Designs with Hangings
Where the hangings are intended to have a structural value, and to give apparent support to the walls and ceiling, they must have ample fullness of material and be run to the floor. Ordinarily they will also have a lambrequin or valance. Full-length hangings will reveal the maximum effect of support when they are permitted just to touch the floor or are, for the sake of cleanliness, kept an inch or less above it. The old English practice, now followed to a considerable extent in America, of permitting the hangings to rest upon the floor in deep folds, increases their richness, but diminishes their structural value. Many rooms are marred structurally by the use of insufficient material in the hangings. It is the depth and fullness of their folds that gives to draperies their richness and strength, and always in large rooms, or in any rooms where an effect of richness and dignity is aimed at, there must be ample material. This principle has always been observed in good decoration, as well as in the art of costume design. "Quantity, or fullness of dress," observed Hogarth in the Analysis of Beauty, "has ever been a darling principle. . . . The robes of state are always made large and full, because they give a grandeur of appearance suitable to the offices of greatest distinction. . . . The grandeur of the Eastern dress, which so far surpasses the European, depends as much on quantity as on costliness. In a word, it is quantity which adds greatness to grace."
FIGURE 51.- The proportions of many windows make the use of hangings with lambrequin or valance unfitting. Frequently a cornice molding of some kind, suitably embellished and colored, is used without valance.
While a lambrequin, which seems to rest upon the side hangings as an architrave rests upon its supporting columns, is in general best adapted to the requirements of structural emphasis, this member may in the case of low windows or other architectural peculiarities be omitted, and the hangings can fall directly from behind a well-designed cornice board, as shown in Figure 51. It must be noted that even when a lambrequin is used it should be capped and finished by a cornice of some kind, however narrow. The practice-very common in drapery workrooms-of using lambrequins without this upper member violates the requirements of architectural composition and results in the creation of unconvincing and ugly windows.
It is to be noted that the words lambrequin and valance are used in this volume in their common rather than their correct sense, the latter to designate a lambrequin which is shirred, pleated, or otherwise made up to fall softly and without stiffness; the former to designate a lambrequin mounted on buckram and therefore possessing a flat surface and a sharply- defined outline.
Owing to the disposition of the mind to look to the top for the meaning of things, the valance, lambrequin and cornice board are sure to be conspicuous, and they must therefore be carefully designed. The folds of a valance yield an effect of softness and a play of light and shade that makes almost any texture pleasing and renders it unnecessary to pay much attention to the pattern, though in pleated valances care must be taken to see that a sharply-marked part of the pattern does not appear more conspicuously on one fold than on another. The bottom line of a valance should be defined by a piping, gimp, band or fringe, and usually a French-pleated valance is made more convincing by knotting a heavy cord, made to match the cloth or to contrast with it in color, along the valance at the points where the pleats are caught up. A lambrequin lacks the effects of soft folds, and it must accordingly be made of a pleasing texture and set off by good trimmings. No inanity of decoration is uglier or more useless from every point of view than an ill-designed lambrequin, and none is more common. By its nature a lambrequin is structural in character and formal in effect, and there is no excuse for using one in a low-ceilinged and informal room. Lambrequins can be effectively made of figured fabrics only when the pattern is symmetrical, and so spaced that it can be followed roughly in shaping the bottom line of the lambrequin. Where the patterns of materials to be used for the side hangings do not conform to these requirements it is in general best to make the lambrequin of a plain material which matches the ground color of the side hangings; as when a plain blue silk velvet or satin, embroidered in dull gold, is used with hangings of blue and gold damask. In the case of figured hangings having a light ground, like cream or pale gray, the lambrequin is usually chosen to match one of the darker and richer colors appearing in the pattern; if possible one which also appears in the carpet or rug.
The bottom line of a valance, and particularly of a lambrequin, is conspicuous in any room, and it must invariably be designed by a competent designer. Many rooms are seriously marred by weak or commonplace curves, by angles too acute, or by the absence of a dominant element in the profiles of the draperies. The depth of valance or lambrequin, since these elements possess a structural character, must be proportioned to the length of the side hangings. Valances that are too short appear to be trivial and inadequate; those too long appear heavy, awkward and lowering. While in practice the proportions will be altered slightly according to the architectural proportions and the motive of the room, the ratio will vary from I: 6 to 1:8, with the latter more satisfactory than the former for rooms of the lighter and more livable type.
Where undercurtains are used their proper function is to soften the glare of the light, to ensure privacy, and to give to the occupants of a room the sense of being indoors. Normally undercurtains have no structural value and very little decorative value other than that of soft neutral color and pleasing texture. Curtains must never be allowed to complicate the background surfaces or destroy the unity of a room, or to exalt themselves as ornament at the expense of what the windows reveal through the effect of pattern too elaborate or too pronounced. Whether pattern is to be used at all in the curtains of a given room, and if so how much and of what character, are questions to be answered only after a study of the individual room.
It is obvious that curtains must be more pronounced in pattern or more heavy in texture, or both, as the size and structural emphasis of the room are increased; that highly figured hangings require relatively plain curtains; and that the more ornament there is in the other surfaces of the room, and particularly in its wall surfaces, the less there should be in its window curtains.
Nothing more will be said here concerning excellence in the design of furniture, since the subject is too broad to be treated within the limits imposed by the character of this study. In fact, both the fitness and the beauty of a piece of furniture are so largely dependent upon beauty of line nad perfect proportions that few generalizations can be made on the subject. Finely and fitly designed furniture may be seen in the better shops of every city of importance, while illustrations of finely designed furniture are available in a multitude of books and magazines, and the student will make more rapid progress toward the acquisition of a sound taste by observation of examples than by the study of critical analyses.