Home and Society: Color in Houses.

Scribners monthly 1, toukokuu 1875

Any foreigner traveling through the countless inland towns and villages between New York and San Francisco would be ready to declare that Americans were born without any sense of color. He sees one long panorama of red brick, of white wooden houses, with green shutters, and is hurried past large crops of pasteboard villas, with Greek stables and Gothic hencoops, the favorite hue for which appears to be a pale, aguish yellow. In fact it is our lack of training in this matter of color which gives to the whole face of the country its look of crudeness, of glaring newness. A farmer, or villager, builds his new house with two leading ideas as far as beauty is concerned: cleanliness and "the fashion". He satisfies the first acquirement by daubing zinc paint or whitewash with an unsparing brush on the walls outside and inside, on gates, fences, even the trunks of the trees. Then he piles a Mansard roof on the wooden fabric, because the squire tells him it is "the style;" spreads a hideous Brussels carpet, with wreaths of impossible flowers, over the parlor floor, for the same reason; hangs some glaring chromos on the wall, and sits down for the rest of his life contented with having proved his title to be considered a man of taste.

House decoration has only within the last ten years been studied as an art in even the large cities of this country. It is no wonder, therefore, that the mass of householders have scarcely as yet learned its alphabet. Before htey begin to learn it we would siggest two or three maxims so apparent as to be platituted; the first of which is, that beauty, while it begins in cleanliness, by no means ends there; and, secondly, that it has no inborn relation whatever to the style or fashion; thirdly, that in default of good models, nature is the best teacher, although we confess it requires some culture or a ntaive gift of insight to understand her lessons. The farmhouse builder, with his unlimited swash of white paint, could have learned some truths from the woods, or even the well-tramped road beside him. He will nowgere in nature find permanent, glaring, white coloring, in masses. The hue of the earth, pale grays, browns, yellows, may give him a hint of a base of color for his walls; and for their relief, the darker shades of the moss, or weeds, which he may study on any damp stone or fence-rail. The peculiar gratification to the eye given by the priceless work of Turkish and Persian looms is caused by precisely the same combination of colors as those of lichen in October on the bark of an old tree. It is a popular rule, too, with housekeepers, more ambitious than æthetic in their tastes, to buy a carpet or wallpaper, which of itself "furnishes" a room. Nature, as they may see by looking out of the window, has chosen her carpet and drapery of quiet monotonous tints, to serve as a background for small and fine effects. We can do little more than suggest this subject to our readers, with the remark that a room without a well-marked meaning is a body without a soul; but that the slightest intrusion of pretension or assertion of wealth into that meaning only gives vulgarity as a sould to the body, and makes it offensive when it might have been only dull.

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