PAINTED furniture is, at present, the vogue, so if you own a piece made by the Adam brothers of England, decorated by the hand of Angelica Kauffman, or Pergolesi, from Greek designs, now is the moment to “star” it.
Different in decoration, but equal in charm, is the seventeenth and eighteenth century painted lacquers of Italy, France, China and Japan. In those days great masters labored at cabinet making and decorating, while distinguished artists carved the woodwork of rooms, and painted the ceilings and walls of even private dwellings.
To day we have reproductions (good and bad) of the veteran types, and some commendable inventions, more or less classic in line, and original in coloring and style of decoration.
Image Source: jerryenospainting.com
At times, one wishes there was less evident effort to be original. We long for the repose of classic color schemes and classic line. In art, the line and the combination of colors, which have continued most popular throughout the ages, are very apt to be those with which one cans livelongest and not tire. For this reason, a frank copy of an antique piece of painted furniture is generally more satisfactory than a modern original.
If you are using dull colored carpets and hangings, have your modern reproductions antiqued. If you prefer gay, cheering tones, let the painted furniture be bright. These schemes are equally interesting in different ways. It is stupid to decry new things, since every grey antique had its frivolous, vivid youth.
One American decorator has succeeded in making the stolid, uncompromising square ness of mission furniture take on a certain lightness and charm by painting it black and discreetly lining it with yellow and red. Yellow velour is used for the seat pads and heavy hangings, thin yellow silk curtains are hung at the windows, and the black woodwork is set off by Japanese gold paper.
In a large house, or in a summer home where there are young people coming and going, a room decorated in this fashion is both gay and charming and makes a pleasant contrast to darker rooms. Then, too, yellow is a lovely setting for all flowers, the effect being to intensify their beauty, as when flooded by sunshine.
Another clever treatment of the mission type, which we include under the heading Painted Furniture, is to have it stained a rich dark brown, instead of the usual dark green. Give your dealer time to order your furniture unfinished from the factory, and have stained to your own liking; or, should you by any chance be planning to use mission in one of those cottages so often built in Maine, for summer occupancy, where the walls are of unplastered, unstained, dove-tailed boards, and the floors are unstained and covered with matting rugs, try using this furniture in its natural color unfinished. The effect is delightfully harmonious and artistic and quite Japanese in feeling.
In such a cottage, the living room has a raftered ceiling, the sidewalls, woodwork, settles the fireplaces, open bookcases and floor, stain all dark walnut. The floor color is very dark, the sidewalls, woodwork and bookshelves are a trifle lighter, and the ceiling boards still lighter between the almost black, heavy rafters.
The mission furniture is dark brown, the hangings and cushions are of mahogany-colored corduroy, and the floor is strewn with skins of animals. There are no pictures, the idea being to avoid jarring notes in another key. Instead, copper and brass bowls contribute a note of variety, as well as large jars filled with great branches of flowers, gathered in the nearby woods. The chimney is exposed. It and the large open fireplace are of rough, dark mottled brick.
A room of this character would be utterly spoiled by introducing white as ornaments, table covers, window curtains or picture-mats; it is a color scheme of dull wood-browns, old reds and greens in various tones. If you want your friends photographs about you in such a room, congregate them on one or two shelves above your books.