Furniture is not good unless it is well made and is abundantly able to perform its work. It should be simple in outline and well proportioned. It should be treated with a dull finish and upholstered to harmonize with the room background. Curved and straight line furniture may be used together if the former is kept simple.
There are a few general principles which will make it comparatively easy to obtain a pleasing and restful arrangement. The rule which is most frequently violated is the misplacement of leading articles of furniture; rugs, tables, sofas, pianos, bookcases, desks, dressers and very large chairs should be placed to follow the bounding lines of the room not cat-a-corner fashion. Chairs and other small articles may be placed less formally to lend variety.
It is thinking of chairs and couches with people occupying them and of tables lamps and books convenient for use that provides inspiration for a happy grouping of furniture. Chairs should be grouped together or near a couch for conversation while one or more may be placed against the wall so that they may be conveniently moved to a group when required. Therefore, if the purposes for which furniture may be used are keenly sensed the problem of interesting arrangement is almost solved. For example, a desk to be useful at all times must be supplied with good light and should occupy a quiet place away from the groups that are conversing.
Again, a table on which is a good lamp and some interesting books or magazines will form an attractive center for the intellectual and industrious members of the family; hence chairs should be arranged conveniently about it. On the contrary, a table in the middle of a room without its friends (other appropriate articles) is a lonesome thing. There is a “human idea” with many activities closely connected with furniture arrangement.
The next quality to be considered is balance which is the principle of arrangement through which rest is obtained. It is by shifting furniture backward and forward until proper balance is obtained that a growing appreciation of its subtle power is felt. Begin by placing the largest, strongest or most attractive article at or nearest the center; then move the others back and forth experimenting until a pleasing and restful result is obtained. When finished try to have the adjacent and opposite walls balance.
Formal vs Intimate Arrangement
In some illustrations, the balance is mathematically perfect; it is formal and dignified but quite uninteresting except possibly for a dining room, a breakfast room or hall. Other illustrations give a much more pleasing and “intimate” arrangement which preserves the idea of balance, rest and interest.
Balancing with Color
Sometimes it transpires that a large or heavy article may be balanced by some bright spot of color or strong value (light and dark) contrast. For example, a small colorful picture hung over a comparatively slender article of furniture or a very dark contrasting value in some textile (although in small quantity) will balance a larger picture less bright over a cabinet or piano. Again, a small brilliant spot of color may be balanced by one much larger and less brilliant if otherwise they are equally attractive. This demonstrates that it is not size, number and weight of objects only but also their power to attract the eye which produces balance.
To give repose, objects must have the same power to attract whether by color, value, quantity or size. Therefore to obtain pleasing results and to reflect her own personality the homemaker must accustom herself to sense the relative attractive force of each of her household gods.
The next significant element in furniture arrangement is Emphasis. Through this art principle attention is called to only such things as are important and to these in the order of their importance.
Attracting the Eye
There is always some one thing that attracts the eye first as a room is entered. It may be a beautiful piece of furniture; a pleasant spot of color; or interesting color or value contrast. On the contrary it may be a distracting defect in architecture; a blemish on rug or wallpaper; a loud bit of color; or unpleasant contrast that holds the attention. If it is a defect some means should be devised to correct or cover it if possible.
If it exists about the window it may be covered or rendered less noticeable by the curtains; or possibly by a coat of paint; or an application of gasoline may prove effective. But if it will not “out” then it is the homemaker’s problem to provide a pleasanter and stronger attraction in another part of the room thus leading the eye away from the things she does not wish to emphasize to something pleasing that will hold the interest.
A fireplace naturally becomes the center of interest in a living room and the place to be emphasized. Furniture should be grouped about it not only to invite the eye but the individual to its cheerful hospitality. This group must be made more tempting; soft beautiful color in ornaments and shaded lamps and pictures should add their persuasive power. It should be remembered that an overloaded mantel can frustrate all efforts to make a beautiful room and instead render it a veritable eyesore.