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

XVI: bric-á-brac,   pp. 184-195


Page 185

                    Bric-~.-Brac
                                                          x8~
hungry man a table to dine at; nor would the most sensitive
judgment condemn him for buying ugly ones, were no others to
be had; but objects of art are a counsel of perfection.   It is quite
possible to go without them; and the proof is that many do go
without them who honestly think to possess them in abundance.
This is said, not with any intention of turning to ridicule the
natural desire to "make a room look pretty," but merely with the
purpose of inquiring whether such an object is ever furthered by
the indiscriminate amassing of "ornaments."    Decorators know
how much the simplicity and dignity of a good room are dimin-
ished by crowding it with useless trifles. Their absence improves
even bad rooms, or makes them at least less multitudinously bad.
It is surprising to note how the removal of an accumulation of
knick-knacks will free the architectural lines and restore the fur-
niture to its rightful relation with the walls.
 Though a room must depend for its main beauty on design
and furniture, it is obvious that there are many details of lux-
urious living not included in these essentials.  In what, then,
shall the ornamentation of rooms consist?  Supposing waIls and
furniture to be satisfactory, how put the minor touches that give
to a room the charm of completeness?     To arrive at an answer,
one must first consider the different kinds of minor embellish-
ment.  These may be divided into two classes: the object of art
per Se, such as the bust, the picture, or the vase ; and, on the
other hand, those articles, useful in themselves, -lamps, clocks,
fire-screens, bookbindings, candelabra, -which art has only to
touch to make them the best ornaments any room can contain.
In past times such articles took the place of bibelots.  Few purely
ornamental objects were to be seen, save in the cabinets of col-
lectors; but when Botticelli decorated the panels of linen chests,


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