This section is from the book "Homes And Their Decoration", by Lillie Hamilton French. Also available from Amazon: Homes and their decoration.
IT may be of interest to some amateur with ample leisure and not a little talent to be exercised, to know what has been done in the way of transforming old appointments by several young women with a weakness for experiments. It must be urged, however, that unless the condition of the old furniture makes its renovation worth while it were best left alone. Pottering for its own sake is never to be recommended. One, too, should be possessed of a certain skill before going to work upon furniture; for furniture, being made of good material, unlike a batch of cake spoiled in the making, cannot be thrown away. The results are at times certain forms of mental dyspepsia for those forced to live with spoiled chairs and tables.
In one instance, where the furniture was painted blue, then stencilled in yellow, care was taken to tone the blue with yellow and a little red. The result was a bright blue, though not a pure one. The yellow for the pattern was rather dull, varied occasionally in stencilling with green and brown. This can easily be done in stippling.
When the furniture was finished, the room itself was begun. The doors and trim were painted blue and stencilled with the same yellow; the rafters were stained with warm sienna brown, the walls being painted a dark ivory white. The entire room resolved itself into one of blue and warm-yellow tones running into the ivories. The general impression was one of warmth and richness combined.
Another room, its duplicate, had the furniture, doors, and trim treated with corn color, the stencilling picked out with warm reds, browns, and greens. The walls were dull ivory. The pattern was outlined in light brown, care being taken to make the difference between the colors in the stencil pattern and the color of the wood-work very slight, so that the whole scheme harmonized.
The same furniture might have been treated with dull green, with design stencilled in soft browns and yellows, avoiding the formality of too even a tone.
It will be noticed that the head and foot pieces of the bed and the side pieces of the bureau were treated in the same way.
The green in this instance could be made by mixing chrome green, raw sienna, red, a little blue, and perhaps a touch of black. The color of the stencilled pattern should be that of oak-leaves in the late autumn, - a soft, rich yellow with dull reds against the soft green. It is made by mixing into the green yellow ochre and Venetian red, varying the colors with green and burnt sienna. The color of the stencil must tone with that of the background, care being taken not to make the pattern too staring. Effect will be added by making the upper part a light brown, so varying it that toward the bottom it becomes quite green.
The walls of a room in which such furniture is placed may be treated with a warmer yellow than that which predominates in the stencil figures, or perhaps a clear bright, sunny yellow. A frieze might be added with a ground work of a lighter yellow, stencilled with part of the pattern used as the design on the furniture. The hangings could then be of soft pinky red with Nile green stripes. Stencil patterns are made of heavy manila paper (that known as "detail" paper is the best). If the pattern selected is of the correct size, it may be transferred with impression paper directly on the brown paper. If not large enough, it should be enlarged to scale. After the design is drawn, the spots which in the finished work will be of one color are neatly cut out with a sharp knife, the paper being laid on a sheet of glass. The knife must be constantly sharpened on an oil-stone, as paper dulls the keen edge. Two or more stencils will be needed for each pattern. Care must be taken to leave sufficient material between the openings cut out to prevent the paper tearing while the work is being executed. Cut two tiny holes in the same place in each stencil to serve as keys in fitting your pattern to the wall. It is better to start with a small, simple design, as a large one is clumsy to manage. After the cutting is finished the paper must have two coats of strong shellac varnish to render it tough and water-proof. A separate stencil and brush is used for each color. The bristles should be tied half-way down to prevent the brush spreading. Distemper colors (calcimine) are often used in stencilling plaster surfaces. These may be purchased mixed with the proper amount of glue ready for use. Colors in powder should be at hand to vary the shades, if necessary. Amateurs will find these easy to manage. The painting should not be too accurate, but must not be "sloppy." Nothing must look machine made.
Old wooden arm-chairs have a new interest lent them by leather seats that take the place of worn-out cane. These may be tied on the chair by leather thongs. A piece of heavy leather, the size of the chair bottom, is to be purchased from any shoemaker for very little, and for an additional few cents it can be punched with a series of holes with brass eyelets put in about the edges. The leather thongs are then used as lacings, being passed over the framework of the seat. A leather cushion can be added, the four corners finished with leather tassels.
An ugly oak wardrobe has been renovated by being painted to match the room and stencilled, its objectionable handles being replaced by something simpler. Another wardrobe was stained green, the grain of the wood remaining visible and adding a quality to the work when done. The hideous ash furniture now sold everywhere can be stained over the varnish in this same way. Staining this ash is, by the way, better than painting, as it does not conceal the grain of the wood. Let one coat dry thoroughly before applying the next. It dries quickly. After the application, if too shiny, a dull finish can be given by rubbing carefully with finely ground pumice in water. This is a laborious process, but well repays the trouble.