THE HOUSE IN GOOD TASTE
ELSIE DE WOLFE
Illustrated with photographs in color and black and white
New York The Century Co.
I. THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE MODERN HOUSE II. SUITABILITY, SIMPLICITY AND PROPORTION III. THE OLD WASHINGTON IRVING HOUSE IV. THE LITTLE HOUSE OF MANY MIRRORS V. THE TREATMENT OF WALLS VI. THE EFFECTIVE USE OF COLOR VII. OF DOORS, AND WINDOWS, AND CHINTZ VIII. THE PROBLEM OF ARTIFICIAL LIGHT IX. HALLS AND STAIRCASES X. THE DRAWING-ROOM XI. THE LIVING-ROOM XII. SITTING-ROOM AND BOUDOIR XIII. A LIGHT, GAY DINING-ROOM XIV. THE BEDROOM XV. THE DRESSING-ROOM AND THE BATH XVI. THE SMALL APARTMENT XVII. REPRODUCTIONS OF ANTIQUE FURNITURE AND OBJECTS OF ART XVIII. THE ART OF TRELLIAGE XIX. VILLA TRIANON XX. NOTES ON MANY THINGS
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
Elsie de Wolfe (Frontispiece) In this hall, simplicity, suitability and proportion are observed Mennoyer drawings and old mirrors set in panelings A portrait by Nattier inset above a fine old mantel The Washington Irving house was delightfully rambling A Washington Irving House bedroom Miss Marbury's bedroom The fore-court and entrance of the Fifty-fifth Street house A painted wall broken into panels by narrow moldings A wall paper of Elizabethan design with oak furniture The scheme of this room grew from the jars on the mantel A Louis Seize bedroom in rose and blue and cream The writing corner of a chintz bedroom Black chintz used in a dressing-room Printed linen curtains over rose colored silk Straight hangings of rose and yellow shot silk Muslin glass curtains in the Washington Irving house Here are many lighting fixtures harmoniously assembled in a drawing-room Detail of a fine old French fixture of hand wrought metal Lighting fixtures inspired by Adam mirrors The staircase in the Bayard Thayer house The drawing-room should be intimate in spirit The fine formality of well-placed paneling The living-room in the C.W. Harkness house at Morristown, New Jersey Miss Anne Morgan's Louis XVI boudoir Miss Morgan's Louis XVI lit de repos A Georgian dining-room in the William Iselin house Mrs. Ogden Armour's Chinese paper screen Mrs. James Warren Lane's painted dining-table The private dining-room in the Colony Club An old painted bed of the Louis XVI period Miss Crocker's Louis XVI bed A Colony Club bedroom Mauve chintz in a dull green room Mrs. Frederick Havemeyer's Chinoiserie chintz bed Mrs. Payne Whitney's green feather chintz bed My own bedroom is built around a Breton bed Furniture painted with chintz designs Miss Morgan's Louis XVI dressing-room Miss Marbury's chintz-hung dressing-table A corner of my own boudoir Built-in bookshelves in a small room Mrs. C.W. Harkness's cabinet for objets d'art A banquette of the Louis XV period covered with needlework A Chinese Chippendale sofa covered with chintz The trellis room in the Colony Club Mrs. Ormond G. Smith's trellis room at Center Island, New York Looking over the tapis vert to the trellis A fine old console in the Villa Trianon The broad terrace connects house and garden A proper writing-table in the drawing-room A cream-colored porcelain stove in a New York house Mr. James Deering's wall fountain Fountain in the trellis room of Mrs. Ormond G. Smith
THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE MODERN HOUSE
I know of nothing more significant than the awakening of men and women throughout our country to the desire to improve their houses. Call it what you will—awakening, development, American Renaissance—it is a most startling and promising condition of affairs.
It is no longer possible, even to people of only faintly aesthetic tastes, to buy chairs merely to sit upon or a clock merely that it should tell the time. Home-makers are determined to have their houses, outside and in, correct according to the best standards. What do we mean by the best standards? Certainly not those of the useless, overcharged house of the average American millionaire, who builds and furnishes his home with a hopeless disregard of tradition. We must accept the standards that the artists and the architects accept, the standards that have come to us from those exceedingly rational people, our ancestors.
Our ancestors built for stability and use, and so their simple houses were excellent examples of architecture. Their spacious, uncrowded interiors were usually beautiful. Houses and furniture fulfilled their uses, and if an object fulfils its mission the chances are that it is beautiful.
It is all very well to plan our ideal house or apartment, our individual castle in Spain, but it isn't necessary to live among intolerable furnishings just because we cannot realize our castle. There never was a house so bad that it couldn't be made over into something worth while. We shall all be very much happier when we learn to transform the things we have into a semblance of our ideal.
How, then, may we go about accomplishing our ideal?
By letting it go!
By forgetting this vaguely pleasing dream, this evidence of our smug vanity, and making ourselves ready for a new ideal.
By considering the body of material from which it is good sense to choose when we have a house to decorate.
By studying the development of the modern house, its romantic tradition and architectural history.
By taking upon ourselves the duty of self-taught lessons of sincerity and common sense, and suitability.
By learning what is meant by color and form and line, harmony and contrast and proportion.
When we are on familiar terms with our tools, and feel our vague ideas clearing into definite inspiration, then we are ready to talk about ideals. We are fit to approach the full art of home-making.
We take it for granted that every woman is interested in houses—that she either has a house in course of construction, or dreams of having one, or has had a house long enough wrong to wish it right. And we take it for granted that this American home is always the woman's home: a man may build and decorate a beautiful house, but it remains for a woman to make a home of it for him. It is the personality of the mistress that the home expresses. Men are forever guests in our homes, no matter how much happiness they may find there.
You will express yourself in your house, whether you want to or not, so you must make up your mind to a long preparatory discipline. You may have only one house to furnish in your life-time, possibly, so be careful and go warily. Therefore, you must select for your architect a man who isn't too determined to have his way. It is a fearful mistake to leave the entire planning of your home to a man whose social experience may be limited, for instance, for he can impose on you his conception of your tastes with a damning permanency and emphasis. I once heard a certain Boston architect say that he taught his clients to be ladies and gentlemen. He couldn't, you know. All he could do is to set the front door so that it would reprove them if they weren't!
Who does not know, for instance, those mistaken people whose houses represent their own or their architects' hasty visits to the fine old chateaux of the Loire, or the palaces of Versailles, or the fine old houses of England, or the gracious villas of Italy? We must avoid such aspiring architects, and visualize our homes not as so many specially designated rooms and convenient closets, but as individual expressions of ourselves, of the future we plan, of our dreams for our children. The ideal house is the house that has been long planned for, long awaited.
Fortunately for us, our best architects are so very good that we are better than safe if we take our problems to them. These men associate with themselves the hundred young architects who are eager to prove themselves on small houses. The idea that it is economical to be your own architect and trust your house to a building contractor is a mistaken, and most expensive, one. The surer you are of your architect's common sense and professional ability, the surer you may be that your house will be economically efficient. He will not only plan a house that will meet the needs of your family, but he will give you inspiration for its interior. He will concern himself with the moldings, the light-openings, the door-handles and hinges, the unconsidered things that make or mar your house. Select for your architect a man you'd like for a friend. Perhaps he will be, before the house comes true. If you are both sincere, if you both purpose to have the best thing you can afford, the house will express the genius and character of your architect and the personality and character of yourself, as a great painting suggests both painter and sitter. The hard won triumph of a well-built house means many compromises, but the ultimate satisfaction is worth everything.
I do not purpose, in this book, to go into the historic traditions of architecture and decoration—there are so many excellent books it were absurd to review them—but I do wish to trace briefly the development of the modern house, the woman's house, to show you that all that is intimate and charming in the home as we know it has come through the unmeasured influence of women. Man conceived the great house with its parade rooms, its grands appartements but woman found eternal parade tiresome, and planned for herself little retreats, rooms small enough for comfort and intimacy. In short, man made the house: woman went him one better and made of it a home.
The virtues of simplicity and reticence in form first came into being, as nearly as we can tell, in the Grotta, the little studio-like apartment of Isabella d'Este, the Marchioness of Mantua, away back in 1496. The Marchioness made of this little studio her personal retreat. Here she brought many of the treasures of the Italian Renaissance. Really, simplicity and reticence were the last things she considered, but the point is that they were considered at all in such a restless, passionate age. Later, in 1522, she established the Paradiso, a suite of apartments which she occupied after her husband's death. So you see the idea of a woman planning her own apartment is pretty old, after all.
The next woman who took a stand that revealed genuine social consciousness was that half-French, half-Italian woman, Catherine de Vivonne, Marquise de Rambouillet. She seceded from court because the court was swaggering and hurly-burly, with florid Marie-de-Medicis at its head. And with this recession, she began to express in her conduct, her feeling, her conversation, and, finally, in her house, her awakened consciousness of beauty and reserve, of simplicity and suitability.
This was the early Seventeenth Century, mind you, when the main salons of the French houses were filled with such institutions as rows of red chairs and boxed state beds. She undertook, first of all, to have a light and gracefully curving stairway leading to her salon instead of supplanting it. She grouped her rooms with a lovely diversity of size and purpose, whereas before they had been vast, stately halls with cubbies hardby for sleeping. She gave the bedroom its alcove, boudoir, ante-chamber, and even its bath, and then as decorator she supplanted the old feudal yellow and red with her famous silver-blue. She covered blue chairs with silver bullion. She fashioned long, tenderly colored curtains of novel shades. Reticence was always in evidence, but it was the reticence of elegance. It was through Madame de Rambouillet that the armchair received its final distribution of yielding parts, and began to express the comfort of soft padded backward slope, of width and warmth and color.
