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Floors And Floor-coverings

Although in ordinary sequence the colouring of floors comes after that
of walls, the fact that--in important houses--costly and elaborate
floors of mosaic or of inlaid wood form part of the architect's plan,
makes it necessary to consider the effect of inherent or natural colours
of such floors, in connection with applied colour-schemes in rooms.

Mosaic floors, being as a rule confined to halls in private houses, need
hardly be considered in this relation, and costly wood floors are almost
necessarily confined to the yellows of the natural woods. These yellows
range from pale buff to olive, and are not as a rule inharmonious with
any other tint, although they often lack sufficient strength or
intensity to hold their own with stronger tints of walls and furniture.

As it is one of the principles of colour in a house that the floor is
the foundation of the room, this weakness of colour in hard-wood floors
must be acknowledged as a disadvantage. The floors should certainly be
able to support the room in colour as well as in construction. It must
be the strongest tint in the room, and yet it must have the
unobtrusiveness of strength. This makes floor treatment a more difficult
problem, or one requiring more thought than is generally supposed, and
explains why light rooms are more successful with hard-wood floors than
medium or very dark ones.

There are many reasons, sanitary as well as economic, why hard-wood
floors should not be covered in ordinary dwelling-houses; and when the
pores of the wood are properly filled, and the surface kept well
polished, it is not only good as a fact, but as an effect, as it
reflects surrounding tints, and does much to make up for lack of
sympathetic or related colour. Yet it will be found that in almost every
case of successful colour-treatment in a room, something must be added
in the way of floor-covering to give it the sense of completeness and
satisfaction which is the result of a successful scheme of decoration.

The simplest way of doing this is to cover enough of the space with rugs
to attract the eye, and restore the balance lost by want of strength of
colour in the wood. Sometimes one or two small rugs will do this, and
these may be of almost any tint which includes the general one of the
room, even if the general tint is not prominent in the rug. If the use
or luxury of the room requires more covered space, it is better to use
one rug of a larger size than several small and perhaps conflicting
ones. Of course in this the general tone of the rug must be chosen for
its affinity to the tone of the room, but that affinity secured, any
variations of colour occurring in the design are apt to add to the
general effect.

A certain amount of contrast to prevailing colour is an advantage, and
the general value of rugs in a scheme of decoration is that they furnish
this contrast in small masses or divisions, so well worked in with other
tints and tones that it makes its effect without opposition to the
general plan.

Thus, in a room where the walls are of a pale shade of copper, the rugs
should bring in a variety of reds which would be natural parts of the
same scale, like lower notes in the octave; and yet should add patches
of relative blues and harmonising greens; possibly also, deep gold, and
black and white;--the latter in minute forms and lines which only accent
or enrich the general effect.

It is really an interesting problem, why the strong colours generally
used in Oriental rugs should harmonise so much better with weaker tints
in walls and furniture than even the most judiciously selected carpets
can possibly do. It is true there are bad Oriental rugs, very bad ones,
just as there may be a villain in any congregation of the righteous, but
certainly the long centuries of Eastern manufacture, reaching back to
the infancy of the world, have given Eastern nations secrets not to be
easily mastered by the people of later days.

But if we cannot tell with certainty why good rugs fit all places and
circumstances, while any other thing of mortal manufacture must have its
place carefully prepared for it, we may perhaps assume to know why the
most beautiful of modern carpets are not as easily managed and as

In the first place having explained that some contrast, some fillip of
opposing colour, something which the artist calls snap, is absolutely
required in every successful colour scheme, we shall see that if we are
to get this by simple means of a carpet, we must choose one which
carries more than one colour in its composition, and colour introduced
as design must come under the laws of mechanical manufacture; that is,
it must come in as repeating design, and here comes in the real
difficulty. The same forms and the same colours must come in in the same
way in every yard, or every half or three-quarter yard of the carpet.
It follows, then, that it must be evenly sprinkled or it must regularly
meander over every yard or half yard of the surface; and this regularity
resolves itself into spots, and spots are unendurable in a scheme of
colour. So broad a space as the floor of a room cannot be covered by
sections of constantly repeated design without producing a spotty
effect, although it can be somewhat modified by the efforts of the good
designer. Nevertheless, in spite of his best knowledge and intention,
the difficulty remains. There is no one patch of colour larger than
another, or more irregular in form. There is nothing which has not its
exact counterpart at an exact distance--north, south, east and west, or
northeast, southeast, northwest and southwest--and this is why a carpet
with good design and excellent colour becomes unbearable in a room of
large size. In a small room where there are not so many repeats, the
effect is not as bad, but in a large room the monotonous repetition is
almost without remedy.

