French furniture is not appropriate to all kinds of houses, and it is often difficult to adapt it to circumstances over which one has no control. The leisurely and pleasant custom of our ancestors of building a house as they wished it, and what is more, living in it for generations, is more or less a thing of the past. Nowadays a house is built, and is complete and beautiful in every way, but almost before the house-warming is over, business is sitting on the doorstep, and so the family moves on.
We, as a nation, have not the comfortable point of view of the English who consider their home, their home, no matter how the outside world may be behaving. Their front doors are the protection which insures their cherished privacy, and the feeling that they are as settled as the everlasting hills gives a calmness to their attitude toward life which is often missing from ours. How many times have we heard people say when talking over plans.
Have it thus and so, for it would be much better in case we ever care to sell.” This attitude, to which of course there are hundreds of exceptions, is an outgrowth of our busy life and our tremendous country. The larger part of the home ideal is the one which Americans so firmly believe in and act upon—that it is the spirit and atmosphere which makes a home, and not only the bricks and mortar. It is this point of view which makes it possible for many of us to live happily in rented houses whose architecture and arrangement often give us cold shivers. We are not to blame if all the proportions are wrong; and there is a certain pleasure in getting the better of difficulties.
If one is building a house, or is living in one planned with a due regard to some special period, and has a well thought out scheme of decoration, the work is much simplified; but if one has to live in the average nondescript house and wishes to use French furniture, the problem will take time and thought to solve. In this kind of house, if one cannot change it at all, it is better to keep as simple and unobtrusive a background as possible, to have the color scheme and hangings and furniture so beautiful that they are a convincing reason themselves of the need of their being there, but one should not try to turn the room itself into a period room, for it would mean failure. The walls may be covered with a light plain paper, or silk, the woodwork enameled white or cream or ivory, and then with one’s mirrors and furnishings, the best thing possible has been done, and it ought to be a charming room, if not a perfect one. If one can make a few changes I advise new lighting fixtures and a new mantel, for these two important objects in the room are conspicuous and nearly always wrong. It is almost impossible to give a list of furniture for each room in a house, as each house is a law unto itself, but the fundamental principles of beauty and utility and appropriateness apply to all.
The furniture of the time of Louis XIV, having so much that is magnificent about it, is especially well suited to large rooms for state occasions, great ballrooms and state drawing-rooms. These rooms not being destined for everyday use should be treated as a brilliant background; paneling, painting, tapestry, and gilding should decorate the walls, and beautiful lights and mirrors should aid in the effect of brilliancy. It must be done with such knowledge that there is no suggestion of an hotel about it. Console tables, and large and dignified chairs should be used for furniture. Nothing small and fussy in the way of ornaments should be put in the rooms, for they would be completely out of scale and ruin the effect.
Every house does not need these rooms for the elaborate side of life, and the average drawing-room is a much simpler affair. If both kinds are required the simpler one should be in the same general style as the great rooms, but not on so grand a scale. If the style of Louis XV is chosen for all, in the family drawing-and living-rooms the paneling, or dado, and furniture should be of the simpler kind, and beautiful, gay, and home-like rooms, evolved with soft colored brocades, Beauvais or Gobelin tapestry, and either gilded or enameled or natural walnut furniture. The arm-chairs or bergères of both Louis XV and Louis XVI are very comfortable, the chaise-longue cannot be surpassed, and the settees of different shapes and sizes are delightful. There need be no lack of comfort in any period room, whether French or English.
A music room, to be perfect, should not have heavy draperies to deaden the sound, and the window and door openings should be treated architecturally to make this possible. In a French music room the walls may be either paneled, or have a dado with a soft tint above it. This space may be treated in several ways: it may have silk panels outlined with moldings, or dainty pastoral scenes painted and framed with wreaths and garlands of composition. The style of the Regency with its use of musical instruments for decorative motifs is also attractive. The chairs should be comfortable, the lights soft and well shaded side-lights, with a plentiful supply near the piano.