It was all very heavy, very grave, very angular, this Hotel Rambouillet, but it was devised for and consecrated to conversation, considered a new form of privilege! The precieuses in their later jargon called chairs "the indispensables of conversation."
I have been at some length to give a picture of Madame de Rambouillet's hotel because it really is the earliest modern house. There, where the society that frequented it was analyzing its soul in dialogue and long platonic discussion that would seem stark enough to us, the word which it invented for itself was urbanite—the coinage of one of its own foremost figures.
It is unprofitable to follow on into the grandeurs of Louis XIV, if one hopes to find an advance there in truth-telling architecture. At the end of that splendid official success the squalor of Versailles was unspeakable, its stenches unbearable. In spite of its size the Palace was known as the most comfortless house in Europe. After the death of its owner society, in a fit of madness, plunged into the rocaille. When the restlessness of Louis XV could no longer find moorings in this brilliancy, there came into being little houses called folies, garden hermitages for the privileged. Here we find Madame de Pompadour in calicoes, in a wild garden, bare-foot, playing as a milkmaid, or seated in a little gray-white interior with painted wooden furniture, having her supper on an earthen-ware service that has replaced old silver and gold. Amorous alcoves lost their painted Loves and took on gray and white decorations. The casinos of little comediennes did not glitter any more. English sentiment began to bedim Gallic eyes, and so what we know as the Louis XVI style was born.
And so, at that moment, the idea of the modern house came into its own, and it could advance—as an idea—hardly any further. For with all the intrepidity and passion of the later Eighteenth Century in its search for beauty, for all the magic-making of convenience and ingenuity of the Nineteenth Century, the fundamentals have changed but little. And now we of the Twentieth Century can only add material comforts and an expression of our personality. We raise the house beyond the reach of squalor, we give it measured heat, we give it water in abundance and perfect sanitation and light everywhere, we give it ventilation less successfully than we might, and finally we give it the human quality that is so modern. There are no dungeons in the good modern house, no disgraceful lairs for servants, no horrors of humidity.
And so we women have achieved a house, luminous with kind purpose throughout. It is finished—that is our difficulty! We inherit it, all rounded in its perfection, consummate in its charms, but it is finished, and what can we do about a thing that is finished I Doesn't it seem that we are back in the old position of Isabella d'Este—eager, predatory, and "thingy"? And isn't it time for us to pull up short lest we sidestep the goal? We are so sure of a thousand appetites we are in danger of passing by the amiable commonplaces. We find ourselves dismayed in old houses that look too simple. We must stop and ask ourselves questions, and, if necessary, plan for ourselves little retreats until we can find ourselves again.
What is the goal? A house that is like the life that goes on within it, a house that gives us beauty as we understand it—and beauty of a nobler kind that we may grow to understand, a house that looks amenity.
Suppose you have obtained this sort of wisdom—a sane viewpoint. I think it will give you as great a satisfaction to re-arrange your house with what you have as to re-build, re-decorate. The results may not be so charming, but you can learn by them. You can take your indiscriminate inheritance of Victorian rosewood of Eastlake walnut and cocobolo, your pickle-and-plum colored Morris furniture, and make a civilized interior by placing it right, and putting detail at the right points. Your sense of the pleasure and meaning of human intercourse will be clear in your disposition of your best things, in your elimination of your worst ones.
When you have emptied the tables of rubbish so that you can put things down on them at need, placed them in a light where you can write on them in repose, or isolated real works of art in the middle of them; when you have set your dropsical sofas where you want them for talk, or warmth and reading; when you can see the fire from the bed in your sleeping-room, and dress near your bath; if this sort of sense of your rights is acknowledged in your rearrangement, your rooms will always have meaning, in the end. If you like only the things in a chair that have meaning, and grow to hate the rest you will, without any other instruction, prefer—the next time you are buying—a good Louis XVI fauteuil to a stuffed velvet chair. You will never again be guilty of the errors of meaningless magnificence.
To most of us in America who must perforce lead workaday lives, the absence of beauty is a very distinct lack. I think, indeed, that the present awakening has come to stay, and that before very long, we shall have simple houses with fireplaces that draw, electric lights in the proper places, comfortable and sensible furniture, and not a gilt-legged spindle-shanked table or chair anywhere. This may be a decorator's optimistic dream, but let us all hope that it may come true.
SUITABILITY, SIMPLICITY AND PROPORTION
When I am asked to decorate a new house, my first thought is suitability. My next thought is proportion. Always I keep in mind the importance of simplicity. First, I study the people who are to live in this house, and their needs, as thoroughly as I studied my parts in the days when I was an actress. For the time-being I really am the chatelaine of the house. When I have thoroughly familiarized myself with my "part," I let that go for the time, and consider the proportion of the house and its rooms. It is much more important that the wall openings, windows, doors, and fireplaces should be in the right place and should balance one another than that there should be expensive and extravagant hangings and carpets.
My first thought in laying out a room is the placing of the electric light openings. How rarely does one find the lights in the right place in our over-magnificent hotels and residences! One arrives from a journey tired out and travel-stained, only to find oneself facing a mirror as far removed from the daylight as possible, with the artificial lights directly behind one, or high in the ceiling in the center of the room. In my houses I always see that each room shall have its lights placed for the comfort of its occupants. There must be lights in sheltered corners of the fireplace, by the writing-desk, on each side of the dressing-table, and so on.
Then I consider the heating of the room. We Americans are slaves to steam heat. We ruin our furniture, our complexions, and our dispositions by this enervating atmosphere of too much heat. In my own houses I have a fireplace in each room, and I burn wood in it. There is a heating-system in the basement of my house, but it is under perfect control. I prefer the normal heat of sunshine and open fires. But, granted that open fires are impossible in all your rooms, do arrange in the beginning that the small rooms of your house may not be overheated. It is a distinct irritation to a person who loves clean air to go into a room where a flood of steam heat pours out of every corner. There is usually no way to control it unless you turn it off altogether. I once had the temerity to do this in a certain hotel room where there was a cold and cheerless empty fireplace. I summoned a reluctant chambermaid, only to be told that the chimney had never had a fire in it and the proprietor would rather not take such a risk!
Perhaps the guest in your house would not be so troublesome, but don't tempt her! If you have a fireplace, see that it is in working order. We are sure to judge a woman in whose house we find ourselves for the first time, by her surroundings. We judge her temperament, her habits, her inclinations, by the interior of her home. We may talk of the weather, but we are looking at the furniture. We attribute vulgar qualities to those who are content to live in ugly surroundings. We endow with refinement and charm the person who welcomes us in a delightful room, where the colors blend and the proportions are as perfect as in a picture. After all, what surer guarantee can there be of a woman's character, natural and cultivated, inherent and inherited, than taste? It is a compass that never errs. If a woman has taste she may have faults, follies, fads, she may err, she may be as human and feminine as she pleases, but she will never cause a scandal!
How can we develop taste? Some of us, alas, can never develop it, because we can never let go of shams. We must learn to recognize suitability, simplicity and proportion, and apply our knowledge to our needs. I grant you we may never fully appreciate the full balance of proportion, but we can exert our common sense and decide whether a thing is suitable; we can consult our conscience as to whether an object is simple, and we can train our eyes to recognize good and bad proportion. A technical knowledge of architecture is not necessary to know that a huge stuffed leather chair in a tiny gold and cream room is unsuitable, is hideously complicated, and is as much out of proportion as the proverbial bull in the china-shop.
A woman's environment will speak for her life, whether she likes it or not. How can we believe that a woman of sincerity of purpose will hang fake "works of art" on her walls, or satisfy herself with imitation velvets or silks? How can we attribute taste to a woman who permits paper floors and iron ceilings in her house? We are too afraid of the restful commonplaces, and yet if we live simple lives, why shouldn't we be glad our houses are comfortably commonplace? How much better to have plain furniture that is comfortable, simple chintzes printed from old blocks, a few good prints, than all the sham things in the world? A house is a dead-give-away, anyhow, so you should arrange is so that the person who sees your personality in it will be reassured, not disconcerted.
Too often, here in America, the most comfortable room in the house is given up to a sort of bastard collection of gilt chairs and tables, over-elaborate draperies shutting out both light and air, and huge and frightful paintings. This style of room, with its museum-like furnishings, has been dubbed "Marie Antoinette," why, no one but the American decorator can say. Heaven knows poor Marie Antoinette had enough follies to atone for, but certainly she has never been treated more shabbily than when they dub these mausoleums "Marie Antoinette rooms."
I remember taking a clever Englishwoman of much taste to see a woman who was very proud of her new house. We had seen most of the house when the hostess, who had evidently reserved what she considered the best for the last, threw open the doors of a large and gorgeous apartment and said, "This is my Louis XVI ballroom." My friend, who had been very patient up to that moment, said very quietly, "What makes you think so?"
Louis XVI thought a salon well furnished with a few fine chairs and a table. He wished to be of supreme importance. In the immense salons of the Italian palaces there were a few benches and chairs. People then wished spaces about them.
Nowadays, people are swamped by their furniture. Too many centuries, too many races, crowd one another in a small room. The owner seems insignificant among his collections of historical furniture. Whether he collects all sorts of things of all periods in one heterogeneous mass, or whether he fills his house with the furniture of some one epoch, he is not at home in his surroundings.
