less of a lounging place than one for sitting upright, which is as well in some rooms.
When this soft background is not possible, one must be made with a row of cushions, these cushions to be of hair, or of patent felt, since they are only intended for the support of the softer down cushions in front of them. The color and texture of these harder cushions is often that of the divan itself; the soft silk cushions give the other color notes.
Above the line formed by the tops of the hard cushions, a mirror, the length of the divan, is introduced, making an excellent composition, especially when the divan fills an angle with a window at one end and a door at the other.
Sometimes a small shelf runs above the cushions, set out with books and candles or a lamp, over which is hung a large picture or bas-relief.
Every color or combination of colors introduced in the cushions of a divan should be studied in relation to each other and to the room itself. The idea of the heterogeneous, the tossed and the tumbled together, the flying off at a tangent after new fashions and fads, without regard to the environment in which they are to be placed, the look of being copied out of fashion journals and introduced carelessly, - all these things should be avoided.
An opportunity for introducing delightful effects in color and design is presented by the divan, and it is only when this is accomplished that this piece of furniture is made to lose the tumbled, careless air which makes it so objectionable in many parlors.
In living-rooms of cabins and mountain houses, cots covered with stuffs and filled with cushions make excellent divans, except for one defect. If the mattress be thin it sinks, and the framework of the cot cuts the leg of the person who sits there. This trouble is obviated if a box spring is used.
The custom of having divans made with a box underneath for holding dresses is an excellent one for those living in cramped quarters.
The average height of a well-constructed divan is sixteen inches. When it is thirty or more inches wide it makes a good sleeping place, but must then be treated with taste if any one is to sit on it and not lounge. A divan twenty-seven inches wide is more easily treated.