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.
A covering being needed for a new screen and it naturally being of importance in the decoration of the room the man of the house stopped in the decorator's shop at which he dealt and out of a large stock selected ten or a dozen of the two-yard samples and had them sent home. When he arrived in the late afternoon his wife had already tried them on the screen and said: " They are all beautiful, but there is just one of them for this screen and for this room. See if you agree with me." He, too, tried them and unhesitatingly picked out the same one.
This small experience illustrates several points well worth notice.
I. Each room has its own lighting, colouring, and individuality, and to select just the right thing for that room under other conditions is well nigh impossible. Goods should practically be bought in loco; i.e., the actual selection should be made on the spot where they are required.
II. Apart from any other consideration it is always well to experiment. In the case mentioned the pattern was not one which either the man or his wife would have bought at the shop: it needed the situation and the isolation for its beauty to be appreciated.
III. The goods selected were not the most expensive: Some other pieces were nearly double in price but did not look nearly so well for the particular purpose and place.
IV. If one deals at a decorator's he will usually find interest and appreciation of the effort to secure a good effect. He will also find willingness to send such samples when the purchaser is a regular customer or well recommended. One meets with intelligence and courtesy and secures goods that are not in all the department-stores.
V. It may have been noted that it was the man who made the first general selection: does it often occur, outside of artistic circles, that a man takes the interest he should in the beauty of his house f Yet, if he has taste and knowledge, why not! And if these are lacking it would be well for him to realise that these are part of the equipment of a gentleman and should be cultivated. The Honourable Andrew Hamilton, one of the most celebrated jurists of the Colonial period, designed the State House in Philadelphia; Thomas Jefferson designed, built and furnished Monticello; and George Washington twice enlarged Mount Vernon and ordered his furniture.
The successful decorator or home-furnisher is one who is at all times observing and who studies and makes mental notes of attractive things he sees that may appeal to him as applicable for future use. The study of authoritative books is of great use and such magazines as House and Garden, The House Beautiful, Good Furniture and Country Life are full of good things. Other journals, such as Town and Country, Vogue, The Spur and Vanity Fair, frequently picture interiors of historic houses here and abroad and modern dwellings and club-houses. The decorative articles which appear in daily and Sunday papers and some journals should be considered with discrimination before being followed - some are written by competent authorities, and others by those who in this particular direction seem to know less than their readers and who, in their probably well-meaning attempt to introduce the newcomer, through their own ignorance clumsily block the gate of the bazaar.
The decorators' shops in large cities afford many a hint as to materials, furniture, schemes of colour and decorative possibilities; and one great storehouse of knowledge - the Museum - should be much more utilised than it is.
In trying effects in the home the conditions should be those which usually obtain - do not, for example, throw the shades up to the top of the windows. As night effects are quite as important as those of daytime, goods should also be tried under artificial light: quite extraordinary variations are often found, not only because of the differing qualities of the lights themselves but because they are from different directions and differently concentrated.
Such precautions may seem to entail some trouble, but they will often save one from the alternative of dwelling with nightmares or doing over what might rightly have been done at first. We should also consider the pleasure and positive mental and physical benefit of feeling each time the home is entered that, though perhaps very simple, it speaks of beauty and of rest. Neither should we forget our social relations: rooms with high, glaring lights, bad forms and faulty harmonies are impossible for companionship, while others are immediately suggestive of fellowship and cheer. A rather elderly woman in humble circumstances (I reverently lift my hat and call her lady) said to the occupant of an attractive apartment: "Some things have happened, and I felt very sad when I got up, and then I remembered that I was to come down and clean for you today, and it's all so beautiful, and peaceful, and quiet here that it's helped me to forget." Pew would soon forget those words so simple and sincere.