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.
In the chapter on walls it was said that they might either be treated as background or as decoration. The same is often true of floors and with them we are sometimes still more free to choose which method we shall employ. The floor being darker than the walls, and being in appearance held down by the furniture upon it, has greater apparent artistic stability than the walls, and is less sensitive to disturbance. Furthermore, being under our feet and not opposite our eyes, a larger variety of tone and contrast does not so greatly obtrude as it would in a higher position. We may, therefore, regard the floors in either light, and will consider the respective advantages of each method.
There is much to be said in favour of comparatively plain floor coverings. These, with equally simple walls, at once make sure of repose, even though we relieve them with strong colour - in fact, if we wish to use decided and varied colour (for which there is also much to be said) we should first insure the plain surfaces for their necessary balance.
It is evident that the simple rug or carpet presents fewer complications and is easier to manage deco-ratively than one of more obtrusive nature. It is equally plain that no matter how simple they may be, a number of small rugs upon a strongly contrasting floor is destructive of all repose, and if these be thrown down at angles the result is simply harassing. If simplicity of floor space is needed it will therefore be advisable to use but one or two rugs largely covering it where the room is of moderate dimensions. In a larger room the floor may similarly be largely covered; or it may be left mostly bare, with but a few small rugs; or a proportionate number may be employed if not too various in pattern or colour. If there be an occasion to lay rugs otherwise than parallel to the walls of the room, we have not discovered it. If a triangular china closet occupies the corner of a room, that practically becomes the line of wall at that particular point, and a small rug placed parallel to its front is permissible provided other rugs are not so close as to present interfering lines. The same is true of a rug before a fireplace built into the corner of a room.
Simple rugs may be of solid colour with or without a border, or they may be of two tones of the same colour, or of two or more colours, providing that the pattern, where it exists, is not large or too strongly contrasting to be simple (Plates 79 and 80 B) Borders on rugs of solid colours may likewise be of two tones or colours if not too prominent. In a painting by Oswald Birley of an interior at James Prydes', the London artist, there is a solid colour rug of rich rose with a border of soft green, and just within its outline on each side a narrow band of rose. Such a rug has considerable colour quality without being obtrusive. Another British rug, with a block border, is shown in Plate 66 B.
Needless to say, rug designs should always be conventional. We have the metaphor "Sleeping upon a bed of roses," but no one cares to walk upon roses, either literally or naturalistically displayed upon a carpet: when sufficiently conventionalised these and other natural objects become merely decorative motifs based upon nature and the objection no longer holds.
These simple rugs are to be found in both imported and domestic goods and in most of the colours we may desire. There are also the hand-woven rugs in both wool and cotton, and some of the makers will dye and weave these in any shade desired (Plate 59). Braided rugs, rag carpets, and rugs made therefrom are appropriate for "old-time" rooms and cottage use.
Bugs are more convenient and sanatory than carpets, because they may easily be removed; and, as they do not need tacking down, the flooring is not marred.
A rather serious objection to the perfectly plain rug, especially in first-floor rooms, is its showing every mark and stain. Where there are children running in and out, each dusty little footprint is evident; and if there is sewing done every thread left upon the floor is visible. For rooms subject to constant use it is better to choose rugs which have a considerable, though not necessarily a strongly contrasting, pattern (Plate 92 B). It may be observed that many patterned and colourful rugs - even many Oriental ones - may be classed as simple for purposes of present consideration; the sole test being: is it quiet enough not to interfere with the other decorative materials we shall use?
As has been noted the use of simple rugs with simple walls allows the utmost freedom in the choice of fabrics: they may be marked in both colour and pattern provided that the first is harmonious and the second proper in both scale and character. Colour and pattern, rightly employed, are never splashy nor offensive; on the contrary they add to beauty, happiness and the joy of living. The remark is frequently sounded in our ears: "My taste runs to plainness!" when a glance at the costume and surroundings of the speaker tells us that it runs simply to mediocrity. If some of these drab souls were transplanted to more cheerful surroundings their outlook on life might be improved. Violence must, of course, be avoided and good taste should always obtain.
If it is insisted that plain solid colours be used for coverings and hangings as well as for rugs, at least let our upholstery have pattern in the weave, so as to give variety and avoid the bareness which would otherwise ensue. Also for variety's sake, if the fabrics and rugs are to match as to colour it is better that they be not of the same shade of that colour but either lighter or darker, the harmony being preserved.