The choice of textures and their harmonious grouping is an important and difficult part of the decoratorís work, and one for which no guidesother than a few vague suggestions can be established. It is first of all clear that textures cannot be grouped according to their cost. Certain expensive basket weaves and block-printed Tussore silks, for example, would serve excellently as hangings in a simple living room furnished in good oak or French willow, where a far less expensive damask would be too formal; as a plain dark wood moulding would serve excellently to frame an etching which, however great its cost, would be ruined by a carved gilt moulding. Nor can textures always be grouped according to surface likenesses, as rough with rough and smooth with smooth. A carved oak chair, in spite of the rough and open texture of the wood, will ordinarily look better covered in a smooth pile velvet than in a rough and open-weave wool rep; as a porcelain lamp will normally look better with a shade of silk than with one of glass. Textures must in fact be grouped according to their significance, and this significance will usually be found to depend in part upon their physical characteristics and in part upon association of ideas.
Thus the formality of the damask is due to the stiffness of its weave; to its close sheen, which seems to ward off familiarities as does the polish of the diplomat or the courtier; and to the fact that it has always been associated historically with a formal style of living. The basket weave, on the other hand, and the rough texture of Tussore silk, suggest openness and informality, like a gentleman in tweeds. The fine black lines of the etching suggest precision and hardness, and its broad rough lines homeliness and solidity; and both of these qualities are associated in the mind with plain dark wood but not with gilded ornament. Good carving, in oak no less than in walnut or mahogany, suggests a richness which accords better with the sumptuous quality of velvet than with the rough dullness of the rep. The glaze and lustre of porcelain and pottery associate these materials with the idea of light, and give them a fitness for use as lamp bases not possessed by ungilded wood or wrought iron; while the softly graduated tones of thin silk seem, better than the hard brilliancy of glass, to express the soft and permeating quality of light. Thus we associate leather-unless sumptuously tooled and colored- with what is commonplace and serviceable, and gold leaf with what is pretentious and superficial. Ant thus we place Sevres and bisque in the drawing room because their very texture seems to have in it something of the transient, fleeting quality of youth and gayety; and Rook-wood and Grueby in the living room, along with age and strength and permanence.
In general lustrous textures are grouped with lustrous, and dull textures with dull. However, exceptions to this rule of practice will frequently be made in the use of richly-colored fabrics. Thus dull, light, or thinly-colored cretonnes will appear to better advantage with lustreless rugs of the Brussels or Scotch ingrain type than with pile fabrics. On the other hand, richly-colored cretonnes or printed linens accord excellently not only with plain or self-toned Axminster or chenille rugs, but also with fine wiltons and with many small-figured Orientals, like the Feraghans or Serebends; provided, of course, that there is harmony in color as well as in the character or spirit of the design. Similarly, cretonnes or linens of this type may be used in a colorful room with valances made of a velvet chosen to match one of the rich colors of the pattern; whereas a linen or cretonne of meagre coloring would require a valance of the same material, or of a plain material equally lustreless.
So far as its significance is concerned, texture is employed by the decorator not to express new ideas, but to affirm those expressed by form and color, and his chief concern is therefore to emphasize the decorative effects produced by form and color, and his chief concern is therefore to emphasize the decorative effects produced by form and color through the convergent effect of texture. It cannot be too often stated that in the perfect convergence of effects lies the highest charm of good decoration. Not its forcefulness and convincing quality merely, but also its atmosphere of god breeding and decorum-and it is worth noting here that this word and decoration come from a common root meaning to be fitting or becoming-are largely dependent upon the avoidance of inconsistencies and esthetic contradictions.
The appreciation of significance and beauty in texture, as in color, line and form, must be cultivated, and this can be best accomplished through a close familiarity with the various decorative materials, together with the study of their use in the great decorative periods. These periods were great precisely because in them decorative art attained to approximately perfect convergences of effects. However, each such period was great at the time of its maturity, not in its adolescence or its decadence, and the student must see to it that he is studying the best practice. Even in the best practice many inconsistencies will be found, as in all things human; but it was in general based upon a deep feeling for harmony in texture and a keen appreciation of its importance in decorative art.
This concludes our study of the grammar of decoration and prepares the wayu for the study of the problems of composition. Brief and fragmentary as this study has of necessity been, it has at any rate served to point out that everything used in the art of interior decoration is instinct with meaning. The decorator may be unaware of these meanings, as the child may be unaware of the meanings of the letters printed on his blocks; but the meanings are there nevertheless, and are quite sure to find their way into the consciousness of any one who has eyes trained to see. And whether they will group themselves into a clear and pleasant thought or strike the mind as a meaningless jumble will depend wholly upon the skill with which they are combined.