LOOK carefully at the room which you intend doing over. Cannot you, unaided, find out why all of your efforts, some of the expensive ones have failed to make it attractive? You say that the moment you enter your room you have an impression of confused disorder pervading the whole plaque. Has the mantel too many things on it, and are these objects placed without any plan as to orderly, balanced arrangement? This is true in most cases, where the general impression made by a room is one of the disorders. Perhaps your mantel ornaments are neither beautiful nor interesting and are unrelated in shape and colour to the other decorative objects in the room. Until amateur decorators learn to make the mantels in their rooms the key-note of their decorative schemes, it is wise not to experiment beyond the rule of three ornaments.
These must be absolutely in character with the other furnishings. That is, your Colonial room is not the place for French ornaments, nor your French room the place for Colonial ornaments and clock, unless you have made yourself so familiar with the characteristics of the styles that you .recognize related periods and can therefore combine them. In a room with very inexpensive furniture and hangings use equally inexpensive ornaments. In every case harmony is beauty.
Suppose you continue the analysis of your room by asking yourself if it has too many things in it to be “restful”? Have you, perhaps, used furniture which does not go together as to shapes, color of woods or the materials used as upholstery? Have you too many “spots” in the room? By which we mean, are there too many figured materials with different designs and colors, used as hangings and for furniture coverings ? Is your figured material, chintz, cretonnes or brocade, all of one design and coloring, but have you used too much of it, so that the effect is confused and un-restful?
Have you a figured and several-colored wall paper and a chintz with different design and cpk oring? This is a mistake. It is possible to get wall papers and chintzes to match if you insist on everything being figured. But remember that your figured hangings will look their best with plain walls and only one or two pieces of furniture covered with the chintz or brocade.
Is your room small and have you made the woodwork a sharp contrast in color to your walls? You will find that in any room, to paint the wood-work the same color as walls adds immensely to the appearance of its size. If the thing that you object to in your room furnished with attractive up-to-date furnishings is shiny black walnut wood-work, of the days of our grandmothers, have some one sand-paper the whole of it and you will be amazed by the result. Under that varnished finish is a charming, dull, sable-brown.
Is it possible that your room which is puzzling you so would look better if there were no pictures at all on the walls? Is your room really wrong or are you ill and for that reason unfit to judge fairly? There are, no doubt, moods in which, for example, bare walls rest the nerves. There are other moods which find one grateful for the diversion of pictures. These are points to have in mind when arranging rooms for those who are kept to the house by illness.
Are your krge pieces of furniture so placed as to give the appearance of balance to your room? And have you provided yourself with a sufficient number of easily moved pieces such as small tables and chairs, so as to form “groups” which suggest that human beings are expected to live in and enjoy this room!
Is your desk where the light comes over your left shoulder to the page you are writing? Are the lights in the room where they will be of piost use? Can you enjoy your open-fire and at the same time have a good light to read by? If you play cards can you light the table and also the hands of each player? Has your room for informal use books and enough of them! Books and an open-fire are the ideal foundation for a home-like room.
If the room under consideration is a bed-room, and you do not want to modify its character, have you provided not only a bed but a sofa of some kind on which to rest during the day? Is the “cold” atmosphere of this room you want to alter due to the lack of a few bright flowers? Do you love music and have you many musical friends and yet does your home lack a piano? If you are really a lover of music a piano is as much a part of your home as your desk is a natural feature in your sitting-room.
See to it that your home, your roomseach one of themexpresses the tastes of the family. This is how you make ” atmosphere.” It is wise to furnish slowly. Haste is responsible for most mistakes. Begin by owning good shapes and color-combinations, and as you can afford it, discard your things of no intrinsic value for beautiful shapes and colors with value. Sometimes a room which gave the appearance of an auction room for confusion of objects has been transformed into a thing of order and beauty by painting all of the furniture the same color. It is often wise to sacrifice good wood to get an harmonious effect.
