The Wharton School –  a critical house tour


Pictures representing life and action often grow tiresome when looked at over and over again, day after day.

There are but two ways of dealing with a room which is fundamentally ugly: one is to accept it, and the other is courageously to correct its ugliness.


Where much pattern is used, it must be as monotonous as possible or it will become unbearable.

Plain shelves filled with good editions in good bindings are more truly decorative than ornate bookcases lined with tawdry books.

Not only do mediocre ornaments become tiresome when seen day after day, but the mere crowding of furniture and gimcracks into a small room intended for work and repose will soon be found fatiguing.


The money spent on a china “ornament” in the shape of a yellow leghorn hat with a kitten climbing out of it would probably purchase a good reproduction of one of the Tanagra statuettes or a plaster cast of some French or Italian bust.

That cheap originality which finds expression in putting things to uses for which they were not intended is often confounded with individuality; whereas the latter consists not in an attempt to be different from other people at the cost of comfort, but in the desire to be comfortable in one’s own way, even though it be the way of a monotonously large majority.

It is one of the misfortunes of the present time that the most preposterouly bad things often possess the powerful allurement of being expensive.

Wharton rallied against the “black art” and “dubious eclecticism” that was the house decoration of her day. Thick curtains, dinner tables covered in velvet, bric-a-brac of the era, and “a great deal of gilding” were, in the mind of Wharton, totally out.

I still haven’t found the perfect velvet curtains for the living room.

References

Edith Wharton by Design

Lapham’s Quarterly

Exposure

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