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, Ogden / The decoration of houses

Introduction,   pp. xix-xxii

Page xx

xx                       Introduction
to the elevations and floor-plan.  The designing of what are to-
d~ regarded as insignificant details, such as mouldings, archi-
traves, and cornices, has become a perfunctory work, hurried
over and unregarded    and when this work is done, the uphol-
sterer is called in to "decorate" and furnish the rooms.
  As the result of this division of labor, house-decoration has
ceased to be a branch of~architecture.  The upholsterer cannot be
expected to have the preliminary training necessary for architec-
tural work, and it is inevitable that in his hands form should be
sacrificed to color and composition to detail.  In his ignorance
of the legitimate means of producing certain effects, he is driven to
all manner of expedients, the result of which is a piling up of
heterogeneous ornament, a multiplication of incongruous effects;
and lacking, as he does, a definite first conception, his work be-
comes so involved that it seems impossible for him to make an end.
  The confusion resulting from these unscientific methods has
reflected itself in the lay mind, and house-decoration has come to
be regarded as a black art by those who have seen their rooms
subjected to the manipulations of the modern upholsterer.  Now,
in the hands of decorators who understand the fundamental prin-
ciples of their art, the surest effects are produced, not at the ex-
pense of simplicity and common sense, but by observing the re-
quirements of both.   These requirements are identical with those
regulating domestic architecture, the chief end in both cases being
the suitable accommodation of the inmates of the house.
  The fact that this end has in a measure been lost sight of is per-
haps sufficient warrant for the publication of this elementary
sketch.  No study of house-decoration as a branch of architedure
has for at least fifty years been published in England or America;
and though France is always producing admirable monographs

Go up to Top of Page