Interior Decoration Factors
ONE who sets out to furnish a given house for the occupancy of a given family faces a three-fold problem. He must select and arrange in the house such things as suit the age, sex and temperament of the individual members, meet their needs, express their tastes and aspiration, and fit their purse. He must, moreover, see that the things so selected and arranged suit the house itself, in scale, coloring and style. Finally, he must see to it that these things are not only suitable but intrinsically good-looking, and that they combine to form a harmonious and beautiful whole.
In other words, the treatment of every house, and of each room in every house, involves the interplay of three factors, which we may differentiate as the personal, the architectural and the esthetic. No decorative problem, however simple or complex, can be solved rightly unless each of these factors is rightly considered and given its due importance in the final result.
It is imperative to get this point clearly fixed at the outset, since it is basic. The decorator is in practice by no means a free agent. Rather he is rigorously limited in his choices by the requirements of suitability or fitness. Thus among the illimitable number of possible choices he is first of all limited to those things which are intrinsically good-looking, or beautiful. Among the wide range of possible choices that remain after this first process of elimination, he is again limited to such things as adequately meet the peculiar needs of a particular group. Among the somewhat narrow range of possible choices remaining after this second process of elimination, he is again strictly limited to such things as fit the architectural requirements of a particular building and room. The actual range of choice is illustrated graphically in Figure 1. Here the circle A represents the total of good looking things, B the total of things that would fit the requirements of the family, and C the total that would fit the house. It is clear that only such things as lie within the small area D, where the three circles intersect, can be of direct interest to the decorator, and that his choices, when he begins the work of decorative composition, must, whatever his personal fancies and predilections, be strictly confined to this area.
All unfitting decoration, of whatever kind, is vanity and vexation of spirit. It involves the loss of comfort, the sacrifice of beauty, the waste of money. Occasionally, of course, it must result from lack of means; but far more often it results from lack of taste, of energy, and of simple common sense. That large means are essential to the creation of comfortable and beautiful rooms, and that such rooms are certain to result when large means are employed, is a widespread notion whose unsoundness is exposed by multitudes of houses. In point of fact, any one can furnish a home fitly and even beautifully with relatively inexpensive materials; provided only that he have the taste to recognise fitness and beauty in materials, the energy and patience to search out the right things, and the imaginative power necessary to combine them in harmonious wholes.
FIGURE 1,- Of the three intersecting circles, A represents the total number of things available which, without reference to their suitability, are intrinsically good-looking; B the total number capable of satisfying the personal requirements; C the total number capable of satisfying the architectural requirements; D the total capable of satisfying all the conditions, and to which the choices of the decorator must accordingly be limited.
In setting about the decoration of a given house the architectural factor is properly the first to be considered, since the size and other physical characteristics of the rooms will of necessity largely condition the size, ornamental detail and coloring of the things that go into them. The personal factor is, however, properly first in importance. A house is not, like a hotel, a temporary resting-place for all the world and his wife. It is a permanent dwelling-place for a particular group of individuals. Hence no decorative treatment, however admirable it may deal with the architectural and esthetic factors involved, can be considered good unless it makes adequate provision for the satisfaction of the individual and family needs, preferences and limitations of this particular group.
This is a matter of simple common sense; yet it is continually ignored both by professional decorators and by laymen. The professional, by virtue of his training, thinks first of the architectural and esthetic factors. He is rarely on terms of sufficient intimacy with his clients to be able to estimate accurately the personal considerations involved. Moreover, being human, he is likely to assume the professionalís attitude of good-natured contempt for the laymanís opinion in his own field, and to regard the decoration of a particular house or room as wholly a matter of creating a harmonious and beautiful interior, even though the process may involve a very considerable disregard of the real needs and preferences of his clients.
The layman, and particularly the housewife, very often reveals a more or less complete disregard for the personal factor. Sometimes this is due to failure to remember that the furnished room is, after all, simply background for the people who live in it; often to unwillingness to make the very real and sometimes prolonged effort necessary to the perfect adaptation of furnishings to individual needs; usually, perhaps, to a desire to follow what is conceived to be the fashion.
We are all governed largely in our choices by the instinct of imitation. This instinct, which impels us to dress in the mode and to read the best sellers, impels us to copy the latest mode in the decoration of our homes. But while this very natural desire to be au fait in all things results in much business for the dealer in decorative materials, as it does for the milliner and the modiste, it results also in much bad, because unfitting, decoration. Many housewives reveal an amusing eagerness to have their rooms done in the latest, rather than in the most fitting, manner-an eagerness based upon the widely-held but quite erroneous idea that there must necessarily be frequent and abrupt changes of fashion in house-furnishing as in dress, and that the latest mode must be the most desirable. This notion is peculiarly difficult to combat in our own day, when architecture and decoration are purely eclectic, and in our own land, where both the machinery of production and distribution and the absence of traditional models and of accepted standards of taste tend to emphasize the incidental and transient rather than the essential and permanent aspects of the house-furnishing art.