How to make one’s home attractive and livable, home-like and beautiful, with an air of cheer and rest about it, is a question deeply interesting to every normal woman. Many women feel that things are wrong, but cannot tell just what the matter is, and try one experiment after another without success. This is very discouraging and often gives rise to the mistaken feeling that only the wealthy can have a perfect home.
The real fact is that the same rules of beauty apply to the great and to the small house, and it is my aim in this article to tell a few simple laws of decoration that will help simplify the problem of furnishing a home.
The most important things that make a home successful are beauty of color, color in relation to light, color in gradation and masses, appropriateness, harmony between wall coverings and furnishings, good proportion and the absence of the superfluous. With faithful following of these fundamentals, satisfaction ought to be the result.
Use direction when choosing colors
Taking the subject of color first, we must remember that the points of the compass have a great deal to do with the making or marring of a room. Rooms on the north side of a house, where there is no sun, should be treated in warm colors, such as cream-white, warm yellows, reds, and all their gradations, yellow and red browns, and yellow greens.
On the south side of the house, the cool colors should predominate — white, blues, grays and cold greens. On the east and west sides, having equal amounts of sun and shade any tint that is neither too warm nor too cold, may be used. Red, although one of the warm colors, if used in masses, does not make a north room cheerful, as it seems to absorb the light. It is also one of the most difficult colors to manage satisfactorily.
Among the expensive papers and textiles one can find good reds, but it is often safer to depend on the hangings, cushions and chair coverings for the touch of red so often necessary.
Personal taste in the matter of color should always be taken into account. Some people dislike blue or green intensely, and it would be a cruelty to force them to live in either a blue or green room. Many people do not realize what an effect color has upon them, and laugh to scorn the idea that some colors soothe and gome irritate, some cheer and some depress, but it is true, nevertheless.
The chief color in a room should be used in masses large enough to dominate the whole, and tones of the same color and contrasting colors used in draperies, rugs and furnishings. Included in the subject of massing of color is the gradation of color. The best way to treat a room, for it is the natural way, is to have the floor the darkest, the walls lighter, and the ceiling the lightest.
Plain colors and light tints make a room seem larger, and one color note struck clearly and distinctly gives a feeling of space and rest. Too many unrelated colors in a room form spots, and take away the charm from it. The wall covering gives the dominant note of the color scheme and the scheme of all connecting rooms should be carefully planned, so that as one looks from one room to another there is no discordant jar felt. If one has a great number of pictures or some very beautiful or important ones, plain colors are better for a background.
Figured papers are often fine in design and color, but should be chosen with care, and beware of papers of violent design and color or with gold or silver in them. They always look vulgar. A dull gold burlap or cartridge paper is quite a different matter. Ingrain papers come in beautiful colors, and if the best grade is bought, do not fade rapidly. Papers in imitation of different fabrics and grass cloth make fine backgrounds and give variation without contrast; of course, the real fabrics have a charm all their own.
Among the figured papers, the small or large designs in two tones of the same color are beautiful in effect: tapestry papers in soft colors, reproductions of old-fashioned designs and many of the conventional and naturalistic flower designs are truly choice. Stripes should not be put on the walls of a small and high studded room unless the color of the ceiling is brought down on the wall for one-quarter or one-third of the distance.
Conventional designs are best for halls, living rooms, drawing rooms, libraries and dining rooms. Flowered papers are best for bedrooms and upstairs sitting rooms. Plain paper, two-toned or textile paper may be used in any room in the house.
Wall coverings of every description are to be had, from wonderful leather and tapestry to wallpaper for 5 cents a roll; but, as I said before, the same rules apply to any and all of them.
Do not decide on a paper until you have pinned a generous sample on the wall and tried living with it for a few days. Put two widths of it side by side and see how the repeat comes; see if the color is good by artificial as well as daylight; see how your pictures look against it. All these precautions may save you from disappointment in the end.
Deciding upon wall-hangings
When buying hangings for any room, be sure to take a large sample of the paper with you to the shop, and insist on seeing it in a good light. If possible, have a piece sent home before deciding. As general rule, plain hangings are best with figured paper, and figured hangings with plain paper.
Among the fabrics suitable for use are cretonnes, chintzes, denims, linens, Japanese crepes, and many beautiful hand-woven hangings to be found at the different arts and crafts societies. Then there are woolen tapestries, silks, brocades, velvets, and a host of other beautiful fabrics. Decide what the limit of price is, then patience will do the rest.
Curtains and draperies
For the curtains next to the glass, there are plenty of nets, laces, plain and figured muslins and thin silks to choose from.
A simple manner of hanging curtains and draperies is in the best taste. The muslin or lace curtains hanging straight or looped hack, or cut in two sections, the first falling straight to the top of the lower sash just covering the woodwork, and the second hanging from a rod hidden under its ruffle or hem and pushed back to each side; the heavy draperies at the sides hanging straight to the floor from a separate rod so they can be pulled together at night.
Creating color schemes
To illustrate some of these principles, I will give a few color schemes. A drawing room on the southwest corner of a house could have the walls covered with a gray figured paper, the Jamaica pattern or one of the gray landscape papers are especially good and are copies of fine old designs; the woodwork stained a soft gray or painted white, not dead white, with egg shell finish; the curtains next to the glass deep cream-colored, almost yellow, net or lace, gray velours hanging at the sides, the gray to have yellow lights in it, and edged with soft green and gold braid; the floor hardwood with dull-toned Oriental rugs.
The room opening from this room is a library and faces west. Use plain soft green paper, the woodwork weathered oak, have leaded glass if possible, and the curtains of madras of tan, green and soft reds; the rug, browns, green and red.
Window seats piled with cushions always add comfort and charm to a library. The dining room opens out of the library and faces northwest. It should have a soft yellowish pink paper, the woodwork a deep cafe-au-lait or mahogany, the furniture mahogany; the curtains deep cream net, and hangings at sides cretonnes or silk with tan ground and figures of green, pink and mahogany color, the rug taking the colors of the room in rich dull tones.
Yellow is the most cheering color of all for many people, seeming like sunlight. In a room with a northern exposure, yellow paper, cream white paint, white muslin curtains, and hangings of cream, yellow and brown, with a dash of red, would make a charming room. Blue and green, if used with an unerring color sense, gives a wonderful effect in a room with bright southern exposure. They must be the soft blues and greens, and are very difficult to manage, and one false tone or value will ruin the whole. Also blues and white, and green and white are fresh and charming.
So it goes on, each room a new problem, and when well solved, giving pleasure untold to all who come under its influence.
Good taste is key
The great majority of the people cannot build to suit themselves, but must take what the powers that be provide in the way of houses and apartments, so the touch of personality must be given by the furnishings. Good taste, the careful choosing of colors and planning of details will make it blossom out with charm, and well repay one for the time and trouble.
If one cannot have the expensive things, remember there are plenty of beautiful cheaper ones to be had, and that it is not lavish expenditure of money that makes a home a success, but good taste, beauty of color, and the appropriateness of the furnishing to the life that is to be lived within its walls.