It is amazing what happy results one can get if one does not cling too firmly to the idea, often a fallacy, that some inherited curtains or rugs are “too good to dye.” If you really want to master the secrets of how to decorate your home be prepared to let go of some of your long-cherished views. House furnishing which is beautiful need not cost any more than house furnishing which is ugly or simply dull and uninteresting. If you would decorate give in at once and agree to follow the rules of the game: let the laws of decoration dictate to you when it comes to the ” composition” of the picture (your room) upon which you are working.
The fact that the field of Interior Decoration is crowded is all the proof ^ve need that the occupation of decorating i^ a^leinating one and that you and all the others are helping to perfect our period of Interior Decoration is in itself reward enough for the time and trouble it costs to produce attractive, magnetic homes. Do you want to use only the furnishings you already own in the home you are about to arrange or will you use some of the old things and add new pieces or hangings! Or is your Idea to get rid of everything you have in order to make a fresh start with everything new?
We have given sufficient suggestions as to the manipulation of the furnishings one already owns. If only some of the old furnishings are to be kept and new ones bought to supplement these, the thing to keep in mind is that our choice when buying is limited by the possibilities of the old possessions. In such a case we advise first manipulating the old. When you have done all that can be done with them along the lines suggested (amputating inartistic ornaments with a saw; re-framing simply the ornate mirrors on bureaus, and painting disfigured or discordant woods) go out and buy the new pieces of furniture, but select things which are related, in shape and general character, to the old pieces.
If you are using hangings with flowered or large figured designs are you also covering some of the furniture with stripes? This should not be done. At any rate not by the beginner, especially if the materials show several colors. The reader can see that what we aim at getting into a room is an effect of simplicity and restfulness. Begin your efforts at decoration by having only the pieces of furniture you need in a room and not too many colors* Keep all your colors bright or all subdued; do not mix shades; a wrong shade of a color is like a false note in music. This is what is meant by having your ” values” right when arranging a color scheme.
Is your room full of little ornaments and the framed photographs of many friends? If so take all of these small things (possibly souvenirs of your travels) and intimate photographs out of the now crowded room and use only a very few of each at one time. Intimate photographs belong in intimate rooms and if you will keep them all together, say on the top of your book-shelves, you will be surprised how the arrangement improves the appearance of your room, It establishes order at once.
Have you restful spaces between your pieces of furniture and are there some small tables with nothing on them, awaiting the unexpected need, as a vase of flowers, cigarettes, tea or after-dinner coffee cup? Remember that in any room which is attractivesimple or elaboraterestful spaces and one or two small, empty tables are necessities. In music the rests have as much value as the notes. It is so in decoration.
Is that impression of confusion one feels on entering your room due to the fact that your rugs are put down at different angles? Let them follow the lines of your walls. Is the design in carpets or rugs too pronounced? It should not be so. In the average home plain carpets or very inconspicuously figured rugs, which are in harmony with the color scheme are the things to choose. Keep all of the rugs in one room similar in coloring. Are the lighting fixtures, frames of pictures and of mirrors in keeping with style of your furniture! They should be. How about the pictures themselves! Are they appropriate for the room in which you have hung them! Are they good of their kind? Have you been careful about keeping similar subjects on one wall!
Harmony in house furnishing is not difficult to understand, and if you never violate this principle when furnishing, your home will be beautiful whether its furnishings cost the lowest price possible or a fortune. You can see yourself that if you make the mistake of putting into an inexpensively furnished room some wonderful antique, inlaid desk or rare table, suited to a room of quite different character, you will utterly ruin your “picture”upset the law of harmony, and, in a sense, the rare object will be thrown away, while your charming “creation” in the shape of a simple (and beautiful) room fails to count as intelligent decoration.
When you are beginning at the foundation and furnishing with entirely new things, your problems are fewer. But they exist. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that decorating (even with endless money and time) can be successful if one starts in without a plan of action. Where are you going to live; how are you going to live as to service, etc.; have you both men and women, old and young, in your household; can you gratify the tastes of all and at the same time make your house furnishing give the impression of harmony? These are some of the questions to ponder. If you really know what you want in decoration the battle is half won. Work with the rules of this new game before you, and after your first room is completed you will know by heart the first principles of house furnishing.