Character In Houses
"For the created still doth shadow forth the mind and will which made
"Thou art the very mould of thy creator."
It needs the combined personality of the family to make the character of
the house. No one could say of a house which has family character, "It
is one of ----'s houses" (naming one or another successful decorator),
because the decorator would have done only what i
was his business to
do--used technical and artistic knowledge in preparing a proper and
correct background for family life. Even in doing that, he must consult
family tastes and idiosyncracies if he has the reverence for
individuality which belongs to the true artist.
A domestic interior is a thing to which he should give knowledge and not
personality, and the puzzled home-maker, who understands that her world
expects correct use of means of beauty, as well as character and
originality in her home, need not feel that to secure the one she must
sacrifice the other.
An inexperienced person might think it an easy thing to make a beautiful
home, because the world is full of beautiful art and manufactures, and
if there is money to pay for them it would seem as easy to furnish a
house with everything beautiful as to go out in the garden and gather
beautiful flowers; but we must remember that the world is also full of
ugly things--things false in art, in truth and in beauty--things made to
sell--made with only this idea behind them, manufactured on the
principle that an artificial fly is made to look something like a true
one in order to catch the inexpert and the unwary. It is a curious fact
that these false things--manufactures without honesty, without
knowledge, without art--have a property of demoralizing the spirit of
the home, and that to make it truly beautiful everything in it must be
genuine as well as appropriate, and must also fit into some previously
considered scheme of use and beauty.
The esthetic or beautiful aspect of the home, in short, must be created
through the mind of the family or owner, and is only maintained by its
or his susceptibility to true beauty and appreciation of it. It must, in
fact, be a visible mould of invisible matter, like the leaf-mould one
finds in mineral springs, which show the wonderful veining, branching,
construction and delicacy of outline in a way which one could hardly be
conscious of in the actual leaf.
If the grade or dignity of the home requires professional and scholarly
art direction, the problem is how to use this professional or artistic
advice without delivering over the entire creation into stranger or
alien hands; without abdicating the right and privilege of personal
expression. If the decorator appreciates this right, his function will
be somewhat akin to that of the portrait painter; both are bound to
represent the individual or family in their performances, each artist
using the truest and best methods of art with the added gift of grace or
charm of colour which he possesses, the one giving the physical aspect
of his client and the other the mental characteristics, circumstances,
position and life of the house-owner and his family. This is the true
mission of the decorator, although it is not always so understood. What
is called business talent may lead him to invent schemes of costliness
which relate far more to his own profit than to the wishes or character
of the house-owner.
But it is not always that the assistance of the specialist in decoration
and furnishing is necessary. There are many homes where both are quite
within the scope of the ordinary man or woman of taste. In fact, the
great majority of homes come within these lines, and it is to such
home-builders that rules, not involving styles, are especially of use.
The principles of truth and harmony, which underlie all beauty, may be
secured in the most inexpensive cottage as well as in the broadest and
most imposing residence. Indeed, the cottage has the advantage of that
most potent ally of beauty--simplicity--a quality which is apt to be
conspicuously absent from the schemes of decoration for the palace.