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The House   | October 1902

Quality Victorian Era Oak Furniture cabinet designs - Simple to Build

An ornate Victorian sideboard furniture display, circa 1902
illustration   beautifully design Victorian sideboard

Anyone who has taken the opportunity to inspect a quantity of oak furniture, as supplied to the middle classes in this country, will approve of the statement that one of the greatest evils of the work is the enormous excess of so-called ornament. Presumably, ornament or decoration is intended to please the eye, and to gratify that desire for symmetry and variety which is innate at least in all cultivated persons, and is called "a love of the beautiful." Vulgar and inartistic people, without regard to temperance in these matters, have glutted the work they have designed with all sorts of decoration, glued or tacked on, without any regard to moderation, balance or proportion. They seem to have forgotten an excellent adage of the schoolmen, Semper idem sentire ac non sentire ad idem resident. The obvious truth of this maxim makes clear the valuelessness of all such over-decoration, for the eye becomes so accustomed to it that its worth is as nothing.

A Victorian display cabinet by Mr Wyse, circa 1902
illustration   display cabinet by Mr Wyse

Anyone who has ever purchased furniture or had to make use of it has found that the most satisfaction to be derived from it is that afforded by its durability and complete aptness for its work. Howsoever a beautiful piece is no sort of comfort, unless, at least, it can perform the reasonable, duties for which it was purchased. Granted this, the desire for beautification is a natural one and one which, gratified in reason, gives lasting pleasure. Further, on the score of the qualities of utility mentioned, adaptability to surroundings must be noted. A large piece of furniture excellent for a roomy mansion is out of place, and, in fact, a positive nuisance in a smaller house, as is recalled by the two historic examples of Crusoe's long boat, and dear old Dr. Primrose's picture of himself confuting Whiston's heterodoxy, with his family and the wicked young squire grouped round him in various characters.

A Victorian furniture set of shelves, circa 1902
illustration   ornate Victorian set of shelves

It is considerations like this which have weighed with Mr. Wyse, of Nolt Loan, Arbroath, N.B., in the manufacture of the furniture to the handsome catalogue of which we have previously made reference in this paper. The illustrations on these pages are selected by permission from the catalogue, and are very quaint and interesting. As they are put in in black and white, they are unfortunately, unable to give any very precise notion of the real fascination of this furniture when made up. The colouring of it is mostly green and brown, and Mr. Wyse’s notion is first that, unimpeachable in workmanship, the furniture should fit its situation as to the manner born, and then what ornament is required should be applied in a reasonable and artistic way.

A Victorian wall cupboard, circa 1902
illustration   a Victorian wall cubpoard

The man who goes by the rule-of-thumb may win some success, but it is likely to prove ephemeral, whereas the man who works on such sound principles as this must in the end achieve a considerable reputation.

It is interesting to note, as marking the extreme enterprise of our Yankee cousins with their furniture, that their papers have already seized on some of Mr. Wyse’a designs. This circumstance gave rise to a mistake recently made in The House, where some of these designs were attributed to a Transatlantic source. It is with real gratification that we may now refer to them as being the work of an English designer.

A simple Victorian cabinet, circa 1902
illustration   a simple Victorian era cabinet
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