The furniture of every epoch records its history. Our ancestors of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries inherited the troublous times of their fathers in their heavy oaken chests. They owned more chests than anything else, because a chest could be carried away on the back of a sturdy pack mule, when the necessity arose for flight.
People never had time to sit down in the Sixteenth Century. Their feverish unrest is recorded in their stiff, backed chairs. It was not until the Seventeenth Century that they had time to sit down and talk. We need no book of history to teach us this—we have only to observe the ample proportions of the arm-chairs of the period.
Our ancestors of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth centuries worked with a faith in the permanence of what they created. We have lost this happy confidence. We are occupied exclusively with preserving and reproducing. We have not succeeded in creating a style adapted to our modern life. It is just as well! Our life, with its haste, its nervousness and its preoccupations, does not inspire the furniture-makers. We cannot do better than to accept the standards of other times, and adapt them to our uses.
Why should we American woman run after styles and periods of which we know nothing? Why should we not be content with the fundamental things? The formal French room is very delightful in the proper place but when it is unsuited to the people who must live in it it is as bad as a sham room. The woman who wears paste jewels is not so conspicuously wrong as the woman who plasters herself with too many real jewels at the wrong time!
This is what I am always fighting in people's houses, the unsuitability of things. The foolish woman goes about from shop to shop and buys as her fancy directs. She sees something "pretty" and buys it, though it has no reference either in form or color to the scheme of her house. Haven't you been in rooms where there was a jumble of mission furniture, satinwood, fine old mahogany and gilt-legged chairs? And it is the same with color. A woman says, "Oh, I love blue, let's have blue!" regardless of the exposure of her room and the furnishings she has already collected. And then when she has treated each one of her rooms in a different color, and with a different floor covering, she wonders why she is always fretted in going from one room to another.
Don't go about the furnishing of your house with the idea that you must select the furniture of some one period and stick to that. It isn't at all necessary. There are old English chairs and tables of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries that fit into our quiet, spacious Twentieth Century country homes. Lines and fabrics and woods are the things to be compared.
There are so many beautiful things that have come to us from other times that it should be easy to make our homes beautiful, but I have seen what I can best describe as apoplectic chairs whose legs were fashioned like aquatic plants; tables upheld by tortured naked women; lighting fixtures in the form of tassels, and such horrors, in many houses of to-day under the guise of being "authentic period furniture." Only a connoisseur can ever hope to know about the furniture of every period, but all of us can easily learn the ear-marks of the furniture that is suited to our homes. I shan't talk about ear-marks here, however, because dozens of collectors have compiled excellent books that tell you all about curves and lines and grain-of-wood and worm-holes. My business is to persuade you to use your graceful French sofas and your simple rush bottom New England chairs in different rooms—in other words, to preach to you the beauty of suitability. Suitability! Suitability! SUITABILITY!!
It is such a relief to return to the tranquil, simple forms of furniture, and to decorate our rooms by a process of elimination. How many rooms have I not cleared of junk—this heterogeneous mass of ornamental "period" furniture and bric-a-brac bought to make a room "look cozy." Once cleared of these, the simplicity and dignity of the room comes back, the architectural spaces are freed and now stand in their proper relation to the furniture. In other words, the architecture of the room becomes its decoration.
THE OLD WASHINGTON IRVING HOUSE
I have always lived in enchanting houses. Probably when another woman would be dreaming of love affairs, I dream of the delightful houses I have lived in. And just as the woman who dreams of many lovers finds one dream a little dearer than all the rest, so one of my houses has been dearer to me than all the others.
This favorite love of mine is the old Washington Irving house in New York, the quaint mansion that gave historic Irving Place its name. For twenty years my friend, Elizabeth Marbury, and I made this old house our home. Two years ago we reluctantly gave up the old house and moved into a more modern one—also transformed from old into new—on East Fifty-fifth Street. We have also a delightful old house in France, the Villa Trianon, at Versailles, where we spend our summers. So you see we have had the rare experience of transforming three mistreated old houses into very delightful homes.
When we found this old house, so many years ago, we were very young, and it is amusing now to think of its evolution. We had so many dreams, so many theories, and we tried them all out on the old house. And like a patient, well-bred maiden aunt, the old house always accepted our changes most placidly. There never was such a house!
You could do anything to it, because, fundamentally, it was good. Its wall spaces were inviting, its windows were made for framing pleasant things. When we moved there we had a broad sweep of view: I can remember seeing the river from our dining-room. Now the city has grown up around the old house and jostled it rudely, and shut out much of its sunshine.
There is a joy in the opportunity of creating a beautiful interior for a new and up-to-date house, but best of all is the joy of furnishing an old house like this one. It is like reviving an old garden. It may not be just your idea of a garden to begin with, but as you study it and deck its barren spaces with masses of color, and fit a sundial into the spot that so needs it, and give the sunshine a fountain to play with, you love the old garden just a little more every time you touch it, until it becomes to you the most beautiful garden in all the world.
Gardens and houses are such whimsical things! This old house of ours had been so long mistreated that it was fairly petulant and querulous when I began studying it. It asked questions on every turn, and seemed surprised when they were answered. The house was delightfully rambling, with a tiny entrance hall, and narrow stairs, and sudden up and down steps from one room to another like the old, old house one associates with far-away places and old times.
The little entrance hall was worse than a question, it was a problem, but I finally solved it. The floor was paved with little hexagon-shaped tiles of a wonderful old red. A door made of little square panes of mirrors was placed where it would deceive the old hall into thinking itself a spacious thing. The walls were covered with a green-and-white-stripe wall-paper that looked as old as Rip Van Winkle. This is the same ribbon-grass paper that I afterward used in the Colony Club hallway. The woodwork was painted a soft gray-green. Finally, I had my collection of faded French costume prints set flat against the top of the wall as a frieze. The hall was so very narrow that as you went up stairs you could actually examine the old prints in detail. Another little thing: I covered the handrail of the stairs with a soft gray-green velvet of the same tone as the woodwork, and the effect was so very good and the touch of it so very nice that many of my friends straightway adopted the idea.
But I am placing the cart before the horse! I should talk of the shell of the house before the contents, shouldn't I? It is hard to talk of this particular house as a thing apart from its furnishings, however, for every bit of paneling, every lighting-fixture, the placing of each mirror, was worked out so that the shell of the house and its furnishings might be in perfect harmony.
The drawing-room and dining-room occupied the first floor of the house. The drawing-room was a long, narrow room with cream woodwork and walls. The walls were broken into panels by the use of a narrow molding. In the large panel above the mantel-shelf I had inset a painting by Nattier. You will see the same painting used in the Fifty-fifth Street house drawing-room, in another illustration.
The color scheme of rose and cream and dull yellow was worked out from the rose and yellow Persian rug. Most of the furniture we found in France, but it fitted perfectly into this aristocratic and dignified room. Miss Marbury and I have a perfect right to French things in our drawing-room, you see, for we are French residents for half the year. And, besides, this gracious old house welcomed a fine old Louis XIV sofa as serenely as you please. I have no idea of swallowing my words about unsuitability!
Light, air and comfort—these three things I must always have in a room, whether it be drawing-room or servant's room. This room had all three. The chairs were all comfortable, the lights well placed, and there was plenty of sunshine and air. The color of the room was so subdued that it was restful to the eye—one color faded into another so subtly that one did not realize there was a definite color-scheme. The hangings of the room were of a deep rose color. I used the same colors in the coverings of the chairs and sofas. The house was curtained throughout with fine white muslin curtains. No matter what the inner curtains of a room may be, I use this simple stuff against the window itself. There isn't any nicer material. To me there is something unsuitable in an array of lace against a window, like underclothes hung up to dry.
The most delightful part of the drawing-room was the little conservatory, which was a plain, lamentable bay-window once upon a time. I determined to make a little flower-box of it, and had the floor of it paved with large tiles, and between the hardwood floor of the drawing-room and the marble of the window space was a narrow curb of marble, which made it possible to have a jolly little fountain in the window. The fountain splashed away to its heart's content, for there was a drain pipe under the curb. At the top of the windows there were shallow white boxes filled with trailing ivy that hung down and screened the glass, making the window as delightful to the passer-by without as to us within. There were several pots of rose-colored flowers standing in a prim row on the marble curb.
You see how much simpler it is to make the best of an old bay window than to build on a new conservatory. There are thousands of houses with windows like this one of ours, an unfortunate space of which no use is made. Sometimes there is a gilt table bearing a lofty jar, sometimes a timid effort at comfort—a sofa—but usually the bay window is sacred to its own devices, whatever they may be! Why not spend a few dollars and make it the most interesting part of the room by giving it a lot of vines and flowers and a small fountain? It isn't at all an expensive thing to do.
From the drawing-room you entered the dining-room. This was a long room with beautifully spaced walls, a high ceiling, and quaint cupboards. The arrangement of the mirrors around the cupboards and doors was unusual and most decorative. This room was so beautiful in itself that I used very little color—but such color! We never tired of the gray and white and ivory color-scheme, the quiet atmosphere that made glorious the old Chinese carpet, with its rose-colored ground and blue-and-gold medallions and border. The large India-ink sketches set in the walls are originals by Mennoyer, the delightful Eighteenth Century artist who did the overdoors of the Petit Trianon.
The mirror-framed lighting fixtures I brought over from France. The dining-table too, was French, of a creamy ivory-painted wood. The chairs had insets of cane of a deeper tone. The recessed window-seat was covered with a soft velvet of a deep yellow, and there were as many little footstools beside the window-seat as there were chairs in the room. Doesn't everyone long for a footstool at table?
