Architectural Ornamentation & Decoration for Furniture

Architectural Ornamentation & Decoration for Furniture

In addition to the general outline and proportion of furniture, its appearance is dependent upon ornamentation. This should not, however, become so important as to destroy the constructive elements or the utility. A properly designed article of furniture may be quite as pleasing when entirely devoid of ornament as when its surfaces are covered by enrichments of some sort.

In many instances what is termed ornament is but a roughening or coloring of the surface in hopes to divert the attention from bad forms or poor construction. It is understood that woodwork free from surface ornament must be well made, the wood carefully selected, and care taken to use together pieces of the same color and figure of grain. The joints unless properly made become conspicuous, exposing the poor workmanship. The finish, that is the varnishing and rubbing, must be well done that the wood may not appear to be covered by a candied surface full of lumps and streaks. Work well made and finished feels to the hand almost as soft and smooth as silk velvet, while to the eye the grain of the wood shows clear and sparkling beneath the thin well-rubbed film of varnish which fills the pores yet scarcely more than covers the surface. In such work the beauty is dependent upon pleasing outlines, good proportions and workmanship. The smallest details, like softening the angle, rounding a corner, etc., require attention because of their influence on the appearance of the whole.

There are times when it is desirable to do more than fill the demands of service, and additional expense may be incurred by enriching the simple form with decoration, for example with wood carving.

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Whatever form of ornamentation may be used, it should be borne in mind that no amount of decoration will make a poorly proportioned or badly formed article good. It may be possible to divert the eye for a time from the general shape by placing before it a multitude of small details, but these will generally become tiresome and the article will then be considered as a whole.

In all design work it is not a question of how much ornament, but how well the ornament may be designed. It is advisable to use it sparingly, erring, if it may be, on the side of too little rather than too much. The object of ornament is to decorate the otherwise plain surfaces, and if it does not do this it is better left off.

The sources of pleasure in all decorative designs are the beauty of forms employed and the sense of study having been given to their composition. There is satisfaction in examining a piece of ornament to find it has been arranged with some regard to the massing of the parts instead of being merely placed at random in a careless way. The pleasure of discovering the plan on which an interesting ornament was built has been experienced by every designer. The foundation should not be so prominent as to be forced on the mind, but it may be so well conceived that a thoughtful study will disclose it hidden among the beautiful forms of which the composition is made up.

What may be termed visibility demands attention in the disposition of ornament. Much labor and expense are wasted by placing the decorative features in positions where they are not seen, or if seen it is to a disadvantage. There is no reason for a finely executed ornament so near the floor, or far under a table or chair that it cannot be seen without getting on the floor. Nor is there any sense in decorating the frame of a table which is presumably to be covered continuously by a cloth.

Though everyone recognizes the impropriety of the bad disposition of ornament, in this respect, it is not easily guarded against. The designer will find, unless he is extremely careful, that he has indicated on his drawings work that will be entirely lost to view.

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