Contrast - A Principle of Composition
Contrast, as a principle of composition, emphasizes unlikenesses. Interchange, on the other hand, establishes the likeness or harmony of unlike elements by giving to each a part of the other. Interchanged colors were very commonly employed in heraldry. For example, if a shield, divided longitudinally, were half red and half white, a bar or heraldic figure placed at the middle of the shield would be colored red on the white side and white on the red side. The principle is employed continually in all periods of good design. It is one of the most important, and perhaps quite the most consistently ignored, in the whole field of interior decoration.
A room with plain yellow-orange (tan) walls of one-fourth intensity and a plain blue rug of one-half intensity would be unpleasant. It would be improved slightly by the use of plain blue hangings to harmonize with the rug and plain tan, mode or beaver furniture coverings to harmonize with the walls, since the interchange, though crudely managed, would soften the contrast. The improvement would be much more marked if a blue and tan damask, or a linen or cretonne having these colors clearly emphasized in its design, were substituted for the hangings, and used, in conjunction with a plain or self-tone mode or beaver on some of the furniture; and it would be still more marked if the plain rug were displaced by one in which beaver or walnut appeared in the design of border or field, or both.
Applications and variations of the method of inter- change are innumerable. No attempt to exemplify them further need be made here, since the principle is so simple that any one can apply it. The aims to be kept in mind are two: first, to soften the relationship of contiguous colors which would otherwise be harsh; and secondly to effect an artistic and carefully balanced division of the two principal colors. Thus the room just discussed, having walls of one-fourth intensity, will be most pleasing if the other colored surfaces reveal approximately twice as much of the dominant hue as of its complementary. If, therefore, a considerable quantity of blue is used in furniture coverings, cushions, table runner, pottery and so forth, the amount available for rugs and hangings will be correspondingly reduced.
The trim or woodwork of a room outlines its structure and helps to steady and support its decorative treatment, as was set forth in the chapter on proportion. So far as the effect of color is concerned, the strength and importance of the woodwork depends in part upon darkness of tone and purity of hue, but chiefly upon the contrast between the colors of trim and wall. This contrast may be in hue or tone or intensity, or in any two or all three of these constants. Thus it may range from a trim painted to match the walls, and therefore offering no contrast whatever except in texture, up-for example-to dark oak or walnut woodwork with light clear blue walls, which would afford a striking contrast in hue, intensity and tone. It is unnecessary to state that the latter contrast would be exceedingly bad. A contrast of two constants is all that can be permitted, and in many rooms a contrast of one constant is sufficient for structural emphasis. Thus a bedroom with pale cream walls and trim to match would reveal a maximum effect of spaciousness and a minimum of snap and strength; while it would lose in spaciousness and gain in structural emphasis with a trim of white, deep cream, cafe au lait or pale apple-green.
PLATE XIII.- Wall papers showing interesting background textures, of varying decorative weight, or strength. The figured paper is a wool flock, suitable for use in a large and richly-appointed room as a background for large oil pictures.
In most houses the trim is a fixed architectural factor, which cannot be changed to suit the preferences of the decorator. Where this is the case the color harmony must be adjusted to take account of the trim. This adjustment will ordinarily involve no modification of the hues to be employed; but it usually involves some modification of the factors of luminosity and intensity in the wall colors. Where an unwelcome hue must appear in the woodwork its appearance should be minimized as far as possible by doing away with all contrast in intensity and reducing the contrast in tone to the minimum. In cases where the woodwork occupies a relatively large area, as in a dining room with walls panelled to within a few feet of the cor- nice, it will usually determine, or at least limit, the choice of hues. Black walls, for example, or walls of very dark brown, necessitate the use of two or more warm colors, while white paneling ordinarily requires the use of at least one warm and one cool color.