ONE of the great advantages of autumn decoration is that it makes possible cheerful rooms at a time when they are needed most.
Some will be decorating rooms for the first time – rooms perhaps in new homes that have never yet seen the paperhangers roller or the painters brush. Others will be redecorating old rooms – by which one infers partial decoration. That is to say, they will be redecorating walls, woodwork and ceiling, and perhaps renewing the curtains, but retaining the carpet or chair-covers and not making any change in fireplace tiles.
Of these two classes the first really has the easier time; for those it includes have to buy everything new, and therefore have a clear, unhampered opportunity to achieve the whole of the effect they desire. While the folk in the second class may have just such complete and utterly new schemes in their minds and cannot see how to bring them off because of the existing carpet which must be used, or the old chairs which, however good they may be, would never go with such new decorations.
Let us begin by considering the present tendencies in modern decoration and decorative materials.
The most noticeable of these tendencies is the one towards lightness. How to make rooms light but not glaring; how to make them light but not impractical, are, increasingly, our main considerations.
If the rooms we live in were hospital corridors the work of making them light would not be so difficult. The whitest pos-sible paint with the hardest possible glaze would do the trick. But the treatment of living-rooms to provide light schemes is more difficult.
Glare must obviously be avoided. There are, of course, numbers of light shades at our command, but anyone setting out to lighten a room by decoration may as well note the point of this example at once: that a room in shades of the lightest fawn only. Would not look as light as a room in which black and white had been proportionately used for the purpose.
In other words, the lightness of a light shade is effectively lighter by contrast with a dark shade than in juxtaposition with a shade no heavier than itself.
Along with this searching for light-giving effects goes a desire to obtain schemes that are good backgrounds – for flowers, furni-ture, pictures, objel a art, or frocks. So-called neutral shades – creams, greys and fawns – are much in demand for this pur-pose, but they alone cannot make successful schemes of decoration.
Colours are necessary
A LITTLE colour is necessary, and light, soft colours are good backgrounds – certainly better than strong colours. For instance, if a shade of red is wanted in your room, you may find flame a bright and attractive colour for your curtains, but a rose-coloured dress or a vase of pink carnations will be impossible in the same room; whereas a hght coral pink or peach pink might equally serve the rooms need for a red shade, and would be unlikely to clash with whatever occasional colours you might bring into the room.
In the same way a light water-green would be better than a strong emerald. Bright, pure colours may make a smart and effective room for anyone who will not use it sufficiently to get tired of it and can have it re-decorated at the end of the season and will probably never bring anything more colourful than black and white into it; but for those who want a living-room to be a living-room – they are taboo.
White in conjunction with black has enjoyed popularity of late, though at first glance they do not invite you to use them. Yet a room with a lovely outlook and a sunny aspect can be given a black carpet and curtains, white walls and ceiling, and black and white chair covers on white furniture, and lampshades in white with black decorations. If the occasional colours brought into it – such as flowers and their vases and the dresses of the occupants – are reasonably colourful, it will look well and will do full justice to these colours.
Light colours are made practical by the decorative materials in which they are used. A hght chintz with a glaze somewhat provide, and of all plain surfaces the one in a good quality washable paint, flat, eggshell or glossy, is the most durable.
Wallpapers, on the other hand, are scoring with their newer mottled effects. They may indeed be called semi-plain decorations; but in this medium a very slight emboss, giving a little real light and shade, and a mottled mixture of light neutral tints, such as palest greys and creams – with nearly imperceptible and most delicate touches of the other colours in the scheme hidden away here and there so that you scarcely see them till a vase of flowers is set near-by – create an airily-light surface, neutral but subtle.
Other wallpapers achieve a similar but more patterned effect with an indefinite design, not outlined, but depending for its form rather upon vague irregular masses of mixed soft colours with one shade or colour predominating.
Woodwork should be painted to harmonize with the wall colouring rather than to contrast with it.
Less than that of the older chintzes is easy to keep clean by reason of this very glaze, which also helps to make the fabric look lighter still.
In slubs, light colours and light shades are woven with gold. This mixture of shades and gold combined with the method of making, which gives such a rich, almost coarse effect, is providing a texture that shows marks much less easily than the same colours would do in a plain and absolutely flat surface.
Nowadays, in the printed cotton and linen range of prices there are presented stouter printed fabrics of a coarser texture, like heavy linen to look at, costing, some of them, no more than cretonne, and wearing as long as you are likely to want them.
Paint offers coarser stipplings, scumbling and scumbling treatments as a method of providing the so practical semi-plain surface. But the great advantage of paints is the plain surfaces obtainable with them – of a lovely texture that nothing else can
Rich effects on walls of living-rooms to-day are frequently supplied by wood, imitation wood or wood veneers where once upon a time an enormously expensive, dark, heavily embossed and gilded paper, or a ponderous dusty flock served.
Columbian pine panelling is popular because of its decorative grain. It can be very effective stained a light weathered grey, in a room in which weathered oak furniture is to be used. Jade-green carpet and curtains with pale old-rose, jade and fawn chair-covers would complete the .scheme, with a little gilded beading applied to the top of the panelling and the ceiling in a lighter shade of the wood colour. And now for the rooms that can be only partially decorated.
A north room has unwisely been given a blue and grey scheme, having a blue carpet, grey walls and woodwork, a white ceiling, curtains and chair-covers in grey, blue, black and red. It is bettor to have the walls and ceiling redone, and new curtains and chair-cover, but the blue carpet is to remain.
The solution given here specified wood-work, walls and ceiling in a pink-tinted cream or soft peach pink, curtains in a lighter shade of the carpet blue with a broad band of deeper peach bordering the inner edge, a yellow or gold window net, chair-covers patterned with a soft blue ground and a design in peach-pink, golden yellow, jade green and light fawn, and lamp-shades in peach edged with blue.