This section is from the book "Hints On Household Taste In Furniture, Upholstery And Other Details", by Charles L. Eastlake. Also available from Amazon: Hints on Household Taste in Furniture, Upholstery and Other Details.
* This preposterous pattern has not only been employed for carpets, but is evidently very popular, and may be noted as an instance of the degradation to which the arts of design can descend.
Glass, china, table-linen, window-curtains, tables, chairs, and cabinet-work, are all chosen on this plan. The latest invention, although it may violate every principle of good design, is sure to be a favourite with the majority. An article which dates from a few years back is rejected as old-fashioned. This absurd love of change - simply for the sake of change, is carried to such an extent that if one desires to replace a jug or a tablecloth with another of the same pattern, even a few months after the first has been bought, however good the style may have been, it is extremely difficult, sometimes impossible, to do so. The answer is always the same : 'Last year's goods, sir; we couldn't match them now.'
• This state of things is the fault, not only of the manufacturer, but of the purchaser. So long as a thirst for mere novelty exists independently of all artistic considerations, the aim at Manchester and Sheffield will be to produce objects which, by their singular form or striking combination of colours, shall always appear new. From such an endeavour some originality indeed results, but also a vast deal of ugliness. Now and then a good thing finds its way into the sale-room or shop-window, strikes the fancy of some buyer, and is sent home. But search for the same article next season, and you will probably find that it has been condemned to make room for some trash, which is in request, for no better reason than because nothing like it has appeared before.
For many years past there has been, as I have said, a great deficiency in public taste on such points, but by degrees people are beginning to awaken to the fact that there is a right and a wrong notion of taste in upholstery, in jewellery - perhaps in millinery, too - and in many other fields which stand apart from a connoisseurship of what is commonly called 'high art.' The revival of ecclesiastical decoration, for instance, has called ladies' attention to the subject of embroidery; and they are relinquishing the ridiculous custom of endeavouring to reproduce, in cross-stitch worsted-work, the pictures of Landseer and Frank Stone. There is a growing impatience of paperhangings which would beguile the unwary into a shadowy suspicion that the drawing-room walls are fitted up with trellis-work for training Brob-dingnag convolvuli, and portraits of the once-celebrated Bengal tiger no longer appear on the domestic hearth-rug.
The modern fashion of dining a la Russe has given a new impulse to the manufacture of dessert services and table-glass; and the improved education of students in the schools of design has been attended with beneficial results in more quarters than one. Still there seems to be a great want of popular information for the guidance of those who have neither time nor inclination to study the abstruse works on various departments of decorative art which have from time to time appeared in this country.
It is hoped, therefore, that a few familiar hints on what may be called 'household taste' will not be unacceptable to the readers of this book. There is a class of young ladies who are in the habit of anticipating all differences of opinion in a picture-gallery or concert-room by saying that they 'know what they like.' Whatever advantage may be derived from this remarkable conviction in regard to music or painting, I fear it would assist no one in furnishing a house - at least, in accordance with any established principles of art. It will be my endeavour, in the following chapters, to point out those principles, so far as they have been laid down by writers of acknowledged authority, taking care to avoid all technical details in regard to manufacture, which, however interesting to the specialist, would be useless to the general reader; and if I am thus enabled, even indirectly, to encourage a discrimination between good and bad design in those articles of daily use which we are accustomed to see around us, my object will be attained.