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Wharton, Edith (1862-1937); Codman Jr., Ogden (1863-1951) / The decoration of houses

VI: fireplaces,   pp. 74-88

Page 83

                             Fireplaces                       83
fire-proof.   The chief objection to wood is that its use neces-
sitates the displacement of the architrave, thus leaving a flat in-
termediate space to be faced with some fire-proof material.  This
is an architectural fault.   A door of which the architrave should
be set back eighteen inches or more to admit of a facing of tiles
or marble would be pronounced unarchitectural; and it is usually
admitted that all classes of openings should be subject to the
same general treatment.
 Where the mantel-piece is of wood, the setting back of the ar-
chitrave is a necessity; but, curiously enough, the practice has be-
come so common in England and America that even where the
mantel is made of marble or stone it is set back in the same way;
so that it is unusual to see a modern fireplace in which the archi-
trave defines the opening.     In France, also, the use of an inner
facing (called a retr~cissenzent) has become common, probably
because such a device makes it possible to use less fuel, while not
disturbing the proportions of the mantel as related to the room.
 The reaction from the bare stiff rooms of the first quarter of the
present century - the era of mahogany and horsehair - resulted,
some twenty years since, in a general craving for knick-knacks;
and the latter soon spread from the tables to the mantel, espe-
cially in England and America, where the absence of the architec-
tural over-mantel left a bare expanse of wall above the chimney-
 The use of the mantel as a bric-~-brac shelf led in time to the
lengthening and widening of this shelf, and in consequence to the
enlargement of the whole chimney-piece.
 Mantels which in the eighteenth century would have been
thought in scale with rooms of certain dimensions would now
be considered too small and insignificant.  The use of large man-

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