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Ceilings








As ceilings are in reality a part of the wall, they must always be
considered in connection with room interiors, but their influence upon
the beauty of the average house is so small, that their treatment is a
comparatively easy problem.

In simple houses with plaster ceilings the tints to be used are easily
decided. The rule of gradation of colour from floor to ceiling
prescribes for the latter the lightest tone of the gradation, and as the
ceiling stands for light, and should actually reflect light into the
room, the philosophy of this arrangement of colours is obvious. It is
not, however, an invariable rule that the ceiling should carry the same
tint as the wall, even in a much lighter tone, although greater harmony
and restfulness of effect is produced in this way. A ceiling of cream
white will harmonise well with almost any tint upon the walls, and at
the same time give an effect of air and light in the room. It is also a
good ground for ornament in elaborately decorated ones.

If the walls are covered with a light wall-paper which carries a floral
design, it is a safe rule to make the ceiling of the same colour but a
lighter shade of the background of the paper, but it is not by any means
good art to carry a flower design over the ceiling. One sometimes sees
instances of this in the bedrooms of fairly good houses, and the effect
is naturally that of bringing the ceiling apparently almost to one's
head, or at all events, of producing a very unrestful effect.

A wood ceiling in natural colour is always a good feature in a room of
defined or serious purpose, like a hall, dining-room, or library,
because in such rooms the colour of the side walls is apt to be strong
enough to balance it. Indeed a wooden ceiling has always the merit of
being secure in its place, and even where the walls are light can be
painted so as to be in harmony with them. Plaster as a ceiling for
bedrooms is open to the objection of a possibility of its detaching
itself from the lath, especially in old houses, and in these it is well
to have them strengthened with flat mouldings of wood put on in regular
squares, or even in some geometrical design, and painted with the
ceiling. This gives security as well as a certain elaborateness of
effect not without its value.

For the ordinary, or comparatively inexpensive home, we need not
consider the ceiling an object for serious study, because it is so
constantly out of the line of sight, and because its natural colourless
condition is no bar to the general colour-effect.

In large rooms this condition is changed, for in a long perspective the
ceiling comes into sight and consciousness. There would be a sense of
barrenness and poverty in a long stretch of plain surface or unbroken
colour over a vista of decorated wall, and accordingly the ceilings of
large and important rooms are generally broken by plaster mouldings or
architectural ornament.

In rooms of this kind, whether in public or private buildings,
decorative painting has its proper and appropriate place. A painted
ceiling, no matter how beautiful, is quite superfluous and indeed
absolutely lost in a room where size prevents its being brought into the
field of the eye by the lowering of long perspective lines, but when
the size of the room gives unusual length of ceiling, no effect of
decoration is so valuable and precious. Colour and gilding upon a
ceiling, when well sustained by fine composition or treatment, is
undoubtedly the highest and best achievement of the decorative painter's
art.

Such a ceiling in a large and stately drawing-room, where the walls are
hung with silk which gives broken indications of graceful design in play
of light upon the texture, is one of the most successful of both modern
as well as antique methods of decoration. It has come down in direct
succession of practice to the school of French decoration of to-day, and
has been adopted into American fashion in its full and complete practice
without sufficient adaptation to American circumstances. If it were
modified by these, it is capable of absorbing other and better qualities
than those of mere fashion and brilliance, as we see in occasional
instances in some beautiful American houses, where the ceilings have
been painted, and the textiles woven with an almost imaginative
appropriateness of subject. Such ceilings as this belong, of course, to
the efforts of the mural or decorative painter, who, in conjunction with
the decorator, or architect, has studied the subject as connected with
its surroundings.





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