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.
The employment of colour is probably the most outstanding feature of this method of decoration, described in the last chapter of Part I, and the more extreme examples of its use are apt to irritate persons neutral by temperament or training, precisely as does "noise" in modern music. The use of positive colour in the days of William and Mary in England and Louis Quatorze in France was as great as it is among the modern men and women, and yet it is safe to believe that interiors of those periods would not affect the quieter-minded as do some examples of modern work. This is but to say that in these specially mentioned cases the use of colour is not happy and that their harmonies (?) need revision or use in a different manner. Turquoise and blue-green have run a maddening course: one might sometimes think that blue-green, strong violet and red-orange, and green, golden-yellow and blue-violet were the only colour combinations known, were it not for such others as red-orange walls with bright blue woodwork and furniture, and a typically German ugly green, red and tan "relieved" by mauve. The unentrancing terra-cotta also has its innings. Now these hues may be, or were, more unusual than the beautiful rose-reds, yellow buffs and tans, grey-blues and apple-greens - and the fact that they were not employed in such quantities and prominence by the master colourists of the past shows us there was a reason.
There is also occasionally a tendency to use but two well-harmonising colours in a room: such as ivory and blue, grey and green, yellow and cream, yellow and blue - every one of which combinations needs for relief touches of rose-red or orange.
Absolute white and black has oeen greatly employed, to which there is no objection except that it is much more apt to stand apart from colour than would ivory and black.
With the object of seeing just why these combinations have been so greatly exploited the writers have gone over a large body of Peasant Art, which, as has been said in Part I, is one of the inspirations of the movement. They found red-orange walls and ceilings stripped with blue-green, and the primitive yellow and vermilion red with black and white, but in the overwhelming majority of cases tones were used and in beautiful combinations. Many of these tones were bright and cheerful and others quiet. So useful are these combinations as suggestions for colour-schemes that it will be far more valuable to mention some of them than to recite for adaptation what has already been done by modern decorators. The manner in which these schemes may actually be used is indicated in the section on "Unity and Variety" just preceding. These colour-memoranda are given just as transcribed, mostly from costumes and textiles, as these notes sometimes show the general proportions in which the tones are used. Doubtless some of these combinations have been employed by modem decorators.
Cream white, plum brown, pale rose red, with touches of buff and pale blue.
Cream, buff and indigo, relieved with touches of soft red.
Background of gun-metal grey, design in pale buff and a tone of light red.
A tone of cranberry red, tone of bluish-green, tone of indigo, all relieved with pale-buff.
Reddish buff with relief of maroon, white and dark green (nearly black).
Cream and strong orange, light indigo and black.
Burgundy rose, medium green, light yellow, black and white.
A very odd one was cream, light plum and salmon, relieved with light yellow and black.
And a very beautiful one from an Italian costume, cream white, Burgundy rose, quiet apple-green and plum, with a spot of red (which would better have been bright rose) and small touches of indigo and bright orange.
Tan, yellow, dull blue and dull green.
Fire-cracker red, dark blue, green and black.
Regarding colour and colour-combinations, it should be remembered that even among artists and experts there is a certain amount of divergence of view as to what is attractive and harmonious, due probably either to the individual eye or temperament, and so it is unwise to indulge in too much dogmatism upon the subject. This applies also to intensity of colour, strength being a delight to some and a positive disturbance to others. As a general rule it may, however, safely be said that the prismatic colours in their purity should be employed only in small portions, but that tones, and good strong tones, too, such as those shown in the colour-plates of this chapter, will blend well when properly used and in proper proportions.
Colour in the home is productive of joyousness and cheer, and in its right use is in no way hostile to rest-fulness and peace.