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.
There are many large factories throughout the country, with superb equipment, turning out quantities of furniture of excellent workmanship, mostly by machinery. This furniture is found in good furniture- and department-shops and is thoroughly satisfactory except - that much or most of it is not faithful period furniture - perhaps in many cases it does not pretend to be. With no wish to be invidious, the fact that it is not faithful is to the present writers a very large reservation indeed. An acquaintance recently observed that they are just enough wrong to be misleading and injurious to one's sense of rightness of form.
Some of these are not in themselves bad pieces of furniture, others are "reproductions," losing the proportions and virility of their originals, and many of them are merely designed more or less after certain styles or mixtures of styles, some of them containing features which have no congruity whatever.
It is to this furniture we have previously referred and for which we then said we see no reason; the prices asked would certainly seem to warrant a faithful reproduction. A few enquiries will show how these figures compare with those of cabinet-makers' reproductions or even with those of the correct and elaborate forms referred to in a preceding section.
A desideratum is the manufacture of simple forms of faithful Period furniture in greater quantities and within the reach of those of quite moderate means.
That our own strictures are moderate may be seen by the following quotation from an address before the Architectural League of New York by the President of a large furniture mamifacturmg company, and printed in "Good Furniture."* Referring to these reproductions of the English furniture of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, he says: "Not 10 per cent, of this furniture gives the public even a faint idea as to what those styles really were, wherein lies their charm, and why those products of »a vigorous, active and progressive age, in their true character, should have so much of appeal for us today. Our great public really knows almost nothing of them, and therefore is not in a position to judge the good from the bad, not only in old work, but in the novelties of design which each year we see develop into a fad and then fade away into nothingness." Later he refers to these reproductions as " commercial crimes committed in that name."
* May, 1919, pages 212-213.
This condition of affairs is largely the fault of the furniture-buying public, and that public can change the condition as soon as it wishes. All that is required is to make its will known, to insist upon straight reproductions and to buy nothing else.
In the eighteenth century the number of gentlemen who made a real study of decorative matters is surprising, and we know from the correspondence of the period that the interest was decidedly general. Our own public is too ill-informed to be able to discern the "good from the bad," and too lethargic to improve itself by means of authoritative books and a little study of authentic examples in the museums. As it is more greatly interested in "movies" than in the improvement of its homes, it is consequently quite content with "commercial crimes."
The exceptions - and their number is constantly increasing - deserve the greater honour.