The floors of good old French mansions were often inlaid with variously-coloured wood arranged in geometrical patterns. This branch of decorative art, known as parquetry, has been of late years revived in England, and is much in vogue at country houses. Parquetry floor-borders are now supplied at a price which is scarcely greater per superficial foot than that paid for a good Brussels carpet. With such a border 'projecting two or three feet from the wall all round, the carpet need not be carried into the recesses and corners of a room, but may be left square at the sides. It is hardly necessary to say that the effect of this arrangement, including as it does the additional grace of inlaid woodwork, is infinitely more artistic and interesting than that which the ordinary system presents.

The annexed illustrations are from specimens of parquetry floors and floor-borders, manufactured by Mr. Arrowsmith of Bond Street, whose name has long been associated with the revival of this art.

With regard to the style of the carpet, it may be assumed that, except in a few rare instances, where an European influence has been brought to bear on the manufacture of the East, all Oriental work is excellent. Care should be taken, however, to avoid those designs which are remarkable for over-brilliance of colour. They are apt to be inharmonious with the rest of the furniture, and rich Oriental dyes frequently have a deleterious effect on the material which they stain. The crimson used in Scinde rugs, for instance, is especially destructive, and the portions dyed with this colour wear out long before the rest. The dull Indian red is far more enduring, and is also more likely to blend well with the surrounding tints.

Turkey carpets are hardly dearer than the best productions of this country, but there are some English carpets - such as those known as Kidderminster - of excellent design, and of course much cheaper than any which can be imported from abroad. There is no reason why true principles of design should not be found in the humblest object of household use, and, so far as European goods are concerned, it not unfrequently happens that the commonest material is invested with the best form and colour. Carpets are no exception to this rule. In London shops their artistic worth is at present a matter of mere chance, and is certainly independent of all pecuniary considerations. The simplest diapered grounds are the best, and it is desirable that the prevailing tint of a carpet should contrast rather than repeat that of the wall-paper. Large sprawling patterns, however attractive they may be in colour, are utterly destructive of effect to the furniture which is placed on them, and, above all, every description of shaded ornament should be sternly banished from our floors.

The Floor And The Wall Part 2 57The Floor And The Wall Part 2 58The Floor And The Wall Part 2 59

Next to the mistakes committed in the design of carpets, there are few artistic solecisms more apparent than those which the paper-stainers perpetrate by way of decoration. Concerning taste, as the old Latin adage informs us, there is no disputing; and if people will prefer a bouquet of flowers or a group of spaniels worked upon their hearthrug to the conventional patterns which are adopted by the Indian and Turkish weavers, it is difficult to convince them of their error. We require no small amount of art instruction and experience to see why the direct imitation of natural objects is wrong in ornamental design. The quasi-fidelity with which the forms of a rose, or a bunch of ribbons, or a ruined castle, can be reproduced on carpets, crockery, and wall-papers will always possess a certain kind of charm for the uneducated eye, just as the mimicry of natural sounds in music, from the rolling of thunder to the cackling of poultry, will delight a vulgar ear. Both are ingenious, amusing, attractive for the moment, but neither lie within the legitimate province of art.

Now, about the time that the famous 'Battle of Prague' became a favourite exercise with youthful pianists, and fathers and brothers were daily bored with the musical imitations of roar of cannon, clashing of swords, trample of horses, and shrieks of the dying - at a period, I say, when all these deplorable consequences of war were brought before us in a most emphatic and prae-Raphaelite manner on Mr. Broadwood's well-known instruments, by young ladies of an age varying from ten to sixteen - just at this epoch the worst style of art which this country has ever seen prevailed throughout the whole field of design. Upholstery was in bad taste; glass and china were in bad taste; cabinet-work was in bad taste. But of all the ugly fashions of that day, by far the most contemptible was that of paperhangings. Sometimes, in tearing down the paper from old walls where it has been allowed to accumulate (a very slovenly and unhealthy practice, by the way), the workman, after removing two or three layers of paste, etc, will come upon a curious specimen of mural decoration, which embodies in its pattern sometimes a suggestion of landscape; sometimes a bit of ornamental gardening in impossible perspective; sometimes a group of foreign birds, repeated at regular intervals; but often a curious combination of these diverse elements of design, mixed up with huge flowers and creeping plants, meandering over the whole surface of the wall.