The Dominant Element, 2nd Method
The second method is to cover two-thirds or more of all the decorative surfaces of the room with tones of the hue, depending upon its complementary, helped out by small accents of other harmonious colors, for the necessary variety. When either method is skillfully employed the dominant hue, as it appears in relatively neutral tones in the background surfaces of the room, unifies the whole decorative treatment while permitting a wide variety among the subordinate elements. In a particularly happy way it realizes the ideal of principality through pervasion rather than ascendancy, since it permits the mind to follow its natural inclination to concern itself with the positive factors of its environment-that is, with the objects in the room-while at the same time the unifying element lies at the back of consciousness.
In the effort to acquire a sure taste for effects of unity, principality in form must be studied carefully and should be studied progressively, beginning with the simplest leaf and flower forms, wherein may be noted the way in which one part of a leaf is dominant, and one leaf in a spray of leaves. Simple examples of principality are found in the anthemion motive, in the volutes of Ionic capitals, in vases and pottery. More complex examples are afforded by many Persian rugs, in which the lanceolate ellipse of the medallion, reenforced by analogous lines in the corner pieces and the inner medallion, dominates the whole composition. In many of the Gothic cathedrals a single spire dominates the whole edifice and gives it unity, as does the dome of the Capitol at Washington.
By the method of repetition unity is insured through the recurrence of identical or more or less similar lines, shapes, hues, tones, textures, and proportions. The method can be applied to any room, under any conditions, and may be made to yield an effect either marked or slight, obvious or subtle, according to the manner in which it is employed. The unifying and esthetically pleasurable effect of repetition has a double basis. It is in part physiological, and is due to the fact that the perception of like or repeated elements involves little muscular effort, whereas the perception of unlike elements necessitates a constant movement and adjustment of the eye. Psychologically, repetition is associated in the mind with the ideas of succession, order and regularity, and hence with the sense of repose and quiet well-being which always results from order and regularity in the affairs of life. On the other hand, change and non-succession are associated with the ideas of disorder, irregularity and disquietude. Thus the recurrence of similar lines and shapes, as in the repetition of a pleasing ornamental motive or the mechanical repetition of an inconspicuous pattern on the walls or floor, affects the mind, as does the recurrence of musical cadences or the rhythmic repetition of rhymed syllables, with a sense of quietude, order, and calm unity.
In good decoration the method of repetition is employed in three forms:: (a) in its simplest and mos common form, as repeating diaper pattern, which is used in wall papers, in damasks, tapestries and other drapery and upholstery stuffs, in all-over carpets and in many ornamental plaster ceilings, to cover entire surfaces with the same motive repeated continuously; (b) in its most obvious form, as symmetrical repetition, wherein each color, outline or mass on one side of a real or ideal center is balanced by a like color, outline or mass on the other side; and (c) in its most subtle form, as the recurrence, in many and often in widely separated parts of a composition, of identical or similar lines, shapes, colors or significances.
The use and decorative value of diaper pattern will be discussed in the chapters on proportion and excellence in design, while symmetry will be studied in the chapter on balance. This latter form of repetition has a marked unifying power. Because the like elements lie immediately before the eye, symmetry makes it easier for us to see and grasp the significance of things than is possible in non-symmetrical arrangements of decorative features. Thus a pair of identical candlesticks, placed at equal distances from the center of a mantel, would have an effect upon the mind at once unifying and obvious. Symmetrical repetition, whether it appears in the two halves of the same unit, as in a chair, a rug, or a window hung with draperies, or in arrangements of several units as groups, as in the case of a console table with a mirror above it and identical chairs at equal distances from either end, is never subtle. Its effect is always obvious and always formal, and when over-emphasized, as may very easily happen, it results in over-formality and stiffness.