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.
Whether or not the services of a decorator be retained, may we urge the wisdom of not trying to hasten unduly the completion of a scheme. It is infinitely better to proceed deliberately, to accomplish at one time what is unquestionably sound and then to wait for a while, if it be necessary, to secure exactly what is needed, rather than to push for immediate completion at the risk of incorporating features that afterwards prove undesirable and make us rue our impatience.
We have reminded the reader that this is an age of catholic appreciation of whatever was worth while in the practice of the past. In this connexion, it should be pointed out that while it is perfectly permissible, if the householder so chooses, and may at times be thoroughly desirable, to decorate and furnish a room in strict accord with some particular period style, we do not urge such a course. Meticulous reproduction of this sort is apt to savour too much of decorative archaeology and to result in a stilted, artificial effect, quite incompatible with a desirable expression of the owner's individuality or with the exercise of rational originality. The outcome is likely to be dead and "correct" instead of being instinct with vital quality as it ought.
It is better to think, to consult principles, which we believe the reader will find lucidly enough set forth, and to employ a rational liberty of selection when attacking a problem of rearrangement or of new composition. The room will then reflect the occupant's personality, a condition that will afford vastly more interest and lively charm than any amount of simian exactitude in reproduction.
No one questions the value of period furnishing, but the question as to how it is to be used in our modern days has been the subject of much discussion indeed. On the one hand we find, in practice, the narrow adherence to one period and one country; on the other, a jumble of everything under the sun from the fifteenth century to the twentieth and from China to Portugal. In Part III of this book is for the first time formulated a logical system of decoration which avoids both the narrow limitations of the one-period method and the pitfalls of eclectic furnishing.
Without wishing to claim undue credit, the writers are under the impression that this volume is the first of the kind to formulate a definite body of decorative principles that are applicable under any conditions likely to arise. Scattered precepts and general observations upon the effects attained in individual instances are agreeable and helpful, so far as they go. It is more serviceable, however, to have a digest of principles explaining the "how" and "why", principles simple and flexible enough in their working to be readily applied to meet the varying requirements that may from time to time confront the reader.
It will be seen upon perusal that a great deal of space and attention have been devoted, both in the historical section and in the sections upon application, to the architectural background and the fixed decorations. The vital importance of this part of interior decoration cannot be overestimated. Without it all efforts in other directions will be robbed of their legitimate result and the expense bestowed will not count for its full value.
The architectural background and the fixed decorations really supply the foundation for which all else is the superstructure. When building an house, no sane person would dream of constructing an elaborate and costly superstructure upon insufficient or poor founda-, tions. It is quite as fatuous to expect a room to look well and to do justice to the pains spent upon it without adequate preparation of the background, or, in other words, the foundation for the subsequent movable decoration. If it be necessary to economise anywhere in the erection of a structure, the economising is not done at the foundation, which cannot be changed later, but above ground in the matter of details that can be subsequently added. In precisely the same way, if there be any limitation in carrying out a decorative scheme, do not stint the background, which has a strongly permanent quality, but postpone completing a part of the movable equipment, which can be added at any time.
The work of interior decoration is not a task that can be undertaken in a haphazard manner and accomplished with creditable results. Nor can it be achieved by the whimsical following of fads. It requires thought, judgment, calm planning and sanity. In the past it has always been a dignified occupation in which the greatest architects and artists have not hesitated to labour assiduously. Its ultimate object, to enrich and beautify the home which is the nucleus of social life and the cornerstone of the state, is a service in which architect and artist, decorator and householder alike may engage with justifiable pride.
In conclusion, the authors wish sincerely to thank all the many who have materially assisted in the preparation of this work, and for numerous courtesies extended to acknowledge their indebtedness, especially to the following:: - the editors of House and Garden, of Good Furniture Magazine and of House Beautiful in arranging for the use of material that has appeared in substance in their pages; to Messrs. Wilson Eyre and Mcllvaine, Edmund B. Gilchrist, Willing and Sims, Mellor, Meigs and Howe, Sir Ernest Newton, Barry Parker and Raymond Unwin, George Leland Hunter, William Lawrence Bottomley, the Misses Hewitt, the Misses Owen, Mrs. Abbot Thorndike and Mrs. William Thorndike, the Honourable Jefferson M. Levy, Wolstan Herbert Dixie, Durr Friedley, E. S. Dodge, and Henry Chapman Mercer; to W. H. Ward's "Architecture of the French Renaissance" and George P. Bankart's "Art of the Plasterer"; to the C. M. Traver Co., William Helburn, Inc., B. T. Batsford, Ltd., Messrs. L. Ala-voine & Co., Carvalho Brothers, Nicholas Martin, Mon-tillor Brothers, Messrs. Litchfield & Co., Eadillo & Pelliti Co., Woodville & Co., the Chapman Decorative Co., Messrs. Robinson and Farr, R. W. Lehne, Vogue, the Architectural Record, the International Studio, Waring & Gillow, Ltd., Edwards & Sons, Bartholomew & Fletcher, Speelman, Brothers, Story & Triggs, C. J. Charles, the Aschermann Studio, Newcomb-MacklinCo., A. H. Notman & Co., Edward I. Farmer, Ramsey, Lyon & Humphreys, Inc., Alfred Villoresi, Karl Freund, Mrs. M. Orme Wilson, John Wanamaker; American Art Galleries, Anderson Art Galleries.; the Pennsylvania Museum and School of Industrial Arts, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Brooklyn Museum, and the Museum of the Cooper Institute for supplying many illustrations and for permission to reproduce others; to the officers and staffs of the Library Company of Philadelphia and of the Philadelphia Free Library; and last, but by no means least, to Mr. Philip B. Wallace for his unfailing help with many of the photographs used.
Habold Donaldson EbeRleiN
Edwabd StRatton Holloway
Philadelphia, July, 1919