I believe that everything in one's house should be comfortable, but one's bedroom must be more than comfortable: it must be intimate, personal, one's secret garden, so to speak. It may be as simple as a convent cell and still have this quality of the personality of its occupant.
There are two things that are as important to me as the bed in the bedrooms that I furnish, and they are the little tables at the head of the bed, and the lounging chairs. The little table must hold a good reading light, well shaded, for who doesn't like to read in bed? There must also be a clock, and there really should be a telephone. And the chaise-longue, or couch, as the case may be, should be both comfortable and beautiful. Who hasn't longed for a comfortable place to snatch forty winks at midday?
My own bedroom in this house was very pleasant to me. The house was very small, you see, and my bedroom had to be my writing-and reading-room too, so that accounts for the bookshelves that fill the wall space above and around the mantel and the large writing-table. The room was built around a wonderful old French bed which came from Brittany. This old bed is of carved mahogany, with mirrored panels on the side against the wall, and with tall columns at the ends. It is always hung with embroidered silk in the rose color that I adore and has any number of pillows, big and little. The chaise-longue was covered with this same silk, as were the various chair cushions. The other furnishings were in keeping. It was a delightfully comfortable room, and it grew a little at a time. I needed bookshelves, and I built them. A drop-light was necessary, and I found the old brass lantern which hung from the ceiling. And so it was furnished, bit by bit, need by need.
Miss Marbury's bedroom in this house was entirely different in type, but exactly the same in comfort. The furniture was of white enamel, the walls ivory-white, and the rug a soft dull blue. The chintz used was the familiar Bird of Paradise, gorgeous in design, but so subdued in tone that one never tires of it. The bed had a flat, perfectly fitted cover of the chintz, which is tucked under the mattress. The box spring was also covered with the chintz, and the effect was always tidy and satisfactory. This is the neatest disposal of the bed-clothes I have seen. I always advise this arrangement.
Besides the bed there was the necessary little table, holding a reading-light and so forth, and at the head of the bed a most adorable screen of white enamel, paneled with chintz below and glass above. There was a soft couch of generous width in this room, with covers and cushions of the chintz.
Over near the windows was the dressing-table with the lighting-fixtures properly placed. This table, hung with chintz, had a sheet of plate glass exactly fitting its top. The writing-table, near the window is also part of my creed of comfort. There should be a writing-table in every bedroom. My friends laugh at the little fat pincushions on my writing-tables, but when they are covered with a bit of the chintz or tapestry or brocade of the room they are very pretty, and I am sure pins are as necessary on the writing-table as on the dressing-table.
Another thing I like on every writing-table is a clear glass bowl of dried rose petals, which gives the room the faintest spicy fragrance. There is also a little bowl of just the proper color to hold pens and clips and odds and ends. I get as much pleasure from planning these small details as from the planning of the larger furniture of the room.
The house was very simple, you see, and very small, and so when the time came to leave it we had grown to love every inch of it. You can love a small house so completely! But we couldn't forgive the skyscrapers encroaching on our supply of sunshine, and we really needed more room, and so we said good-by to our beloved old house and moved into a new one. Now we find ourselves in danger of loving the new one as much as the old. But that is another story.
THE LITTLE HOUSE OF MANY MIRRORS
One walks the streets of New York and receives the fantastic impression that some giant architect has made for the city thousands of houses in replica. These dismal brownstone buildings are so like without, and alas! so like within, that one wonders how their owners know their homes from one another. I have had the pleasure of making over many of these gloomy barracks into homes for other people, and when we left the old Irving Place house we took one of these dreary houses for ourselves, and made it over into a semblance of what a city house should be.
You know the kind of house—there are tens of thousands of them—a four story and basement house of pinkish brownstone, with a long flight of ugly stairs from the street to the first floor. The common belief that all city houses of this type must be dark and dreary just because they always have been dark and dreary is an unnecessary superstition.
My object in taking this house was twofold: I wanted to prove to my friends that it was possible to take one of the darkest and grimiest of city houses and make it an abode of sunshine and light, and I wanted to furnish the whole house exactly as I pleased—for once!
The remaking of the house was very interesting. I tore away the ugly stone steps and centered the entrance door in a little stone-paved fore-court on the level of the old area-way. The fore-court is just a step below the street level, giving you a pleasant feeling of invitation. Everyone hates to climb into a house, but there is a subtle allure in a garden or a court yard or a room into which you must step down. The fore-court is enclosed with a high iron railing banked with formal box-trees. Above the huge green entrance door there is a graceful iron balcony, filled with green things, that pulls the great door and the central window of the floor above into an impressive composition. The facade of the house, instead of being a commonplace rectangle of stone broken by windows, has this long connected break of the door and balcony and window. By such simple devices are happy results accomplished!
The door itself is noteworthy, with its great bronze knob set squarely in the center. On each side of it there are the low windows of the entrance hall, with window-boxes of evergreens. Compare this orderly arrangement of windows and entrance door with the badly balanced houses of the old type, and you will realize anew the value of balance and proportion.
From the fore-court you enter the hall. Once within the hall, the, house widens magically. Surely this cool black and white apartment cannot be a part of restless New York! Have you ever come suddenly upon an old Southern house, and thrilled at the classic purity of white columns in a black-green forest? This entrance hall gives you the same thrill; the elements of formality, of tranquillity, of coolness, are so evident. The walls and ceiling are a deep, flat cream, and the floor is laid in large black and white marble tiles. Exactly opposite you as you enter, there is a wall fountain with a background of mirrors. The water spills over from the fountain into ferns and flowers banked within a marble curb. The two wall spaces on your right and left are broken by graceful niches which hold old statues. An oval Chinese rug and the white and orange flowers of the fountain furnish the necessary color. The windows flanking the entrance doorway are hung with flat curtains of coarse white linen, with inserts of old filet lace, and there are side curtains of dead black silk with borderings of silver and gold threads.
In any house that I have anything to do with, there is some sort of desk or table for writing in the hall. How often I have been in other people's houses when it was necessary to send a message, or to record an address, when the whole household began scurrying around trying to find a pencil and paper! This, to my mind, is an outward and visible sign of an inward—and fundamental!—lack of order.
In this hall there is a charming desk particularly adapted to its place. It is a standing desk which can be lowered or heightened at will, so that one who wishes to scribble a line or so may use it without sitting down. This desk is called a bureau d'architect. I found it in Biarritz. It would be quite easy to have one made by a good cabinet-maker, for the lines and method of construction are simple. My hall desk is so placed that it is lighted by the window by day and the wall lights by night, but it might be lighted by two tall candlesticks if a wall light were not available. There is a shallow drawer which contains surplus writing materials, but the only things permitted on the writing surface of the desk are the tray for cards, the pad and pencils.
The only other furniture in the hall is an old porter's chair near the door, a chair that suggests the sedan of old France, but serves its purpose admirably.
A glass door leads to the inner hall and the stairway, which I consider the best thing in the house. Instead of the usual steep and gloomy stairs with which we are all familiar, here is a graceful spiral stairway which runs from this floor to the roof. The stair hall has two walls made up of mirrors in the French fashion, that is, cut in squares and held in place by small rosettes of gilt, and these mirrored walls seemingly double the spaciousness of what would be, under ordinary conditions, a gloomy inside hallway.
The house is narrow in the extreme, and the secret of its successful renaissance is plenty of windows and light color and mirrors—mirrors—mirrors! It has been called the "Little House of Many Mirrors," for so much of its spaciousness and charm is the effect of skilfully managed reflections. The stair-landings are most ingeniously planned. There are landings that lead directly from the stairs into the rooms of each floor, and back of one of the mirrored stair walls there is a little balcony connecting the rooms on that floor, a private passageway.
The drawing-room and dining-room occupy the first floor. The drawing-room is a pleasant, friendly place, full of quiet color. The walls are a deep cream color and the floor is covered with a beautiful Savonnerie rug. There are many beautiful old chairs covered with Aubusson tapestry, and other chairs and sofas covered with rose colored brocade. This drawing-room is seemingly a huge place, this effect being given by the careful placing of mirrors and lights, and the skilful arrangement of the furniture. I believe in plenty of optimism and white paint, comfortable chairs with lights beside them, open fires on the hearth and flowers wherever they "belong," mirrors and sunshine in all rooms.
But I think we can carry the white paint idea too far: I have grown a little tired of over-careful decorations, of plain white walls and white woodwork, of carefully matched furniture and over-cautious color-schemes. Somehow the feeling of homey-ness is lost when the decorator is too careful. In this drawing-room there is furniture of many woods, there are stuffs of many weaves, there are candles and chandeliers and reading-lamps, but there is harmony of purpose and therefore harmony of effect. The room was made for conversation, for hospitality.
A narrow landing connects the dining-room and the drawing-room. The color of the dining-room has grown of itself, from the superb Chinese rug on the floor and the rare old Mennoyer drawings inset in the walls. The woodwork and walls have been painted a soft dove-like gray. The walls are broken into panels by a narrow gray molding, and the Mennoyers are set in five of these panels. In one narrow panel a beautiful wall clock has been placed. Above the mantel there is a huge mirror with a panel in black and white relief above it. On the opposite wall there is another mirror, with a console table of carved wood painted gray beneath it. There is also a console table under one of the Mennoyers.
The two windows in this room are obviously windows by day, but at night two sliding doors of mirrors are drawn, just as a curtain would be drawn, to fill the window spaces. This is a little bit tricky, I admit, but it is a very good trick. The dining-table is of carved wood painted gray and covered with yellow damask, which in turn is covered with a sheet of plate glass. The chairs are covered with a blue and gold striped velvet. The rug has a gold ground with medallions and border of blue, ivory and rose. Near the door that leads to the service rooms there is a huge screen made of one piece of wondrous tapestry. No other furniture is needed in the room.
