ORNAMENT is that which adorns, and embellishes. It gives variety and richness to the ornamented surfaces, and is, no less than plainness, essential to beauty in the decoration of houses. Without ornament a room would inevitably be monotonous and uninteresting. It must, however, be good ornament, and there must not be too much of it.

Ornament exists to enrich and beautify constructional forms, and it is good ornament only when it appears to be not a fortuitous and unrelated addition to those forms, but an integral, organic part of them, as much a matter of growth as the markings of a butterfly or the plumage of a bird. In an accurate sense ornament can have no independent existence. It is always a decoration or embellishment, and it is significant only in association with some useful or constructional form that it is fitted to adorn. The ornament employed in the design of the chair shown in Figure 10 is good ornament because it embellishes and emphasizes artistically the constructional lines of the back and legs. When on the contrary ornament, instead of being content to adorn, seeks to substitute itself for structural forms, as in the Barocco chair shown in Figure 49, it becomes bad ornament and infinitely worse than none at all.

FIGURE 49 - ornament

FIGURE 49.- Ornament substituted for or exalted at the expense of structure makes beauty impossible.

All ornament, whatever its character, can be traced to an origin in either natural or geometrical forms. The earliest ornament was almost wholly geometrical, and consisted chiefly in simple arrangements of straight, curved and zigzag lines, or rhythmically repeated circles, scrolls, squares and triangles. With advancing culture and increasing technical skill primitive man learned to look to nature for his ornament. Animal and plant forms were drawn from the natural world, and more and more employed in the embellishment of arms, vessels and wall surfaces.

Natural forms employed as the basis of ornamental design may be used by the designer in either of two ways. When such a form is accurately copied, so that both its details and its peculiar order of growth or development are imitated, the ornament is said to be naturalistic. When the ornament simply reproduces the typical form of the natural object, changing its details and coloring and disregarding its natural order of growth, it is said to be conventional. The wall papers pictured in Plate XIV show ornament drawn from nature, in varying degrees of conventionalization. The Greek honeysuckle or anthemion is purely conventional ornament. In the great ornamental styles the details have for the most part been taken from nature, but treated conventionally. There may be a fairly close imitation of natural forms in the parts of an ornamental design, but never of the natural order of growth; for it is in the nature of good ornament to fit the structural form of the object it adorns, and this is possible only when the natural order of growth is disregarded.

PLATE XIV - wall papers

PLATE XIV.- Wall papers illustrating varying degrees of conventionalization in ornament.

However, the person of uncultivated taste has a marked predilection for the mere imitation of natural forms, and in all periods of poor taste naturalistic ornament is very common. Forty years ago, in what might be called the iron stag age of American home-making, we were graining wood and wall paper to imitate marble, hanging hair wreaths and wax flowers, glass-encased, on our walls, and weaving the images of cats and dogs, to say nothing of roses and holly-hocks, into our rugs. In England and Germany things were as bad or worse; and even in France naturalistic roses were woven into the Aubusson and Savonnerie carpets of the old regime, while it remained for a Frenchman of a later date to design a porte-cure-dents, or toothpick holder, carved or cast in the form of a turkey gobbler, with the toothpicks tastefully disposed fan-wise to form the tail. To-day naturalistic ornament is largely confined to floor coverings, wall papers, drapery stuffs and hand-painted china, and while a lot of it is to be seen in the shops, and more of it in the homes of unsophisticated folk, no one is compelled to buy it; for so notable has been the progress of American manufacturers during the past ten or fifteen years that it is possible to find properly conventionalized ornament in any field, and at any price.

Naturalistic Ornament>>>>

Interior Decorating Course Interior Decorating Course
1. The Nature and Method of the Art | The Nature of Interior Decoration | The Method of Interior Decoration | 2. Fitness to Purpose | Interior Decoration Factors | Interior Decorator | Decorative Materials | 3. The Grammar of Decoration | Grammar of Decoration | Form and Color | 4. Line and Form | Line and Form | Curved Lines | Broken Vertical Lines | Diagonal Lines | Three Dimensions | 5. Color | The Nature of Color | The Study of Color | Complementary Colors | Color Constants | Color and Emotion | Color Binaries | 6. The Significance of Texture | The Significance of Texture | Harmonious Textures | 7. The Elements of Beauty | Elements of Beauty | The Human Mind | The Human Mind II | The Dominant Element | The Dominant Element 2nd Method | Reccuring Lines, Shapes and Echoed Colors | Repetition of Color | Perception of Beauty | Variety in Decoration | 8. The Law of Contrast | The Law of Contrast | Contrast and Comparison | Tone Contrast | Tranquility | Individual Feeling | 9. Proportion | Proportion | The Laws of Proportion | Proportions-Creation of a room | Proportions-Creation of a room II | Increasing & Diminishing The Apparent Size of a Room | The Arrangement of Furniture | Proportion-Individual Decorative Units | Instinctive Insistance of a Dominant Element | Basic Importance of Structure | Walls of a Room - Decoration and Proportion | 10. Balance | Balance | Decorative Weight or Power of Attraction | Fixed Decorations, Furniture & Small Unimportant Pieces | Bisymmetric and Formal Balance | Balanced Distribution of Pictures and Rugs | Structural Emphasis and Repose of Background Surfaces 11. Light and Shade | Light and Shade | Quantity and Intensity of Illumination | The Nature and Distribution of Light | Secondary Contracts between Background and Ornamental Objects | 12. The Dominant Hue | The Dominant Hue | Temperament in Decoration | Color to Supplement or Correct Nature | Choice of the Dominant Hue | Background Color | 13. Color Harmony | Color Harmony I | Color Harmony II | Diversity and Animation of Harmonies | Complementary of a Room | Triads in Decoration | Distribution and Intensity of Colors | Contrast - A Principle of Composition | Connecting Rooms Using Harmonious Color | 14. Ornament | Ornament | Naturalistic Ornament | Knowledge of Historic Ornament | 15. Excellence in Design | Excellence in Design - 1st Test of Excellence | Proper Use of Decorative Materials - 2nd & 3rd Tests of Excellence | Beauty in Design - 4th Test of Excellence | Designs with Walls and Wall Paper | Designs with Floor Coverings | Designs with Hangings | 16. Period Decoration Period Decoration | Different Styles in Different Periods | Decorating Traditions Handed Down from the Kings | Peculiar Styles and Decorations of Different Periods | 17. Conclusion | Conclusion

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