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Wharton, Edith (1862-1937); Codman Jr., Ogden (1863-1951) / The decoration of houses
(1898)

VI: fireplaces,   pp. 74-88


Page 87

                          Fireplaces                     87
their disuse.  The old fire-boards were very different: in rooms
of any importance they were beautifully decorated, and in Italian
interiors, where the dado was often painted, the same decoration
was continued on the fire-boards.  Sometimes the latter were
papered; but the paper used was designed expressly for the pur-
pose, with a decorative composition of flowers, landscapes, or
the ever-amusing chinoiseries on which the eighteenth-century
designer played such endless variations.
 Whether the fireplace in summer should be closed by a board,
or left open, with the logs laid on the irons, is a question for indi~-
vidual taste; but it is certain that if the painted fire-board were
revived, it might form a very pleasing feature in the decoration of
modern rooms.     The only possible objection to its use is that it
interferes with ventilation by closing the chimney-opening; but
as fire-boards are used only at a season when all the windows are
open, this drawback is hardly worth considering.
 In spite of the fancied advancement in refinement and luxury
of living, the development of the modern heating apparatus seems
likely, especially in America, to do away with the open fire.
The temperature maintained in most American houses by means
of hot-air or hot-water pipes is so high that even the slight addi-
tional warmth of a wood fire would be unendurable.  Still there
are a few exceptions to this rule, and in some houses the healthy
glow of open fires is preferred to the parching atmosphere of
steam.   Indeed, it might almost be said that the good taste and
savoir-vivre of the inmates of a house may be guessed from the
means used for heating it.  Old pictures, old furniture and fine
bindings cannot live in a furnace-baked atmosphere; and those
who possess such treasures and know their value have an ad-
ditional motive for keeping their houses cool and well ventilated.


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