The third floor is given over to my sitting-room, bedroom, dressing-room, and so forth, and the fourth floor to Miss Marbury's apartments. These rooms will be discussed in other chapters.
The servants' quarters in this house are very well planned. In the back yard that always goes with a house of this type I had built a new wing, five stories high, connected with the floors of the house proper by window-lined passages. On the dining-room floor the passage becomes a butler's pantry. On the bedroom floors the passages are large enough for dressing-rooms and baths, connecting with the bedrooms, and for outer halls and laundries connecting with the maids' rooms and the back stairs. In this way, you see, the maids can reach the dressing-rooms without invading the bedrooms. The kitchen and its dependencies occupy the first floor of the new wing, the servants' bedrooms the next three floors, and the top floor is made up of clothes closets, sewing-rooms, store rooms, etc.
I firmly believe that the whole question of household comfort evolves from the careful planning of the service portion of the house. My servants' rooms are all attractive. The woodwork of these rooms is white, the walls are cream, the floors are waxed. They are all gay and sweet and cheerful, with white painted beds and chests of drawers and willow chairs, and chintz curtains and bed-coverings that are especially chosen, not handed down when they have become too faded to be used elsewhere!
THE TREATMENT OF WALLS
Surely the first considerations of the house in good taste must be light, air and sanitation. Instead of ignoring the relation of sanitary conditions and decorative schemes, the architect and client of to-day work out these problems with excellent results. Practical needs are considered just as worthy of the architect as artistic achievements. He is a poor excuse for his profession if he cannot solve the problems of utility and beauty, and work out the ultimate harmony of the house-to-be.
If one enters a room in which true proportion has been observed, where the openings, the doors, windows and fireplace, balance perfectly, where the wall spaces are well planned and the height of the ceiling is in keeping with the floor-space, one is immediately convinced that here is a beautiful and satisfactory room, before a stick of furniture has been placed in it. All questions pertaining to the practical equipment and the decorative amenities of the house should be approached architecturally. If this is done, the result cannot fail to be felicitous, and our dream of our house beautiful comes true!
Before you begin the decoration of your walls, be sure that your floors have been finished to fulfil their purposes. Stain them or polish them to a soft glow, keep them low in tone so that they may be backgrounds. We will assume that the woodwork of each room has been finished with a view to the future use and decoration of the room. We will assume that the ceilings are proper ceilings; that they will stay in their place, i.e., the top of the room. This is a most daring assumption, because there are so many feeble and threatening ceilings overhanging most of us that good ones seem rare. But the ceiling is an architectural problem, and you must consider it in the beginning of things. It may be beamed and have every evidence of structural beauty and strength, or it may be beamed in a ridiculous fashion that advertises the beams as shams, leading from nowhere to nowhere. It may be a beautiful expanse of creamy modeled plaster resting on a distinguished cornice, or it may be one of those ghastly skim-milk ceilings with distorted cupids and roses in relief. It may be a rectangle of plain plaster tinted cream or pale yellow or gray, and keeping its place serenely, or it may be a villainous stretch of ox-blood, hanging over your head like the curse of Cain. There are hundreds of magnificent painted ceilings, and vaulted arches of marble and gold, but these are not of immediate importance to the woman who is furnishing a small house, and are not within the scope of this book. So let us exercise common sense and face our especial ceiling problem in an architectural spirit. If your house has structural beams, leave them exposed, if you like, but treat them as beams; stain them, and wax them, and color the spaces between them cream or tan or warm gray, and then make the room beneath the beams strong enough in color and furnishings to carry the impressive ceiling.
If you have an architect who is also a decorator, and he has ideas for a modeled plaster ceiling, or a ceiling with plaster-covered beams and cornice and a fine application of ornament, let him do his best for you, but remember that a fine ceiling demands certain things of the room it covers. If you have a simple little house with simple furnishings, be content to have your ceilings tinted a warm cream, keep them always clean.
When all these things are settled—floors and ceilings and woodwork—you may begin to plan your wall coverings. Begin, you understand. You will probably change your plans a dozen times before you make the final decisions. I hope you will! Because inevitably the last opinion is best—it grows out of so many considerations.
The main thing to remember, when you begin to cover your walls, is that they are walls, that they are straight up and down, and have breadth and thickness, that they are supposedly strong, in other words, that they are a structural part of your house. A wall should always be treated as a flat surface and in a conventional way. Pictorial flowers and lifelike figures have no place upon it, but conventionalized designs may be used successfully—witness the delighted use of the fantastic landscape papers in the middle of the Eighteenth Century. Walls should always be obviously walls, and not flimsy partitions hung with gauds and trophies. The wall is the background of the room, and so must be flat in treatment and reposeful in tone.
Walls have always offered tempting spaces for decoration. Our ancestors hung their walls with trophies. Our pioneer of to-day may live in an adobe hut, but he hangs his walls with things that suggest beauty and color to him, calendars, and trophies and gaudy chromos. The rest of his hut he uses for the hard business of living, but his walls are his theater, his literature, his recreation. The wolf skin will one day give place to a painting of the chase, the gaudy calendars to better things, when prosperity comes. But now these crude things speak for the pioneer period of the man, and therefore they are the right things for the moment. How absurd would be the refined etching and the delicate water-color on these clay walls, even were they within his grasp!
The first impulse of all of us is to hang the things we admire on our walls. Unfortunately, we do not always select papers and fabrics and pictures we will continue to admire. Who doesn't know the woman who goes to a shop and selects wall papers as she would select her gowns, because they are "new" and "different" and "pretty"? She selects a "rich" paper for her hall and an "elegant" paper for her drawing-room—the chances are it is a nile green moire paper! For her library she thinks a paper imitating an Oriental fabric is the proper thing, and as likely as not she buys gold paper for her dining-room. She finds so many charming bedroom papers that she has no trouble in selecting a dozen of them for insipid blue rooms and pink rooms and lilac rooms.
She forgets that while she wears only one gown at a time she will live with all her wall papers all the time. She decides to use a red paper of large figures in one room, and a green paper with snaky stripes in the adjoining room, but she doesn't try the papers out; she doesn't give them the fair test of living with them a few days.
You can always buy, or borrow, a roll of the paper you like and take it home and live with it awhile. The dealer will credit the roll when you make the final decisions. You should assemble all the papers that are to be used in the house, and all the fabrics, and rugs, and see what the effect of the various compositions will be, one with another. You can't consider one room alone, unless it be a bedroom, for in our modern houses we believe too thoroughly in spaciousness to separate our living rooms by ante-chambers and formal approaches. We must preserve a certain amount of privacy, and have doors that may be closed when need be, but we must also consider the effect of things when those doors are open, when the color of one room melts into the color of another.
To me, the most beautiful wall is the plain and dignified painted wall, broken into graceful panels by the use of narrow moldings, with lighting fixtures carefully placed, and every picture and mirror hung with classic precision. This wall is just as appropriate to the six-room cottage as to the twenty-room house. If I could always find perfect walls, I'd always paint them, and never use a yard of paper. Painted walls, when very well done, are dignified and restful, and most sanitary. The trouble is that too few plasterers know how to smooth the wall surface, and too few workmen know how to apply paint properly. In my new house on East Fifty-fifth Street I have had all the walls painted. The woodwork is ivory white throughout the house, except in the dining-room, where the walls and woodwork are soft gray. The walls of most of the rooms and halls are painted a very deep tone of cream and are broken into panels, the moldings being painted cream like the woodwork. With such walls you can carry out any color-plan you may desire.
You would think that every woman would know that walls are influenced by the exposure of the room, but how often I have seen bleak north rooms with walls papered in cold gray, and sunshiny south rooms with red or yellow wall papers! Dull tones and cool colors are always good in south rooms, and live tones and warm colors in north rooms. For instance, if you wish to keep your rooms in one color-plan, you may have white woodwork in all of them, and walls of varying shades of cream and yellow. The north rooms may have walls painted or papered with a soft, warm yellow that suggests creamy chiffon over orange. The south rooms may have the walls of a cool creamy-gray tone.
Whether you paint or paper your walls, you should consider the placing of the picture-molding most carefully. If the ceiling is very high, the walls will be more interesting if the picture-molding is placed three or four feet below the ceiling line. If the ceiling is low, the molding should be within two inches of the ceiling. These measurements are not arbitrary, of course. Every room is a law unto itself, and no cut and dried rule can be given. A fine frieze is a very beautiful decoration, but it must be very fine to be worth while at all. Usually the dropped ceiling is better for the upper wall space. It goes without saying that those dreadful friezes perpetrated by certain wall paper designers are very bad form, and should never be used. Indeed, the very principle of the ordinary paper frieze is bad; it darkens the upper wall unpleasantly, and violates the good old rule that the floors should be darkest in tone, the side walls lighter, and the ceiling lightest. The recent vogue of stenciling walls may be objected to on this account, though a very narrow and conventional line of stenciling may sometimes be placed just under the picture rail with good effect.
In a great room with a beamed ceiling and oak paneled walls a painted fresco or a frieze of tapestry or some fine fabric is a very fine thing, especially if it has a lot of primitive red and blue and gold in it, but in simple rooms—beware!
