The Elements Of Decoration: RestraintThe Elements Of Decoration: Restraint

Perhaps the greatest danger when one starts to practice decoration, is that of carrying things to excess. Restraint is necessary in all forms of art and is evident in knowing when a work is finished and it is time to stop adding more features. It is the lack of this quality that has produced the decline and fall of the various styles of art. One master following another built up a style, gradually adding his contribution to what had already been accomplished, until the whole became so top-heavy that it could no longer maintain its balance, and fell.

Not only figuratively, but literally has this often been the case. In the Middle Ages the early churches were small and low, the later ones gradually increasing in size and height until the climax was reached in the Cathedral of Beauvais, which fell twice before it was finally made to stand, and then only in a form that falls far short of what was attempted. The great tower over the crossing, which should have crowned the edifice, fell and was never rebuilt.

In other forms of art, where structural considerations such as wood corner blocks ( are less important than in architecture, this statement must be taken in a more figurative sense. One style after another has grown from a simple beginning to its highest development, and then, since it could not remain stationary and live, has gone on to become an excess of elaboration and richness that brought about its downfall.

The history of artistic styles is curiously like that of man himself, growing from childhood to manhood, and then declining to senility and death. In our own time, unlike most periods of the past, there is no accepted style, but a sort of eclecticism that borrows here and there as the occasion suggests, taking bits from various sources and combining them all to suit its own needs.

True, every period has borrowed from those that have preceded it, but this borrowing has never been as general as in present times, since the work of the past has never been so thoroughly known. Whether this is good or bad, it is undoubtedly the situation that exists, and to attempt to return to any period of the past is foolishness, if not impossibility. Instead we must select from the past elements that can be helpful to us, recasting them with our own personalities to satisfy our modern needs.

The most common form of excess is that of over-decoration, and it is this, more than everything, that we must avoid. If we have artistic appreciation and the means of gratifying it, we acquire one object after another, and, loving them all, we want to keep them forever. Up to a certain point all goes well, but gradually we find our rooms becoming crowded with engraved picture frames ( and ceramic statues, all interesting in themselves, that have grown so numerous that they detract from one another.

In such a case we have only one resource, to eliminate ruthlessly, keeping only as many objects in view as can be properly seen at the same time, and, if necessary, gradually renewing them from our hidden treasures, like the Japanese collectors who adorn their rooms with a single vase and a single picture, changing them frequently, but never allowing several to compete as centers of interest at the same time.

Decoration is not merely the addition of ornaments or knick-knacks to a room. A room is not decorated when it is merely used as a place to exhibit art objects. There should be a true need for that particular art object in the particular place in which it is shown before it can act as a part of the decoration of the room. Decoration should be used to ornament the structure and pediment entry ( of a room when there seems to be an urgent necessity for it. The sense of structure should never be lost and should always remain a high priority.
by Allison Ryan
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Allison Ryan is a freelance marketing writer from San Diego, CA. She specializes in architecture, interior design, and how to best enhance your pediment entry. For the best in the hardwood moulding industry from wood corner blocks to engraved picture frames, please visit
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