Proportions-Creation of a room
It is obvious that in setting about the creation of a room which shall adequately express a given emotional idea we must begin with the proportions of the room itself, since to select and arrange furniture characterized by horizontality in a room which was itself characterized by verticality could make only for confusion and ugliness. But while the decorator can determine the size and proportions of the units that he places in a given room, it usually happens in practice that he has nothing to do with the proportions of the room itself, but must take them as he finds them. When, as frequently happens, they do not accord with the motive of his projected treatment, he must either change his motive to fit the actual proportions of the room, or else he must change the apparent proportions of the room to fit his motive. That is, he must, through the employment of a variety of decorative artifices, increase or reduce the apparent height of the ceiling, make the room seem longer or shorter, wider or narrower, larger or smaller.
Let us take as an example the case of a living room which it is proposed to characterize by a marked effect of tranquillity and repose. Here, as always, the decorator will seek to achieve his purpose through a convergence of artistic effects. He will accordingly, other factors permitting, place a marked emphasis throughout (a) upon the unity as opposed to the diversity of the treatment; (b) upon low tones of color as opposed to high values; and (c) upon horizontal extension as opposed to vertical extension. A long low room, with broad windows and a wide fireplace, will of course present no difficulties. Where the ceiling is high, however, and the openings narrow, the room must be treated skillfully if the motive of repose is to be convincingly expressed. In such a room the ceiling must be brought down in appearance by the use of a color as dark as the lighting of the room will permit-preferably only a few tones lighter than the wall. A rough surface, like coarse canvas or sand-finished plaster, will help to bring down the ceiling, as will plaster relief or beaming. Reducing the amount of light thrown upon the ceiling through the use of direct light fixtures and of lamps properly shaded will have the same effect. Where there is no cornice the ceiling color may be carried down on the side walls to the height of the windows, or to a distance equal approximately to one-eighth of the total wall height, and its juncture with the wall color covered by a narrow molding. Horizontal divisions of the wall by a dado or frieze, or both, tend to reduce the apparent height of the ceiling, provided, of course, that the ominant lines of the frieze are horizontal or diagonal and not vertical. The walls can also be made to seem lower through the use of a paper or other wall fabric designed upon the circle or hexagon as a basis. The horizontal lines of the windows must be emphasized, usually by means of valances or lambrequins, and it will frequently be found desirable to extend the hangings a few inches beyond the casing on each side in order to increase the apparent width of the opening and thus to emphasize the horizontality of the treatment. The hangings should be caught back in order to break their straight vertical lines, which would tend to increase the apparent height of the room. Couches, tables, bookcases and other important objects will of course be relatively long and low, and vases, lamp-bowls and shades relatively wide and squat; while the rug, which to be most effective in a room of this sort ought to be relatively large and to approximate rather closely the proportions of the room, will be low in tone and either broken in hue or of thick pile or coarse texture in order to strengthen the base of the decorative treatment, and to emphasize the floor as opposed to the walls. In order to make the large pieces of furniture which are placed against the walls appear sufficiently high to harmonize with the proportions of the wall spaces and at the same time to pre- serve and emphasize their horizontality, it will be necessary to select pieces which are actually long as compared with their height, and then to place above them wide low pictures, mirrors, plastic friezes, or other similarly shaped elements. The mind, regarding each group of this sort as a unit, will be satisfied with the total height of the group as related to the wall height, while at the same time it will be strongly conscious of the dominant horizontal lines of the individual pieces. In this connection it is to be noted that because the eye moves more easily and quickly from side to side than up and down there is a constant tendency to over-estimate the length of vertical as opposed to horizontal lines-a fact that the decorator must take into account in planning any treatment in which horizontals are to be emphasized.