Lately there has been a great revival of interest in wood paneling. We go abroad, and see the magnificent paneling of old English houses, and we come home and copy it. But we cannot get the workmen who will carve panels in the old patterns. We cannot wait a hundred years for the soft bloom that comes from the constant usage, and so our paneled rooms are apt to be too new and woody. But we have such a wonderful store of woods, here in America, it is worth while to panel our rooms, copying the simple rectangular English patterns, and it is quite permissible to "age" our walls by rubbing in black wax, and little shadows of water-color, and in fact by any method we can devise. Wood paneled walls, like beamed ceilings, are best in great rooms. They make boxes of little ones.
Painted walls, and walls hung with tapestries and leather, are not possible to many of us, but they are the most magnificent of wall treatments. I know a wonderful library with walls hung in squares of Spanish leather, a cold northern room that merits such a brilliant wall treatment. The primitive colors of the Cordova leather workers, with gold and crimson dominant, glow from the deep shadows. Spanish and Italian furniture and fine old velvets and brocades furnish this room. The same sort of room invites wood paneling and tapestry, whereas the ideal room for painted walls in a lighter key is the ballroom, or some such large apartment. I once decorated a ballroom with Pillement panels, copied from a beautiful Eighteenth Century room, and so managed to bring a riot of color and decoration into a large apartment. The ground of the paneling was deep yellow, and all the little birds and flowers surrounding the central design were done in the very brightest, strongest colors imaginable. The various panels had quaint little scenes of the same Chinese flavor. Of course, in such an apartment as a ballroom there would be nothing to break into the decorative plan of the painted walls, and the unbroken polished floor serves only to throw the panels into their proper prominence. Painted walls, when done in some such broad and daring manner, are very wonderful, but they should not be attempted by the amateur, or, indeed, by an expert in a room that will be crowded with furniture, and curtains, and rugs.
If your walls are faulty, you must resort to wall papers or fabrics. Properly selected wall papers are not to be despised. The woodwork of a room, of course, directly influences the treatment of its walls. So many people ask me for advice about wall papers, and forget absolutely to tell me of the finish of the framing of their wall spaces. A pale yellowish cream wall paper is very charming with woodwork of white, but it would not do with woodwork of heavy oak, for instance.
A general rule to follow in a small house is: do not have a figured wall paper if you expect to use things of large design in your rooms. If you have gorgeous rugs and hangings, keep your walls absolutely plain. In furnishing the Colony Club I used a ribbon grass paper in the hallway. The fresh, spring-like green and white striped paper is very delightful with a carpet and runner of plain dark-green velvet, and white woodwork, and dark mahogany furniture, and many gold-framed mirrors. In another room in this building where many chintzes and fabrics were used, I painted the woodwork white and the walls a soft cream color. In the bedrooms I used a number of wall papers, the most fascinating of these, perhaps, is in the bird room. The walls are hung with a daringly gorgeous paper covered with birds—birds of paradise and paroquets perched on flowery tropical branches. The furniture in this room is of black and gold lacquer, and the rug and hangings are of jade green. It would not be so successful in a room one lived in all the year around, but it is a good example of what one can do with a tempting wall paper in an occasional room, a guest room, for instance.
Some of the figured wall papers are so decorative that they are more than tempting, they are compelling. The Chinese ones are particularly fascinating. Recently I planned a small boudoir in a country house that depended on a gay Chinoiserie paper for its charm. The design of the paper was made up of quaint little figures and parasols and birds and twisty trees, all in soft tones of green and blue and mauve on a deep cream ground. The woodwork and ceiling repeated the deep cream, and the simple furniture (a day bed, a chest of drawers, and several chairs) were of wood, painted a flat blue green just the color of the twisty pine-trees of the paper.
We had a delightful time decorating the furniture with blue and mauve lines, and we painted parasols and birds and flowers on chair backs and drawer-knobs and so forth. The large rug was of pinky-mauve-gray, and the coverings of the day bed and chairs were of a mauve and gray striped stuff, the stripes so small that they had the effect of being threads of color. There were no pictures, of course, but there was a long mirror above the chest of drawers, and another over the mantel. The lighting-fixtures, candlesticks and appliques, were of carved and painted wood, blue-green with shades of thin mauve silk over rose.
Among the most enchanting of the new papers are the black and white ones, fantastic Chinese designs and startling Austrian patterns. Black and white is always a tempting combination to the decorator, and now that Josef Hoffman, the great Austrian decorator, has been working in black and white for a number of years, the more venturesome decorators of France, and England and America have begun to follow his lead, and are using black and white, and black and color, with amazing effect. We have black papers patterned in color, and black velvet carpets, and white coated papers sprinkled with huge black polka dots, and all manner of unusual things. It goes without saying that much of this fad is freakish, but there is also much that is good enough and refreshing enough to last. One can imagine nothing fresher than a black and white scheme in a bedroom, with a saving neutrality of gray or some dull tone for rugs, and a brilliant bit of color in porcelain. There is no hint of the mournful in the decorator's combination of black and white: rather, there is a naive quality suggestive of smartness in a gown, or chic in a woman. A white walled room with white woodwork and a black and white tiled floor; a black lacquer bed and chest of drawers and chair; glass curtains of white muslin and inside ones of black and white Hoffman chintz; a splash of warm orange-red in an oval rug at the bedside, if it be winter, or a cool green one in summer—doesn't this tempt you?
I once saw a little serving-maid wearing a calico gown, black crosses on a white ground, and I was so enchanted with the cool crispness of it that I had a glazed wall paper made in the same design. I have used it in bedrooms, and in bathrooms, always with admirable effect. One can imagine a girl making a Pierrot and Pierrette room for herself, given whitewashed walls, white woodwork, and white painted furniture. An ordinary white cotton printed with large black polka dots would make delightful curtains, chair-cushions, and so forth. The rug might be woven of black and white rags, or might be one of those woven from the old homespun coverlet patterns.
The landscape papers that were so popular in the New England and Southern houses three generations ago were very wonderful when they were used in hallways, with graceful stairs and white woodwork, but they were distressing when used in living-rooms. It is all very well to cover the walls of your hall with a hand-painted paper, or a landscape, or a foliage paper, because you get only an impressionistic idea of a hall—you don't loiter there. But papers of large design are out of place in rooms where pictures and books are used. If there is anything more dreadful than a busy "parlor" paper, with scrolls that tantalize or flowers that demand to be counted, I have yet to encounter it.
Remember, above all things that your walls must be beautiful in themselves. They must be plain and quiet, ready to receive sincere things, but quite good enough to get along without pictures if necessary. A wall that is broken into beautiful spaces and covered with a soft creamy paint, or paper, or grasscloth, is good enough for any room. It may be broken with lighting fixtures, and it is finished.
THE EFFECTIVE USE OF COLOR
What a joyous thing is color! How influenced we all are by it, even if we are unconscious of how our sense of restfulness has been brought about. Certain colors are antagonistic to each of us, and I think we should try to learn just what colors are most sympathetic to our own individual emotions, and then make the best of them.
If you are inclined to a hasty temper, for instance, you should not live in a room in which the prevailing note is red. On the other hand, a timid, delicate nature could often gain courage and poise by living in surroundings of rich red tones, the tones of the old Italian damasks in which the primitive colors of the Middle Ages have been handed down to us. No half shades, no blending of tender tones are needed in an age of iron nerves. People worked hard, and they got downright blues and reds and greens—primitive colors, all. Nowadays, we must consider the effect of color on our nerves, our eyes, our moods, everything.
Love of color is an emotional matter, just as much as love of music. The strongest, the most intense, feeling I have about decoration is my love of color. I have felt as intimate a satisfaction at St. Mark's at twilight as I ever felt at any opera, though I love music.
Color! The very word would suggest warm and agreeable arrangement of tones, a pleasing and encouraging atmosphere which is full of life. We say that one woman is "so full of color," when she is alert and happy and vividly alive. We say another woman is "colorless," because she is bleak and chilling and unfriendly. We demand that certain music shall be full of color, and we always seek color in the pages of our favorite books. One poet has color and to spare, another is cynical and hard and—gray. We think and criticize from the standpoint of an appreciation of color, although often we have not that appreciation.
There is all the difference in the world between the person who appreciates color and the person who "likes colors." The child, playing with his broken toys and bits of gay china and glass, the American Indian with his gorgeous blankets and baskets and beads—all these primitive minds enjoy the combination of vivid tones, but they have no more feeling for color than a blind man. The appreciation of color is a subtle and intellectual quality.
Sparrow, the Englishman who has written so many books on housefurnishing, says: "Colors are like musical notes and chords, while color is a pleasing result of their artistic use in a combined way. So colors are means to an end, while color is the end itself. The first are tools, while the other is a distinctive harmony in art composed of many lines and shades."
We are aware that some people are "color-blind," but we do not take the trouble to ascertain whether the majority of people see colors crudely. I suppose there are as many color-blind people as there are people who have a deep feeling for color, and the great masses of people in between, while they know colors one from another, have no appreciation of hue. Just as surely, there are some people who cannot tell one tune from another and some people who have a deep and passionate feeling for music, while the rest—the great majority of people—can follow a tune and sing a hymn, but they can go no deeper into music than that.
Surely, each of you must know your own color-sense. You know whether you get results, don't you? I have never believed that there is a woman so blind that she cannot tell good from bad effects, even though she may not be able to tell why one room is good and another bad. It is as simple as the problem of the well-gowned woman and the dowdy one. The dowdy woman doesn't realize the degree of her own dowdiness, but she knows that her neighbor is well-gowned, and she envies her with a vague and pathetic envy.
