Puslapio vaizdai

course, it is not fair always to judge the owner of one of these multifarious drawingrooms by what he puts forward as his own taste. In nine cases out of ten it is not his taste at all, but the taste of the town, and he has meekly put himself into the hands of the fashionable Furnisher. We might as well lay the charge of the theatrical, vulgar paraphernalia of a modern first-class funeral at the door of the dead man upon whose unresisting body all these hideous "floral embiems" are piled. The fashionable Undertaker sits on him when dead, as the fashionable Furnisher sat on him when alive. We cannot judge of his taste until he shows it; until he takes his house into his own hands, and makes it to his mind. It is to persuade people to do this that these papers are written, but the writer is not very hopeful of persuading any but young people and those who have a natural independence. Rich people are for the most part so bullied by their money, they don't dare do what they would like. And people who are well on in life do not, as a rule, take enough interest in the subject. They find the old shoes easier to the feet.

But the young people can be asked to look at nature, or-if they can't get into the countryto take the next best thing, and study the Japanese decoration on books and trays and tea-pots -with a view to ridding their minds of the belief that things ought to be in suites; that a front parlor must be like a back one; that one side of a chimney pier must just reflect the other; that there must always be a middle and sides, and so forth, and so on,-laws which are Medean and Persian laws to tradesmen and conservative, safe, respectable furnishers, but not laws with which we are concerned. Nature, who never makes two sides of a leaf alike, nor two sides of a flower, nor two sides of a face, will surely repay industrious study of her works by some hint of how not to do it, when we are bent on seeing our back parlor reflected in our front one like the sky in a mill-pond.

Each room ought to be considered by itself, no matter if it be only nominally separated from another by the piers on each side of a wide archway. Its floor, its walls, its ceilings, ought to be brought into harmony by a right arrangement of colorthat is the first thing. They are only the background for the furniture, the pictures, and the people, but they must have unity among themselves. It is not of course



meant that they should be like one another, or that any one of them should be all of one hue. But, the wall being first divided up horizontally into its natural parts, the wainscot or dado, the wall-paper, the frieze and the cornice, all these must make an agreeable impression upon the eye; and if a person does not feel that his own knowledge or instinct is all he needs to help him bring

the business to a happy ending, he must get help from some artist, or architect, or from some professional decorator, who is a decorator by nature and training. We have plenty of good guides-Mr. Russell Sturgis, Mr. George F. Babb, Mr. Alexander Sandier, Mr. James S. Inglis, Mr. John La Farge, Mr. Francis Lathrop; if a man were in doubt as "how to present Wall," any one of these accomplished architects and artists could solve his doubt, and make him glad he had had it.

The walls once settled to the owner's mind, the floor may almost be trusted to take care of itself, and yet, before thinking of it, the ceiling ought to be married to the wall by being papered or painted in harmony with it. Our ceilings have been getting into bad ways of late, though rather mending than otherwise from what they were five years or so ago. Then the plasterers had it all their own way, and a pretty mess they made of it. They evidently thought "there was nothing like plaster." They have been taught better, of late, than to put into our always small rooms cornices heavy enough for a Roman palace, with centerpieces as ponderous and outlandish as their wits could devise. Since architects have come to be consulted so much with regard to the furniture of the houses they design, it has been getting more and more the custom, to put the whole interior decoration into their hands, and the ceilings have shared this good fortune-for it often is good fortune with the rest. A white ceiling can only look well when the room is white, and it ought to carry out the tone of the room,

why a ceiling should not be papered as well as a wall, and in building houses if all plaster ornaments were omitted from the ceiling, and all cornices also, and the walls and ceilings made pretty and harmonious with paper, or washed with color, money could be saved, and a much more agreeable result obtained. Of course the paper on the walls should not be repeated on the ceiling, but one chosen that will harmonize with that, and, as a rule of general application, one that is lighter than the lightest part of the wall. If there is a cornice at all it ought to be small; something merely to break the ugly line where the wall and ceiling meet; a wooden molding will often be all that is needed, and will be cheaper than plaster.

