Simanaitis Says

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THERE ARE multiple reasons I enjoy books on interior design. The topic is interesting from a historical viewpoint of how people live. The books reinforce my interest in the art of theater set design ( And, purely as a bibliophile, I delight in their presentation.

Here are three books on interior design that have offered recurring pleasure, for quite different reasons.


Decoration, by the staff of Connaissance des Arts, Francis Spar, editor-in-chief, Librairie Hachette, 1963. An link: Decoration

Connaissance des Arts is a Paris-based magazine of the arts, these days with an eclectic website, Back in 1963, it brought together European authorities with the avowed (and decidedly Gallic) purpose of educating Americans about interior décor.

The group included museum curators, architects, antiquarians and owners of historic houses and chateaux. Indeed, this is the sole book in my collection “assisted by His Serene Highness, the Prince of Liechtenstein.”


Austere simplicity can exist in many eras. At left, Spain’s Philippe IV, c. 1750; at right, modern. Images from Decoration.

The book is organized around five themes: the Grand Manner, Romantic Mood, Austere Simplicity, Informal Elegance and, last, the Unusual and Unexpected.


Coded examples of Four Criteria for Mixing Styles. Images from Decoration.

Each chapter displays a variety of eras and styles. In fact, there’s a separate discussion on Four Criteria for Mixing Styles: The first criterion is attitude; rarely will two pieces look right together if one is severe and the other relaxed. The second criterion is shape; it’s difficult to mix dissimilar forms, some geometric, others curved or compressed. The third is movement; either static or dynamic. And the last is scale; either massive or domestic.


The Guinness Guide to 20th Century Homes, by David Bond, Guinness Superlative Limited, 1984. An link:Guinness Guide to 20th Century Homes

By contrast, the eight chapters of The Guinness Guide to 20th Century Homes are chronological, each covering roughly a decade of British home design. Many of its illustrations are from original source material of the relevant eras.


From the 1930s. Image from the Guinness Guide to 20th Century Homes.

“Freehold” is the British term for property ownership through a land deed. Perhaps Mr. Crouch’s ad is somewhat deceptive. The home shown is likely one of his “famous Tudor designs” at £995, not the two-bedroom £670 Bungalow. Figure £1000 being $4760 in 1930, perhaps $68,000 in today’s dollars.

There’s plenty of social history too, with evolving developments in home appliances as an example.


Into the 80s: “… the use and scope of computers inside and outside the home has continued to grow each year.” Image from The Guinness Guide to 20th Century Homes.

My last book here is much more specific in its focus. In a sense, it’s a 1924 analog of the paint, fabric and carpet swatches displayed in modern home décor.


Color Schemes for the Home and Model Interiors, by Henry W. Frohne and Alice F. & Bettina Jackson, J.B. Lippincott, Good Furniture Magazine, The Dean-Hicks Company, 1924. An link: Color schemes for the home and model interiors

Part I of Color Schemes for the Home and Model Interiors gives an overview of color harmony and home decoration. Part II describes the art of furniture selection, including design challenges such as the Apartment Problem (“Creating a Home under Un-Homelike Conditions”).


A small apartment living room with furniture of modern adaptation. Image from Color Schemes for the Home and Model Interiors.

Illustrations show typical rooms in a wide variety of styles: Early American as well as modern (i.e., 1924) renditions of Jacobean, Hepplewhite, Phyfe, Spanish Renaissance, and Louis XVI.

The book’s forte is its 20 plates of Color Harmonies Applied to Home Decoration.


Mulberry and Taupe for the Dining Room. Image from Color Schemes for the Home and Model Interiors.

Comments accompanying this color combination: “As taupe and mulberry incline toward the warmer colors of the spectrum, it is best applied to a room of northern or eastern exposure…. Lighting fixtures of antique gold and shades of soft yellow, shirred silk would give an interesting note to the room.”

I sense that His Serene Highness, the Prince of Liechtenstein, would approve. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2014

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