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.
1. Through them we are able to key together all the various rooms in a dwelling or an apartment without that house or apartment becoming noticeably of strong yellow, or blue, pink or green.
2. They allow the employment in such rooms of a greater variety of colour.
3. They are reposeful and possess wholesomeness and cheer.
It should be noted, however, that the general ad-vocacy of a good thing by no means presupposes its universal use. A truly catholic taste is as acutely conscious of the desirability of other things in their proper circumstances. In very light houses or in apartments situated on upper floors where the light pours in in undiluted glare, and where heavy curtains may not be desired, somewhat darker colours for walls are appropriate. They will give rest and richness. Even here, however, a middle tone of the chosen colour will be found sufficient, and usually it had better be of rather neutral shade. For more positive treatments the section on the Newer Decoration should be consulted.
Perhaps no other one thing has given such scope to the fiendish ingenuity of man as the designing of paper for the wall. The usual shop is a museum of horrors where out of a hundred patterns ninety are to be shunned. Yet even here one may find good and simple things, and the best shops and decorating establishments have papers of great beauty.
In viewing any possible selection four questions should mentally be asked.
I. Is it beautiful in itself!
II. Will it lie back on the wall?
III. Is it in accordance with the purposes of the roomt
IV. Will it be harmonious with the room and its furnishings in colour, pattern and scale?
As a practical aid in selection, suggestions as to the best styles are given in the following paragraphs.
Stripes have always an intrinsic style (Plate 72). They add somewhat to the apparent height of the wall, which is sometimes an advantage where the walls are low. With lofty walls they may be used if treated according to later suggestions. The narrow stripes of cream white and grey are exceedingly attractive, practical and have a modest elegance. They may advantageously be used for an entire suite of rooms except perhaps the drawing-room, where a striped paper generally agreeing in tone, but of still greater elegance, may be substituted.
There are many other good stripes in white, light shades and in all colours likely to be used, the stripes being of varying widths. The two-surface stripes are of simple but undoubted style. In these one stripe is plain and the next is of satin finish, watered, brocaded or patterned.
In addition to these two-surface papers there are those in two tones of the same colour, and also in two tints, which also often have varying surfaces as well.
While exercising care that the stripe selected should not be out of proportion to the size of the room, it should be remembered that if there is little difference in tone or surface between the alternate stripes wider ones may be used than where the contrast is strong.
The papers by Walter Crane, William Morris and other designers are of strongly decorative character, possessing as they do both pattern and colour. Crane's "Macaw" design * is perhaps the most beautiful of them all.
An all-over conventional brocade in some such pattern as the damask wall illustrated (Plate 73 A) and in pale ashes of roses or cream is very beautiful. In these papers brocaded in the surface the pattern only shows strongly on portions of the wall where the light strikes at certain angles, but adds richness to the remainder. As previously noted some papers are both brocaded and striped.
There are papers in tan, grey, and light colours in which the lines run diagonally, thus forming a diamond pattern in which there is a small figure. These are attractive, and being unobtrusive, the direction of the lines is not objectionable. As a usual principle it is not well to use lines at variance with the perpendiculars and horizontals of the room.
*See colour-plate in "Decorative Textiles" by George Leland Hunter.
Where a solid-colour wall is desired in soft but definite tone, the pulp and felt papers are available, but in light shades they are characterless and the present writers advocate a plain painted wall rather than these. The following three are, however, often better than either.
These effects are in imitation of walls which are stippled with paint in various tones over a toned background and most of these are of great beauty. As the tones would not match at the joints this paper comes to such great width as fifteen feet. Decorators frequently stipple papers themselves with a sponge and water colour, but it would be unwise for the inexperienced to undertake it.
There are several styles of papers which may be grouped under this heading, all of them giving more or less the effect of solid colour. They are very slightly varied in surface or colouring so as to relieve monotony and add richness. They have a texture which is hardly that of plaster or stone, but of which these are the nearest comparisons, an they are all the better for not being a direct imitation.
There is also a sand-finished paper which gives approximately the same effect as the so-finished plaster.
The Canvas and Jasper papers are good, although they do not possess any great distinction. There is, however, a Canvas paper which is of decided richness. This is of dull gold on which the canvas lines are imprinted in brown, so that the general effect is of a golden tan.
Papers entirely covered with gold or silver, either plain or with oriental figuring, are handsome and likewise expensive. Some of these have stamped raised patterns in different tones or with suggestions of colour.
This is one of our very desirable assets, giving a rich hut unobtrusive surface. It may be found in such tones as silver grey, warmer grey, gold, green and gold, and blue and silver. There are also good imitations of grass cloth.
Available also are many designs of conventional character in two tones so nearly alike as to be unobtrusive. These have the advantage of richness often at moderate cost.
Sprinkled and Small Pattern Effects are simple and attractive. Snow-flakes, triangles or dots are all pleasing and especially suitable for bedrooms.
There is a paper with a tiny black design at frequent regular intervals on a white ground, and also on a background of Chinese yellow, and perhaps other colours. Such a wall-covering could be used in a series of rooms, though it might in time become more tiresome than stripes.
These papers are a mistake - if one were ill he would lie and count the medallions till moved to despair. There was an instance where an occupant, though in perfect health, discarded a very beautiful medallion paper costing ninety cents per roll and substituted an eleven-cent small-specked paper to immense advantage.
Wall-papers are furnished by manufacturers for certain period rooms, such as Adam and Empire, and these may sometimes be appropriately used.
Attention should be called to the reproductions of French wall-papers designed by David with subjects drawn from classic history and mythology. The figures are large and the subjects are in sequence and intended to be used as panels.
Late eighteenth century Architectural (Plate 74) and Landscape Papers have been reproduced and are excellent if the room be furnished as were those in which these papers were originally employed - with simplicity. If they are strong in effect the walls then become the decoration and other features should be subordinated or confusion is apt to ensue.
Another instance is the cretonne effect of which an illustration is given in Plate 75. In this case, with black ground and conventional flowers in varied colours and with bird's-eye maple furniture in simple lines, the result is good, except for the pictures erroneously hung upon such a wall.
Foliage papers in pale tones (Plate 73 B) are less obtrusive than the landscape effects, but judgment must here also be employed.
Small all-over flowered or leaf designs in greys, creams or pale tones of colour are often charming for bedrooms or above a dado in the whites or appropriate tints.
The bower of naturalistic red roses and the garden of blooms may be relegated to the use of those who have yet to learn of what household decoration consists.