Excellence in Design - 1st Test of Excellence
WE have seen that in the perfectly furnished room the parts are so congruous in proportion and so harmonious in line and coloring that the room appears to be not a creation but a growth. Nevertheless it is purely a creation, made up of many separate units-of floor and wall coverings, furniture, hangings, and decorative accessories of many kinds. While the decorator does not in ordinary practice design these units, he must choose and combine them; and since the organic excellence of the finished room will be strictly conditioned by the designs of the individual units, he must be able to recognize excellence or the lack of it in the designs of these units.
Excellence in design is not a simple quality, but rather a complex made up of many qualities, both esthetic and practical. Nor is it in practice a fixed and unchanging quality; for good decoration, as we have seen, is largely a matter of correct relationships, and a given design may be admirable in one situation and quite the opposite in another. The fact is that before a design can be accepted as excellent it must pass four tests: first, it must fit its particular purpose or function; second, it must be adapted to the material in which it is expressed; third, it must fit its decorative environment; and finally, apart from all considerations of fitness, it must be intrinsically good-looking.
FIGURE 50.- Louis XVI draperies which violate the requirements of fitness to function in design.
Fitness to purpose is the first test of excellence in the design of any decorative unit. Throughout all the appointments of a house every back- ground surface and every object of use or ornament must be adopted in size, shape, color, pattern and material to the purpose it is destined to serve. Important as is this test of fitness, neither technical training in design nor even a highly cultivated taste is required for its application, but only common sense and an open mind.
It is a matter of common sense, for example, that draperies, in addition to the purely artistic value of their texture, coloring and pattern, ought to subdue or control the lighting of a room, to ensure a sense of privacy or intimacy to its occupants, and to soften and yet emphasize the structural lines of its openings. Draperies that perform none of these useful offices and are by nature incapable of performing any of them are bad in design, whether they appear as cheap and tawdry rope or leather portieres, or as such elaborate and costly examples as the Louis XVI hangings illustrated in Figure 50. Common sense will likewise reject the writing desk too small or unstable for comfortable use; the lamp with no real power of illumination; the easily-soiled and perishable pillow; the lounging chair too shallow in the seat or low in the back or high in the arms to sustain in comfort the particular individual for whose use it is primarily intended; and the multitude of similar violations of this primary requirement of sound taste.