If, then, you are not sure that you appreciate color, if you feel that you, like your children, like the green rug with the red roses because it is "so cheerful," you may be sure that you should let color-problems alone, and furnish your house in neutral tones, depending on book-bindings and flowers and open fires and the necessary small furnishings for your color. Then, with an excellent background of soft quiet tones, you can venture a little way at a time, trying a bit of color here for a few days, and asking yourself if you honestly like it, and then trying another color—a jar or a bowl or a length of fabric—somewhere else, and trying that out. You will soon find that your joy in your home is growing, and that you have a source of happiness within yourself that you had not suspected. I believe that good taste can be developed in any woman, just as surely as good manners are possible to anyone. And good taste is as necessary as good manners.
We may take our first lessons in color from Nature, on whose storehouse we can draw limitlessly. Nature, when she plans a wondrous splash of color, prepares a proper background for it. She gives us color plans for all the needs we can conceive. White and gray clouds on a blue sky—what more could she use in such a composition? A bit of gray green moss upon a black rock, a field of yellow dandelions, a pink and white spike of hollyhocks, an orange-colored butterfly poised on a stalk of larkspur—what color-plans are these!
I think that the first consideration after you have settled your building-site should be to place your house so that its windows may frame Nature's own pictures. With windows facing north and south, where all the fluctuating and wayward charm of the season unrolls before your eyes, your windows become the finest pictures that you can have. When this has been arranged, it is time to consider the color-scheme for the interior of the house, the colors that shall be in harmony with the window-framed vistas, the colors that shall be backgrounds for the intimate personal furnishings of your daily life. You must think of your walls as backgrounds for the colors you wish to bring into your rooms. And by colors I do not mean merely the primary colors, red and blue and yellow, or the secondary colors, green and orange and violet, I mean the white spaces, the black shadows, the gray halftones, the suave creams, that give you the feeling of color.
How often we get a more definite idea of brilliant color from a white-walled room, with dark and severe furniture and no ornaments, no actual color save the blue sky framed by the windows and the flood of sunshine that glorifies everything, than from a room that has a dozen fine colors, carefully brought together, in its furnishings!
We must decide our wall colors by the aspect of our rooms. Rooms facing south may be very light gray, cream, or even white, but northern rooms should be rich in color, and should suggest warmth and just a little mystery. Some of you have seen the Sala di Cambio at Perugia. Do you remember how dark it seems when one enters, and how gradually the wonderful coloring glows out from the gloom and one is comforted and soothed into a sort of dreamland of pure joy, in the intimate satisfaction of it all? It is unsurpassable for sheer decorative charm, I think.
For south rooms blues and grays and cool greens and all the dainty gay colors are charming. Do you remember the song Edna May used to sing in "The Belle of New York"? I am not sure of quoting correctly, but the refrain was: "Follow the Light!" I have so often had it in mind when I've been planning my color schemes—"Follow the Light!" But light colors for sunshine, remember, and dark ones for shadow.
For north rooms I am strongly inclined to the use of paneling in our native American woods, that are so rich in effect, but alas, so little used. I hope our architects will soon realize what delightful and inexpensive rooms can be made of pine and cherry, chestnut and cypress, and the beautiful California redwood. I know of a library paneled with cypress. The beamed ceiling, the paneled walls, the built-in shelves, the ample chairs and long tables are all of the soft brown cypress. Here, if anywhere, you would think a monotony of brown wood would be obvious, but think of the thousands of books with brilliant bindings! Think of the green branches of trees seen through the casement windows! Think of the huge, red-brick fireplace, with its logs blazing in orange and yellow and vermillion flame! Think of the distinction of a copper bowl of yellow flowers on the long brown table! Can't you see that this cypress room is simply glowing with color?
I wish that I might be able to show all you young married girls who are working out your home-schemes just how to work out the color of a room. Suppose you are given some rare and lovely jar, or a wee rug, or a rare old print, or even a quaint old chair from long ago, and build a room around it. I have some such point of interest in every room I build, and I think that is why some people like my rooms—they feel, without quite knowing why, that I have loved them while making them. Now there is a little sitting-room and bedroom combined in a certain New York house that I worked out from a pair of Chinese jars. They were the oddest things, of a sort of blue-green and mauve and mulberry, with flecks of black, on a cream porcelain ground.
First I found a wee Oriental rug that repeated the colors of the jugs. This was to go before the hearth. Then I worked out the shell of the room: the woodwork white, the walls bluish green, the plain carpet a soft green. I designed the furniture and had it made by a skilful carpenter, for I could find none that would harmonize with the room.
The day bed which is forty-two inches wide, is built like a wide roomy sofa. One would never suspect it of being a plain bed. Still it makes no pretensions to anything else, for it has the best of springs and the most comfortable of mattresses, and a dozen soft pillows. The bed is of wood and is painted a soft green, with a dark-green line running all around, and little painted festoons of flowers in decoration. The mattress and springs are covered with a most delightful mauve chintz, on which birds and flowers are patterned. There are several easy chairs cushioned with this chintz, and the window hangings are also of it. The chest of drawers is painted in the same manner. There are glass knobs on the drawers, and a sheet of plate glass covers the top of it. An old painting hangs above it.
The open bookshelves are perfectly plain in construction. They are painted the same bluish-green, and the only decoration is the line of dark green about half an inch from the edge. Any woman who is skilful with her brush could decorate furniture of this kind, and I daresay many women could build it.
There is another bedroom in this house, a room in red and blue. "Red and blue"—you shudder. I know it! But such red and such blue!
Will you believe me when I assure you that this room is called cool and restful-looking by everyone who sees it? The walls are painted plain cream. The woodwork is white. The perfectly plain carpet rug is of a dull red that is the color of an old-fashioned rose—you know the roses that become lavender when they fade? The mantel is of Siena marble, and over it there is an old mirror with an upper panel painted in colors after the manner of some of those delightful old rooms found in France about the time of Louis XVI. If you have one very good picture and will use it in this way, inset over the mantel with a mirror below it, you will need no other pictures in your room.
The chintz used in this room is patterned in the rose red of the carpet and a dull cool blue, on a white ground. This chintz is used on the graceful sofa, the several chairs and the bed, which are ivory in tone. The hangings of the bed are lined with taffetas of rose red. The bedcover is of the same silk, and the inner curtains at the window are lined with it. The small table at the head of the bed, the kidney table beside the sofa, and the small cabinets near the mantel, are of mahogany. There is a mahogany writing-table placed at right angles to the windows.
From this rose and blue bedroom you enter a little dressing-room that is also full of color. Here are the same cream walls, the dull red carpet, the old blue silk shades on lamps and candles, but the chintz is different: the ground is black, and gray parrots and paroquets swing in blue-green festoons of leaves and branches. The dressing-table is placed in front of the window, so that you can see yourself for better or for worse. There is a three-fold mirror of black and gold lacquer, and a Chinese cabinet of the same lacquer in the corner. The low seat before the dressing-table is covered with the chintz. A few costume prints hang on the wall. You can imagine how impossible it would be to be ill-tempered in such a cheerful place.
OF DOORS, AND WINDOWS, AND CHINTZ
What a sense of intimacy, of security, encompasses one when ushered into a living room in which the door opens and closes! Who that has read Henry James's remarkable article on the vistas dear to the American hostess, our portiere-hung spaces, guiltless of doors and open to every draft, can fail to feel how much better our conversation might be were we not forever conscious that between our guests and the greedy ears of our servants there is nothing but a curtain! All that curtains ever were used for in the Eighteenth Century was as a means of shutting out drafts in large rooms inadequately heated by wood fires.
How often do we see masses of draperies looped back and arranged with elaborate dust-catching tassels and fringes that mean nothing. These curtains do not even draw! I am sure that a good, well-designed door with a simple box-lock and hinges would be much less costly than velvet hangings. A door is not an ugly object, to be concealed for very shame, but a fine architectural detail of great value. Consider the French and Italian doors with their architraves. How fine they are, how imposing, how honest, and how well they compose!
Of course, if your house has been built with open archways, you will need heavy curtains for them, but there are curtains and curtains. If you need portieres at all, you need them to cut off one room from another, and so they should hang in straight folds. They should be just what they pretend to be—honest curtains with a duty to fulfil. For the simple house they may be made of velvet or velveteen in some neutral tone that is in harmony with the rugs and furnishings of the rooms that are to be divided. They should be double, usually, and a faded gilt gimp may be used as an outline or as a binding. There are also excellent fabrics reproducing old brocades and even old tapestries, but it is well to be careful about using these fabrics. There are machine-made "tapestries" of foliage designs in soft greens and tans and browns on a dark blue ground that are very pleasing. Many of these stuffs copy in color and design the verdure tapestries, and some of them have fine blues and greens suggestive of Gobelin. These stuffs are very wide and comparatively inexpensive. I thoroughly advise a stuff of this kind, but I heartily condemn the imitations of the old tapestries that are covered with large figures and intricate designs. These old tapestries are as distinguished for their colors, their textures, and their very crudities as for their supreme beauty of coloring. It would be foolish to imitate them.
As for windows and their curtains—I could write a book about them! A window is such a gay, animate thing. By day it should be full of sunshine, and if it frames a view worth seeing, the view should be a part of it. By night the window should be hidden by soft curtains that have been drawn to the side during the sunshiny hours.
In most houses there is somewhere a group of windows that calls for an especial kind of curtain. If these windows look out over a pleasant garden, or upon a vista of fields and trees, or even upon a striking sky-line of housetops, you will be wise to use a thin, sheer glass curtain through which you can look out, but which protects you from the gaze of passers-by. If your group of windows is so placed that there is no danger of people passing and looking in, then a short sash curtain of swiss muslin is all that you require, with inside curtains of some heavier fabric—chintz or linen or silk—that can be drawn at night.