"But," says one letter-writer, "all this is expensive, and we are tired of spending money; besides, you told us in the beginning you were going to show us how to make our houses pretty on next to nothing." The complaining writer is not quite fair with us. Nothing worth having is to be had without expense either of time or money, but many of the best things in house decorating and furnishing are those that cost least. What I object to is the measuring beautiful things by a money standard, or a standard of fashion; and what seems to me most needed just now is, that people should put their own taste into their houses and not depend so much on professional help. It is often seen that people have an instinctive tastea sense of color, a gift at making a room look cozy with simple, inexpensive thingsa gift at making a table look elegant with homely china and linen; but few even of

such persons are willing to trust their own intuitions. Years ago, when the Philistines were telling in Gath, and whispering in the streets of Askelon, that it was a barbarous thing to wear blue and green, or two blues, or two greens, or two any colors in the same dress, a few women who hadn't the fear of Philistia before their eyes, and were quite given over by all their fashionable friends, so far as dress went-" makes a perfect guy of herself, you know, my dear!"

these poor ladies would insist on wearing blue and green ribbons on their bonnets, or two blues, or two greens, or two any colors they pleased-and, as they were not to be


No. 5.


whatever that may be. The difficulty has been that coloring the ceiling has been thought to be attended with considerable increase of expense; it must be painted or frescoed, and accordingly it is but rarely colored at all. There is no reason at all

taught how to behave themselves, Mrs. Grundy quietly let them gang their ain gait. Now, to-day, Mrs. Grundy thinks blue and green together "just lovely," and the "Mesdames Mèdes et Persans," who make the laws of the modes, have reconciled even the artists to their doings, and combine colors that even artists wouldn't have dared to put side by side on their palettes a few years ago. The luckless ladies who did as they pleased and¦ flew in the face of fashion, were simply born colorists, though born too early; but any woman who can make a bouquet, or knows how to dress herself so that artists praise her, is pretty sure to make a room harmonious with very simple materials. It would be very easy for some women to make a room delightful in color-a place in which the eye should be at once exhilarated and rested, and the whole should not cost as much as another woman would spend on a single piece of furniture-of which, after all, the best she could say would be, You wouldn't believe it, but this chair cost so many dollars." Now that wall-papers are so greatly improved in their patterns, and so cheap in price, it cannot be that anything but taste is wanted to make a telling arrangement at a small expense; and if paper is not to be had, the color that is put upon the walls should be water-washes, and not paint, and this, not because of the greater cheapness of the water-wash alone, but, because of the better surface texture, the avoidance of even as little shine and gloss as the flattest treatment of paint cannot avoid.


[merged small][graphic][merged small]

sands, and are met with, good, bad, and indifferent (but rarely "good"), at every turn. As for the color, it ought to be light or dark to mate with its own room, but surely it ought not to be insisted on that all the rooms which open into one another should be or seem to be alike. Let the front parlor be good in its way, and the back parlor in its, and they will not be discordant when one is seen from the other.

But I wanted this month to say something about fire-places and mantel-pieces. Enough has been said about carpets and

The treatment of the floor is then, after all, the simplest part of the problem, and there is no reason why it should be more expensive than the walls or the ceiling, or at least for rugs and carpets are always more costly than paint or paper-not so much more expensive as is thought. A first-rugs-at least I have emptied my wallet, rate rug is a first-rate investment for any one and said all the little I know about them. who has enough of the artist in him to enjoy In fact, there is such easy communication seeing things get mellowed and subdued in America, that whereas a little while ago, with time, who does not like to see things what has been lately said about the subspick-and-span new. A rug of first-rate stitution of rugs for carpets, and the desiramake and good design gets better with bleness, on picturesque grounds as well as time, until it is actually used up. That is, grounds of healthfulness, of leaving much of it gets better to the artist eye; but every- the floor bare, was all "news," now it has body has not the artist eye, and people who almost become old-fashioned doctrine, and do not care for the soft, blended tints of the people are waiting for something that shall best Eastern rugs, had better have squares have the charm of novelty. So with the quesmade of the best European carpets with tion of grates and mantel-pieces. We are borders sewed on. Have the floor painted, just putting behind our backs the time when or stained, and shellacked round the edges furnaces were all the rage, and the doctors in of the room in a band wide enough for the consequence were rattling round in their gigs carpet-rug to overlap it six inches or a foot, with no end of business, and it required a

