IT is a singular fact that amid all that is being constantly written upon matters of art but little is said in reference to the interior decoration of ordinary country or city dwellings. By ordinary we mean dwellings that cost 4000 dollars or there-abouts. The art of internal decoration has received very little attention at the hands of men calling themselves practical decorators, intending thereby that their ideas may be so used, practically, as to produce beautiful effects, whether the ornamentation or mouldings are executed in color or plaster, and at the same time afforded at a very moderate figure, for the embellishment of rooms that have an every-day or only an occasional use. We will take, for instance, a neat country dwelling designed, say, exteriorly, by an architect who has also given the desired arrangements of rooms, etc. How rarely does he have the opportunity of showing and convincing his employer that such and such kinds of internal decoration can be carried out for a stipulated price; he having on hand at the same time drawings illustrating the whole subject, taking in views of side walls and ceilings. We say seldom is the opportunity given an architect to do so, except in a few instances where the cost of the dwelling or the means of the owner admit of his giving him the opportunity for internal decoration. What is wanted, of course, is designs for side walls and ceilings, in perfect harmony with the exterior and the rest of the interior of the dwelling. Now, there are many different views as to the relative merits of fresco and water-color decorations; decorations by plaster mouldings and ornaments, by the same in wood, by paneling and moulding in marble, and by gilding and paper-hanging. The problem is, how to make use of the existing conditions of art, manufactures, and workmanship, under the existing state of the public taste and requirements, to the greatest advantage from an artistic, economic, and common-sense point of view.
We will begin, as we before remarked, with a neat country dwelling, and first consider the question as to parlor decorations. When any entertainment is going on, it is most generally the parlor that comes into requisition. Now, having plastered our dwelling, we will say with a coat of hard finish, the next operation is putting in the wood trimmings, such as the encircle, the doors, windows, and also the bases. The great majority finish with white pine, clean, using the same for the moulded work as well as for the doors and other panel-work. Thee first thing to be thought of is the design for the mouldings, the doors, the panel-work, the base, and the wainscoting, if there is any. We illustrate our subject by an example in which white pine is supposed to have been selected. The design for the doors and their trimmings and other wood-
work should correspond to the rest of the building. The architraves to the doors and windows should be nine inches wide with bold mouldings on the same, the doors being one and one half inches thick, in four or six panels, with neat raised mouldings on both sides of them. The first story being, say, eleven feet high, the doors should be eight and one half feet high, and it would be much better if the heads of the doors were on a level with the heads of the windows. Having thus accomplished enough to show the room plainly finished with nothing but a base ten inches high, moulded, and the above-described architraves, we will next consider the decoration of that room as regards colors. Generally it has been the custom to have white walls to every new house. It is entirely unnecessary that they should be so. When the hard finish is being applied, the white plaster can just as well be tinted a delicate pink, a soft maroon, a light purple or a bluish gray. One might take the gray, for instance, very light in color, for the side walls, the ceiling remaining white ; the same having a neat moulded plaster cornice, the hollow of which should be flat on the lower side, on which is laid a water-color ground of very dark maroon color, when dry. This should be decorated in the colors of autumn leaves, illustrating a leaf-pattern or an ornament. At the centre of the ceiling should be put up a neat moulded centre-piece; we say moulded, so that the form shall represent circular mouldings inclosing some plain ornament that has no large projections or very fine indentations. We will now put on the lower edge of the cornice-work, and on the outside members of the circular rim of the centre-piece a plain gilt band with the gold leaf just from the book. Now, having finished our color decorations, the wood-work should be varnished with shellac and the mouldings tinted a dark shade, as dark, for instance, as walnut; this varnishing process should be repeated once or twice. We may now consider our room as complete, and the effect produced is one of comfort; and whether used in the day or night time, the colors above described will give to it the neatest appearance possible for so small an expense. Supposing the room to be sixteen feet by twenty-four, the cost of coloring the side-walls, gilding with the best kind of gold-leaf ?nothing but the best should be used?and varnishing the wood-work, would be from sixty to seventy-five dollars. Now that would be a small amount of money well spent. You would have a durable decoration, that would last as long as the house. The gray tint of the walls forms a fine background for picture and other frames, upon which topic we will speak here- after, particularly as regards the style of frames, the way they should be hung, and in what position.
We may speak also of the furniture, its style and decoration, for a room of this kind, and, further, will describe more elaborate decoration, both as to rooms and their furniture, such as mantels, bay-windows, and the like, so that those of limited means as well as those of wealth can form some idea how to proceed to obtain what they have a taste for, and what they desire.
- Taken Manufacturer and Builder May 1869