Sunday, November 16, 2008

Edith Wharton and Ogden Codman design nurseries

From The Wall Street Journal:

This impulse isn't new or entirely bad. In "The Decoration of Houses" (1897), Edith Wharton and Ogden Codman devote a chapter to the design of the nursery and schoolroom. In a bossy but effective tone, Wharton laments the "superfluous gimcrack" and floods of "bric-a-brac" that dominated children's rooms in her day. "The daily intercourse with poor pictures, trashy 'ornaments,' and badly designed furniture may, indeed, be fittingly compared with a mental diet of silly and ungrammatical story books." She singles out for special opprobrium the "bead-work cushions" and "mildewed Landseer prints of foaming, dying animals" that dotted the nation's nurseries. Wharton refuses to pander to childish tastes: She suggests Bronzino's portraits of the Medici babies and a few reproductions of Italian frescoes for a child's walls, for example, all meant to surround children with objects of quality.

As Wharton well understood, the home is where children are socialized and where their taste is first cultivated -- or corrupted.

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