If you are building a new house I strongly advise you to have at least one room with a group of deep windows, made up of small panes of leaded glass, and a broad window-seat built beneath them. There is something so pleasant and mellow in leaded glass, particularly when the glass itself has an uneven, colorful quality. When windows are treated thus architecturally they need no glass curtains. They need only side curtains of some deep-toned fabric.
As for your single windows, when you are planning them you will be wise to have the sashes so placed that a broad sill will be possible. There is nothing pleasanter than a broad window sill at a convenient height from the floor. The tendency of American builders nowadays is to use two large glass sashes instead of the small or medium-sized panes of older times.
This is very bad from the standpoint of the architect, because these huge squares of glass suggest holes in the wall, whereas the square or oblong panes with their straight frames and bars advertise their suitability. The housewife's objection to small panes is that they are harder to clean than the large ones, but this objection is not worthy of consideration. If we really wish to make our houses look as if they were built for permanency we should consider everything that makes for beauty and harmony and hominess. There is nothing more interesting than a cottage window sash of small square panes of glass unless it be the diamond-paned casement window of an old English house. Such windows are obviously windows. The huge sheets of plate glass that people are so proud of are all very well for shops, but they are seldom right in small houses.
I remember seeing one plate glass window that was well worth while. It was in the mountain studio of an artist and it was fully eight by ten feet—one unbroken sheet of glass which framed a marvelous vista of mountain and valley. It goes without saying that such a window requires no curtain other than one that is to be drawn at night.
The ideal treatment for the ordinary single window is a soft curtain of some thin white stuff hung flat and full against the glass. This curtain should have an inch and a half hem at the bottom and a narrow hem at the sides. It should be strung on a small brass rod, and should be placed as close to the glass as possible, leaving just enough space for the window shade beneath it. The curtain should hang in straight folds to the window sill, escaping it by half an inch or so.
I hope it is not necessary for me to go into the matter of lace curtains here. I feel sure that no woman of really good taste could prefer a cheap curtain of imitation lace to a simple one of white swiss-muslin. I have never seen a house room that was too fine for a swiss-muslin curtain, though of course there are many rooms that would welcome no curtains whatever wherein the windows are their own excuse for being. Lace curtains, even if they may have cost a king's ransom, are in questionable taste, to put it mildly. Use all the lace you wish on your bed linen and table linen, but do not hang it up at your windows for passers-by to criticize.
Many women do not feel the need of inside curtains. Indeed, they are not necessary in all houses. They are very attractive when they are well hung, and they give the window a distinction and a decorative charm that is very valuable. I am using many photographs that show the use of inside curtains. You will observe that all of these windows have glass curtains of plain white muslin, no matter what the inside curtain may be.
Chintz curtains are often hung with a valance about ten or twelve inches deep across the top of the window. These valances should be strung on a separate rod, so that the inside curtains may be pulled together if need be. The ruffled valance is more suitable for summer cottages and bedrooms than for more formal rooms. A fitted valance of chintz or brocade is quite dignified enough for a drawing-room or any other.
In my bedroom I have used a printed linen with a flat valance. This printed linen is in soft tones of rose and green on a cream ground. The side curtains have a narrow fluted binding of rose-colored silk. Under these curtains are still other curtains of rose-colored shot silk, and beneath those are white muslin glass curtains. With such a window treatment the shot silk curtains are the ones that are drawn together at night, making a very soft, comforting sort of color arrangement. You will observe in this photograph that the panels between doors and windows are filled with mirrors that run the full length from the molding to the baseboard. This is a very beautiful setting for the windows, of course.
It is well to remember that glass curtains should not be looped back. Inside curtains may be looped when there is no illogical break in the line. It is absurd to hang up curtains against the glass and then draw them away, for glass curtains are supposed to be a protection from the gaze of the passers-by. If you haven't passers-by you can pull your curtains to the side so that you may enjoy the out-of-doors. Do not lose sight of the fact that your windows are supposed to give you sunshine and air; if you drape them so that you get neither sunshine nor air you might as well block them up and do away with them entirely.
To me the most amazing evidence of the advance of good taste is the revival of chintzes, printed linens, cottons and so forth, of the Eighteenth Century. Ten years ago it was almost impossible to find a well-designed cretonne; the beautiful chintzes as we know them were unknown. Now there are literally thousands of these excellent fabrics of old and new designs in the shops. The gay designs of the printed cottons that came to us from East India, a hundred years ago, and the fantastic chintzes known as Chinese Chippendale, that were in vogue when the Dutch East India Company supplied the world with its china and fabrics; the dainty French toiles de Jouy that are reminiscent of Marie Antoinette and her bewitching apartments, and the printed linens of old England and later ones of the England of William Morris, all these are at our service. There are charming cottons to be had at as little as twenty cents a yard, printed from old patterns. There are linens hand-printed from old blocks that rival cut velvet in their lustrous color effect and cost almost as much. There are amazing fabrics that seem to have come from the land of the Arabian nights—they really come from Austria and are dubbed "Futurist" and "Cubist" and such. Some of them are inspiring, some of them are horrifying, but all of them are interesting. Old-time chintzes were usually very narrow, and light in ground, but the modern chintz is forty or fifty inches wide, with a ground of neutral tone that gives it distinction, and defies dust.
When I began my work as a decorator of houses, my friends, astonished and just a little amused at my persistent use of chintz, called me the "Chintz decorator." The title pleased me, even though it was bestowed in fun, for my theory has always been that chintz, when properly used, is the most decorative and satisfactory of all fabrics. At first people objected to my bringing chintz into their houses because they had an idea it was poor and mean, and rather a doubtful expedient. On the contrary, I feel that it is infinitely, better to use good chintzes than inferior silks and damasks, just as simple engravings and prints are preferable to doubtful paintings. The effect is the thing!
One of the chief objections to the charming fabric was that people felt it would become soiled easily, and would often have to be renewed, but in our vacuum-cleaned houses we no longer feel that it is necessary to have furniture and hangings that will "conceal dirt." We refuse to have dirt! Of course, chintzes in rooms that will have hard wear should be carefully selected. They should be printed on linen, or some hard twilled fabric, and the ground color should be darker than when they are to be used in bedrooms. Many of the newer chintzes have dark grounds of blue, mauve, maroon or gray, and a still more recent chintz has a black ground with fantastic designs of the most delightful colorings. The black chintzes are reproductions of fabrics that were in vogue in 1830. They are very good in rooms that must be used a great deal, and they are very decorative. Some of them suggest old cut velvets—they are so soft and lustrous.
My greatest difficulty in introducing chintzes here was to convert women who loved their plush and satin draperies to a simpler fabric. They were unwilling to give up the glories they knew for the charms they knew not. I convinced them by showing them results! My first large commission was the Colony Club, and I used chintzes throughout the Club: Chintzes of cool grapes and leaves in the roof garden, hand-blocked linens of many soft colors in the reading-room, rose-sprigged and English posy designs in the bedrooms, and so on throughout the building.
Now I am using more chintz than anything else. It is as much at home in the New York drawing-room as in the country cottage. I can think of nothing more charming for a room in a country house than a sitting-room furnished with gray painted furniture and a lovely chintz.
Not long ago I was asked to furnish a small sea-shore cottage. The whole thing had to be done in a month, and the only plan I had to work on was a batch of chintz samples that had been selected for the house. I extracted the colorings of walls, woodwork, furniture, etc., from these chintzes. Instead of buying new furniture I dragged down a lot of old things that had been relegated to the attic and painted them with a dull ground color and small designs adapted from the chintzes. The lighting fixtures, wall brackets, candle sticks, etc.—were of carved wood, painted in polychrome to match the general scheme. One chintz in particular I would like to have every woman see and enjoy. It had a ground of old blue, patterned regularly with little Persian "pears," the old rug design, you know. The effect of this simple chintz with white painted walls and furniture and woodwork and crisp white muslin glass curtains was delicious.
The most satisfactory of all chintzes is the Toile de Jouy. The designs are interesting and well drawn, and very much more decorative than the designs one finds in ordinary silks and other materials. The chintzes must be appropriate to the uses of the room, well designed, in scale with the height of the ceilings, and so forth. It is well to remember that self-color rugs are most effective in chintz rooms. Wilton rugs woven in carpet sizes are to be had now at all first class furniture stores.
Painted furniture is very popular nowadays and is especially delightful when used in chintz rooms. The furniture we see now is really a revival and reproduction of the old models made by Angelica Kaufman, Heppelwhite, and other furniture-makers of their period. The old furniture is rarely seen outside of museums nowadays, but it has been an inspiration to modern decorators who are seeking ideas for simple and charming furniture.
A very attractive room can be made by taking unfinished pieces of furniture—that is, furniture that has not been stained or painted—and painting them a soft field color, and then adding decorations of bouquets or garlands, or birds, or baskets, reproducing parts of the design of the chintz used in the room. Of course, many of these patterns could be copied by a good draftsman only, but others are simple enough for anyone to attempt. For instance, I decorated a room in soft cream, gray, yellow and cornflower blue. The chintz had a cornflower design that repeated all these colors. I painted the furniture a very soft gray, and then painted little garlands of cornflowers in soft blues and gray-greens on each piece of furniture. The walls were painted a soft cream color. The carpet rug of tan was woven in one piece with a blue stripe in the border.