As I've promissed few days ago, when I wrote the part one of the House etiquette, this little lesson of our is now being continued.
"A gem of a house may be no size at all, but its lines are honest,
and its painting and window curtains in good taste ...
and its bell is answered promptly by a trim maid
with a low voice and quiet, courteous manner"
The Blindness Of Sentiment
It is almost impossible for any of us to judge accurately of things which we have throughout a lifetime been accustomed to. A chair that was grandmother's, a painting father bought, the silver that has always been on the dining table—are all so part of ourselves that we are sentiment-blind to their defects.
For instance, the portrait of a Colonial officer, among others, has always hung in Mrs. Oldname's dining-room. One day an art critic, whose knowledge was better than his manners, blurted out, "Will you please tell me why you have that dreadful thing in this otherwise perfect room?" Mrs. Oldname, somewhat taken back, answered rather wonderingly: "Is it dreadful?—Really? I have a feeling of affection for him and his dog!"
The critic was merciless. "If you call a cotton-flannel effigy, a dog! And as for the figure, it is equally false and lifeless! It is amazing how any one with your taste can bear looking at it!" In spite of his rudeness, Mrs. Oldname saw that what he said was quite true, but not until the fact had been pointed out to her. Gradually she grew to dislike the poor officer so much that he was finally relegated to the attic. In the same way most of us have belongings that have "always been there" or perhaps "treasures" that we love for some association, which are probably as bad as can be, to which habit has blinded us, though we would not have to be told of their hideousness were they seen by us in the house of another.
It is not to be expected that all people can throw away every esthetically unpleasing possession, with which nearly every house twenty-five years ago was filled, but those whose pocket-book and sentiment will permit, would add greatly to the beauty of their houses by sweeping the bad into the ash can! Far better have stone-ware plates that are good in design than expensive porcelain that is horrible in decoration.
The only way to determine what is good and what is horrible is to study what is good in books, in museums, or in art classes in the universities, or even by studying the magazines devoted to decorative art.
Be very careful though. Do not mistake modern eccentricities for "art." There are frightful things in vogue to-day—flamboyant colors, grotesque, triangular and oblique designs that can not possibly be other than bad, because aside from striking novelty, there is nothing good about them. By no standard can a room be in good taste that looks like a perfume manufacturer's phantasy or a design reflected in one of the distorting mirrors that are mirth-provokers at county fairs.
To Determine An Object's Worth.
In buying an article for a house one might formulate for oneself a few test questions:
First, is it useful? Anything that is really useful has a reason for existence.
Second, has it really beauty of form and line and color?
(Texture is not so important.) Or is it merely striking, or amusing?
Third, is it entirely suitable for the position it occupies?
Fourth, if it were eliminated would it be missed? Would something else look as well or better, in its place? Or would its place look as well empty? A truthful answer to these questions would at least help in determining its value, since an article that failed in any of them could not be "perfect."
Fashion affects taste—it is bound to. We abominate Louis the Fourteenth and Empire styles at the moment, because curves and super-ornamentation are out of fashion; whether they are really bad or not, time alone can tell. At present we are admiring plain silver and are perhaps exacting that it be too plain? The only safe measure of what is good, is to choose that which has best endured. The "King" and the "Fiddle" pattern for flat silver, have both been in use in houses of highest fashion ever since they were designed, so that they, among others, must have merit to have so long endured.
In the same way examples of old potteries and china and glass, at present being reproduced, are very likely good, because after having been for a century or more in disuse, they are again being chosen. Perhaps one might say that the "second choice" is "proof of excellence."
I first admit to having a problem with getting rid of all the things I'm emotionaly attached to.
How about you?
Have you found this little lesson of our useful?