Designs with Floor Coverings
The esthetic function of the floor coverings is, in general, to provide a low-toned and restful base for the decorative treatment. It is a mistake to assume that the ideal floor covering is always the plain rug or carpet. Plain carpets affect the mind precisely as do other plain surfaces, and they are desirable only when they concur in the proper expression of the emotional character or motive of the room as a unit. The ideal floor covering, abstractly considered, is rather the one which is both low in tone and broken in hue, since such carpets yield the effect of stability essential in the base of the room, and at the same time make it possible to give a subtle interest to the color treatment by echoing in small and broken masses on the floor the larger masses of more brilliant colors appearing in the decorative objects placed nearer eye-height. On the other hand, the carpet must not in the modern room make an over-insistent demand for attention. In Persia and Turkey there are no pictures and but little furniture, and the rugs constitute the chief decoration of the room. With us the finest rug is but one part of a much greater whole, and the decorator must be careful to keep his floor covering, like every other individual element, carefully subordinated to the general scheme.
In the design of floor coverings the essential conditions are flat surface and uniformity of appearance as seen from any point of view. The first requirement definitely bars all effects of perspective or relief, which cause one or more elements of the design to seem to be in a higher plane than the others. Such effects appear when bright flowers or other ornamental motives are related to a darker ground by shading, as well as in shaded self-toned ornament. Flatness of surface is characteristic of all good Oriental rugs, and where rich color effects are demanded in the design of a domestic rug or carpet this essential flatness can be best ensured by using colors in the Oriental manner; that is, by denning flat masses of color and relieving forms by means of narrow outlines of other colors, and by eliminating all effects of shading.
Violations of the second requirement are common, even among the finest domestic carpets and rugs. They result chiefly from the practice of copying successful wall paper and drapery patterns in floor coverings, and arise from failure to distinguish between the artistic requirements of vertical and horizontal surfaces. Every wall surface has a bottom and a top, and vase, vine, flower and tree designs are, if properly conventionalized, perfectly appropriate for wall work because no one can see them from the top. Floor coverings, on the contrary, must be seen from every point in the room, and a pattern having a pronounced direction will necessarily appear to be upside down when seen from one end of the room.
In the past fifteen years American manufacturers of floor coverings have made notable progress, both technically and in the character of their designs. They have not merely kept up with improving general taste; the best of them have kept well ahead of it. It is safe to say that nowhere in the world is there to be found such an extraordinary range of good fabrics in beautiful and suitable designs as in our own shops. Naturally the manufacturers have had to meet the demand for extreme and showy novelties, and even among the finest fabrics many hopelessly ugly and unfitting designs will be met with. However, no one is compelled to buy these things, and no one can blame either the manufacturer or the better class of dealers if his rooms are marred by commonplace and unlovely rugs.