This section is from the book "The Practical Book Of Interior Decoration", by Harold Donaldson Eberlein, Abbot Mcclure, Edward Stratton Holloway. See also: The Victorian House Book: A Practical Guide to Home Repair and Decoration.
It should be remembered that in certain periods certain colours, patterns, and textiles were most used with the interiors and furniture of those periods. These have all been duly treated under those periods in Part I of this book, and if a period furnishing is to be followed, should be thoroughly studied.
These details will not usually be found hampering, as goods in appropriate textures and colours may nearly always be had sufficiently near to the period use to be appropriate.
It should be remembered that with dark-panelled walls full-bodied colour was naturally used as relief.
So far, the term value has not been used, and yet the thing itself has virtually been dealt with in our discussions regarding colour and will necessarily occur again and again throughout this volume. It might conversationally be defined as the lightness or darkness of objects irrespective of their colour. To illustrate, suppose we have before us two samples of goods, one a turquoise blue and the other a crimson. Now, putting aside for a moment all question of colour, we at once see that relatively the first is light and the second is dark - these are the "values" of those respective pieces of goods. A study in values is given in Plate 58.
The question of value comes into decoration in the form of contrast. We may think of introducing a certain object into the furnishing of a room; its colour may be perfectly satisfactory, but when we try the effect we may find that the object is so light or so dark that it separates itself from all others and "jumps" at us. Its "value" therefore is too high or too low for the room.
Scale in colour is a proper correspondence in the intensity of the colours used. An absolute correspondence would be either the use of all the colours in their strongest hues or else a greying of them all in a like degree. Such correspondence as this makes for harmony - and also for monotony. A total want of correspondence makes for entire incongruity. Let us exemplify - as to the first, a whole room done in pastel shades, all equally greyed, would be uninteresting to the last degree. As to the second: bring into another room, in which the textiles are precious antiques of quite sufficient but time-softened colour, a new cushion of raw, untamed red-orange or brilliant blue - and you bring disaster. The existing beautiful tones would be "killed" by the new arrival, and of that itself we should immediately exclaim: "Take it away; it is all out of scale!"
Entire correspondence or entire dissonance should therefore be avoided and an harmonising but not equal degree of intensity decided upon. The reason for this is plain. Some accent is needed for relief and contrast, but over accent simply produces disturbance. We have, it is true, the contrast of the colours themselves, but to avail ourselves of the whole gamut of colour we should add a proper degree of contrast in their intensities also.
A quiet or soft colouring is one in which most of the tones are greyed, with a few of somewhat greater strength: a brilliant colouring is one in which most of the colours are high with a few of somewhat lesser intensity: and necessarily there is a succession of degrees between. The degree decided upon is the pitch or key.
And not only may a certain key of colour exist in an individual fabric, but throughout a room full of them: and the same plan of accent may there also prevail. Many decorators, for instance, use in general fabrics of soft colouring - because they are naturally harmonious and easy to manage - and then "key up the room" with a few notes of more intense but not incongruous colour with perhaps a black satin cushion or two to add to the contrast. But if one has a proper colour-sense it is not necessary to "play safe" to this degree - the Orientals have never found it obligatory to be anaemic in order to be harmonious. We may take the cue from them and from the age of Louis Quinze, when colouring was exquisite but nevertheless in good strong tones - in tones, however, not in raw and undiluted rainbow hues.