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 is hard to understand why someone has not written such a book as this before, a book covering the three great needs of anyone approaching in any capacity the matter of household decoration.
History is a treasure house of the crystallised experience that has slowly evolved in past ages, a treasure house ready for us to draw upon as we will. The limit of our taking from its stores is marked only by our capacity to receive. This is especially true in the case of so concrete a subject as interior decoration where many enduring examples of the best achievements of former generations in that field have been preserved for us practically intact.
The truest and sanest originality is the product of a gradual evolution and rational adaptation to present needs of the most obvious and applicable precedents established by our predecessors and tried by the searching test of time. Such originality, too, is largely an unconscious product. The agent is scarcely conscious that he is aiming to be original. Deliberately self-conscious originality that casts aside and contemns all precedent and strives, above all else, to create something the like of which has never been done before, may indeed be original to the extent of being unique, but the chances are ninety-nine out of an hundred that it will also be gauche and crude and without any merit to entitle it to permanence. It wins notice only because it is a curiosity and a freak.
If there were no guiding principles and traditions, if Interior Decoration were to begin today, it is probable that furnishing - even of the simplest cottage - would be a chaotic thing. Successful decoration and home-making is a matter not merely of "feeling" or even of taste* if these necessary qualities be without knowledge. Decoration is both an art and a science; it is the result of long centuries of loving thought and high craftsmanship based upon unalterable principles of beauty and of use. What wonder is it that the usual brisk and light-hearted "jumping into" the furnishing of the home is productive of a result causing the judicious to grieve! Notwithstanding an improvement in recent years, the utter waste of money and of effort, the absence of any praiseworthy result in thousands of modern homes is still appalling.
Knowledge therefore must come first, and nothing can be more absorbing than to see the beauty and the fitness evolved, both from elaborate and from simple materials, through the various periods of Decoration and to apply them to our own needs. It would, then, certainly seem wise to provide the professional decorator, the home-furnisher and the allied professions and trades with a convenient, thorough-going and well illustrated account and description of the work of the great decorative periods, since their beginnings, and of the principles which informed them.
In the first part of this volume the authors have endeavoured to give a consecutive and synoptic picture of the art of interior decoration as it has been practised in England, in France, in Italy, and in Spain since the beginning of the sixteenth century, adding thereto such comment as seemed necessary upon American modifications of British usage during the Colonial and early republican periods. This includes the decorative practice of the Renaissance, Baroque, Rococo and Neo-Classic systems, and it may be added that in no other one volume can such a fully described, illustrated and digested account be found.
In the second part of the volume is made the direct application to modern requirements of the lessons to be drawn from the historical exposition in Part I. As it is manifestly impossible, even were it desirable, to give specific and categorical directions for decorative procedure to suit every case, it has been the policy to set forth principles as well as to explain practice, and to leave considerable discretionary latitude in which the reader may exercise his or her choice of action. In this way it is believed the utility of the book will prove flexible enough to meet all sorts of needs, both simple and elaborate.
Each age has its own conditions, requirements and developments, and any volume on Modern Decoration that did not take these fully into account would be imperfect. The treatment of the Practical side of Decoration, in Part II, will be found so simple and straightforward as to be readily understood by any intelligent furnisher of his own home, and, while this Part is primarily addressed to him, it is felt that a fresh view of the subject from a point other than the traditions of trade may be of distinct interest to the professional decorator and dealer as well.
The plates constitute a most vital feature of the book and the reader is urged to study carefully the illustrations in connexion with the text in the manner indicated by the text references. Without such comparison and cross reference the purpose of the volume will be in great measure defeated. It will be seen that instant reference may thus be made to any particular feature of the work.
We are living in an age of catholic appreciation which we are optimistic enough to believe is increasing. We believe, also, that with this catholic tendency to appreciate and to lay hold of whatever is intrinsically good in the work of any period, there is rapidly growing an healthy constructive ability on the part of the householder which prompts the individual to beautify his or her home, either through the offices of a decorator or through personal effort.
Our twofold purpose is, in the first place, to stimulate intelligent cooperation with the decorator, to encourage appreciation of what the decorator does, and to afford a sound basis of discriminating criticism and judgment; in the second place, to aid the householder who may elect to achieve either a limited decorative improvement or the execution of an whole constructive scheme. It is also felt that the decorator and the dealer will find in this volume much information compactly arranged for instant reference.