Of course there are certain laws of optics and ingenuities of
composition which may palliate this effect, but the fact remains that
the floor should be covered in a way which will leave the mind tranquil
and the eye satisfied, and this is hard to accomplish with what is
commonly known as a figured carpet.

If carpet is to be used, it seems, then, that the simplest way is to
select a good monochrome in the prevailing tint of the room, but several
shades darker. Not an absolutely plain surface, but one broken with some
unobtrusive design or pattern in still darker darks and lighter lights
than the general tone. In this case we shall have the room harmonious,
it is true, but lacking the element which provokes admiration--the
enlivening effect of contrast. This may be secured by making the centre
or main part of the carpet comparatively small, and using a very wide
and important border of contrasting colour--a border so wide as to make
itself an important part of the carpet. In large rooms this plan does
not entirely obviate the difficulty, as it leaves the central space
still too large and impressive to remain unbroken; but the remedy may be
found in the use of hearth-rugs or skin-rugs, so placed as to seem
necessities of use.

As I have said before, contrast on a broad scale can be secured by
choosing carpets of an entirely different tone from the wall, and this
is sometimes expedient. For instance, as contrast to a copper-coloured
wall, a softly toned green carpet is nearly always successful. This one
colour, green, is always safe and satisfactory in a floor-covering,
provided the walls are not too strong in tone, and provided that the
green in the carpet is not too green. Certain brownish greens possess
the quality of being in harmony with every other colour. They are the
most peaceable shades in the colour-world--the only ones without
positive antipathies. Green in all the paler tones can claim the title
of peace-maker among colours, since all the other tints will fight with
something else, but never with green of a corresponding or even of a
much greater strength. Of course this valuable quality, combined with a
natural restfulness of effect, makes it the safest of ordinary

In bedrooms with polished floors and light walls good colour-effects can
be secured without carpets, but if the floors are of pine and need
covering, no better general effect can be secured than that of plain or
mixed ingrain filling, using with it Oriental hearth and bedside rugs.

The entire second floor of a house can in that case be covered with
carpet in the accommodating tint of green mentioned, leaving the various
colour-connections to be made with differently tinted rugs. Good pine
floors well fitted and finished can be stained to harmonise with almost
any tint used in furniture or upon the wall.

I remember a sea-side chamber in a house where the mistress had great
natural decorative ability, and so much cultivation as to prevent its
running away with her, where the floor was stained a transparent olive,
like depths of sea-water, and here and there a floating sea-weed, or a
form of sea-life faintly outlined within the colour. In this room,
which seemed wide open to the sea and air, even when the windows were
closed, the walls were of a faint greenish blue, like what is called
dead turquoise, and the relation between floor and walls was so
perfect that it remained with me to this day as a crowning instance of
satisfaction in colour.

It is perhaps more difficult to convey an idea of happy choice or
selection of floor-colour than of walls, because it is relative to
walls. It must relate to what has already been done. But in
recapitulation it is safe to say, first, that in choosing colour for a
room, soft and medium tints are better than positively dark or bright
ones, and that walls should be unobtrusive in design as well as colour;
secondly, that floors, if of the same tint as walls, should be much
darker; and that they should be made apparent by means of this
strength of colour, or by the addition of rugs or borders, although the
relation between walls and floor must be carefully preserved and
perfectly unmistakable, for it is the perfection of this relation of one
colour to another which makes home decoration an art.

There is still a word to be said as to floor-coverings, which relates to
healthful housekeeping instead of art, and that is, that in all cases
where carpets or mattings are used, they should be in rug form, not
fitted in to irregular floor-spaces; so as to be frequently and easily
lifted and cleaned. The great, and indeed the only, objection to the use
of mattings in country or summer houses, is the difficulty of frequent
lifting, and removal of accumulated dust, which has sifted through to
the floor--but if fine hemp-warp mattings are used, and sewn into
squares which cover the floor sufficiently, it is an ideal summer
floor-covering, as it can be rolled and removed even more easily than a
carpet, and there is a dust-shedding quality in it which commends itself
to the housekeeper.

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