University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Digital Library for the Decorative Arts and Material Culture

Page View

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

VI: fireplaces,   pp. 74-88

Page 84

             The Decoration of Houses
tel-pieces, besides throwing everything in the room out of scale, is
a structural mistake, since the excessive projection of the mantel
has a tendency to make the fire smoke; indeed, the proportions
of the old mantels, far from being arbitrary, were based as much
on practical as on artistic considerations.  Moreover, the use of
long, wide shelves has brought about the accumulation of super-
fluous knick-knacks, whereas a smaller mantel, if architecturally
designed, would demand only its conventional garniture of clock
and candlesticks.
  The device of concealing an ugly mantel-piece by folds of dra-
pery brings an inflammable substance so close to the fire that
there is a suggestion of danger even where there is no actual risk.
The lines of a mantel, however bad, represent some kind of solid
architrave,- a more suitable setting for an architectural opening
than flimsy festoons of brocade or plush.      Any one who can
afford to replace an ugly chimney-piece by one of good design
will find that this change does more than any other to improve
the appearance of a room.     Where a badly designed mantel can-
not be removed, the best plan is to leave it unfurbelowed, simply
placing above it a mirror or panel to connect the lines of the
opening with the cornice.
  The effect of a fireplace depends much upon the good taste and
appropriateness of its accessories.  Little attention is paid at pres-
ent to the design and workmanship of these and like necessary
appliances; yet if good of their kind they add more to the adorn-
ment of a room than a multiplicity of useless knick-knacks.
  Andirons should be of wrought-iron, bronze or ormolu.    Sub-
stances which require constant polishing, such as steel or brass,
are unfitted to a fireplace.  It is no longer easy to buy the old
bronze andirons of French or Italian design, with pedestals sur-

Go up to Top of Page