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][graphic][merged small]

chimneys out of their houses, or building the piers up solid, kept on putting in expensive make-believe fire-places, and erecting mantel-pieces over them, as if they couldn't bear to give up the memory of what had once been so pleasant. In those days, the kitchen came near being the only cheerful room in the house, for there, at least, there was a real fire-place with a real fire in it, giving out heat that was actually warm. Poorish people had to give up burning wood, of course, because it was too dear; but rich people who might have kept up the delightful luxury, didn't, of course, dare to, when all the world took to burning hard coal. However, some few of them did, and there were others who wanted to, and so made a compromise by employing that funniest of all the fashionable humbugs of our time, funnier than wedding presents, than funeral flowers, or dinner parties with borrowed silver, the fire-place with its makebelieve andirons supporting make-believe logs with pieces of asbestos stuck between them, and made red-hot by lighting the gas discharged by pipes hidden behind the fraudulent heap. Still, even this, vulgar or babyish as it was, was a concession to the

deserved no fair words. It was and is honester to frankly make a hole in the floor and warm yourself at that, than to pretend you still have something left of the beloved old-time fire-place with its hospitable warmth and eye-and-heart-delighting glow.

It was noticeable, too, that, all the time we were trying to thrust the fire-place and the hearth-stone out of doors, the traditional surroundings of the fire-place became more and more pretenticus and unmeaning. The house-builders went on building chimneys, and, though we didn't use them, there seemed no way of using the piers except as supports for make-believe mantel-pieces, with mirrors over them. And then cheapness began to run riot in her delight at seeing how much finery could be got for next to nothing. This was the era of marbleized slate, by which invention nature was taught what ugly things in the way of marble she might have made if she had been born a Yankee; and the manufacturers became at last so intoxicated with their success in the business as to overshoot the mark and produce a reaction. Now, as we know, marbleized slate, if found at all in good houses. is thrust out of sight into rooms little used;

but its main employment is in cheap houses made to sell and to tickle the buyer's eye, or in "flats," where these stunning mantelpieces are supposed to make the rash gazer, while he wipes his eye, forget to remark the cracked and blistered plaster, the gaping wood-work, and the wind that whistles through the door and window-frames for want of thought.

But marbleized slate, though dead, has let his mantel-piece fall on the shoulders of "wood," and the fashionable furnishers are trying how much vulgarity they can get for a good deal of money in that material. But not to waste words on these offensive mixtures of veneer and meaningless moldings, let us be glad of anything almost that keeps alive the sentiment of the fire-place, especially since we see how much has been done of late to re-instate the open fire in public favor. People have been finding out that though a furnace may be an excellent thing in the long-continued cold of winter, yet there are days in early spring and late fall when a fire of logs is much pleasanter and seems to go more directly to the right spot. And then all the accompaniments of the open fire are of an ornamental character, the fire-dogs, or the taller andirons, the tiles that border the opening, the brass fender of open-work, the very shovel and tongs, with the bellows, all these are the shining armor of the god of fire, and he likes to let his sparkling eye roam over them in the twilight, as he recalls a thousand memories of the days that are no more, or feeds a thousand hopes for the days that are to come.

pretentious things that are so much in favor with us. There is this excuse, however, for the bad taste shown in the employment of the "fashionable" New York grates: they are not intended for use, but for show. Probably not one in fifty of them ever was defiled by fire; yet they are almost always well made, and in the stage scenery of our social life they may be reckoned among the things which the slang of the theaters call "practicable;" they are real things, not shams. But, if they are used, they very soon lose their elegance and luster, or require a great deal of care and labor to


It is a good plan to have the fire-place made as in our illustration No. 1, which, with No. 2, has been copied by Mr. Inglis from wood-cuts in "The Architect." The two fire-places and mantels were designed by Mr. Edward W. Godwin, one of the best of the rising English architects. Mr. Francis Lathrop, who has drawn all the other illustrations in the present article, has added the lady in the first wood-cut, and has kindled the flames that Mr. Marsh has cut with such a flowing hand. The fire in this illustration is burning on a steel basket or cradle which rests upon the andirons. This being movable, a wood fire can be kindled on the hearth at any time, the cradle for coals being simply lifted off and set away. The other illustration, No. 2, shows a grate set into the pier in the ordinary way, but the reader's attention is particularly called to the plainness of this grate, which is in pleasant contrast to the showy, over-ornamented,

[ocr errors]

No. 8.


keep them neat and bright. The English grates, the best of them, are either kept very plain, or depend for their ornamentation upon good design. The best of the modern English grates, those designed by Mr. Morris particularly, depend for their ornamentation a good deal upon the delicate casting of the iron, which brings out the pat

« AnkstesnisTęsti »