Saturday, July 3, 2010

The Decorating of Houses Continues

In chapter two of her book ‘The Decoration of Houses’ Edith Wharton encourages designers to consider the purpose of the room to be decorated. The tastes and habits of the people who will occupy the space also need to be taken into account.

Wharton stresses the importance of individuality as a priority of the time (late 1800’s). She believes people should have their homes decorated in a way that will allow them to be comfortable in their own way.

“It seems easier to most people to arrange a room like some else's than to analyze and express their own needs” Edith points out people can also be caught up in the traditions of the past. These unconscious tendencies need to be put aside. Comfort and convenience should be the main consideration she states.

When decorating a room consider:
  • The purpose of the room
  • The tastes and habits of the occupants
  • Convenience
  • Needs
  • Individuality
  • Design principles
However Edith does caution the reader against going the other to extreme and discarding things because they are old fashioned. Using the Golden Mean as a guide will make it easier to furnish rooms. the Golden Mean sometimes referred to as the Golden Section is a measurement used by the Ancient Greeks.

They believed using the measurements in building and design create perfect proportion. The ratio used 0.618 to 10. A rough example is to use 1/3 of 10 =3.3, 3.3 x 2 = 6.6 which works out around 2/3rds. The what some call the perfect number is thought to have been used in various buildings, The Parthenon,  Taj Mahal and the Great Mosque of Kairouan. If you visit this link you will find information on the replica of Parthenon in Nashville

“… to penetrate the mystery of house furnishing it is only necessary to analyze one satisfactory room and notice, wherein its charm lies” 

The era in which Edith was writing this book was a time of great change. The new rich middle classes had money to spend. They wanted to appear cultured and accepted by the old moneyed families. To achieve this they used cheaper imitations of past styles. The higher classes held on to the traditions of the past. It was against this trend Edith spoke out.

New decorating styles were emerging; Art Nouveau and the Arts and Craft movements. Edith appears to have wanted to bring balance. A lot of what Edith had to say is still relevant today. Are people still following fashion trends at the expense of comfort, individuality and good design?

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