An attractive possibility in adding a decorative note to plaster walls in modern non-period rooms is the use of large figures, small patterns in relief, usually arranged unconventionally in the area to be decorated. This is an inheritance from old English work, and the designs in use are largely descendants of rather primitive and naive Tudor animals, flowers, and so forth, but include as well more diffuse patterns of vines and scrolls. Special designs are adaptable for use in this way, the figures being usually cast first and imbedded in the plaster as it is applied, although in some of the old work the plasterer molded the figure as he spread the plaster. Originality in simple effects is attainable with pargeting, and although the informality of the spotting of the small figures may appeal to comparatively few people, the suggestions of ornamental relief may be carried out more conventionally. For instance, an over-mantel decoration in relief is most appropriate in rooms of Spanish as well as of classic inspiration, and gives a satisfying feeling of permanence and individuality.
Another decoration appropriate to plaster walls is the application of color with a stencil pattern. The misuse of stenciling has given many of us unpleasant associations with it, which may easily be dispelled by a fair consideration of its possibilities. The importance of a design suitable to the mechanical limitations should be realized, as wide "ties"-the connecting links of the pattern which hold together the perforated design - in most stencils are much to blame for the frequently rudimentary effect of such work. Possibly some design in the upholstery or hangings of the room will provide a motif which can be adapted to its use as a stencil, permitting a judicious distribution of the ties and at the same time adding pleasantly to the decorative unity of the room.
The preparation of the pattern and its alignment for use, as well as the preparation and use of colors, demand both good workmanship and good materials. Border patterns are used in numerous ways: Around doors and windows, in decorative panels, or as horizontal borders in the room at any desired height. The majority of stencil patterns are bold enough to be applicable to plaster surfaces of rough texture, and gain in interest from the variation of background.
Wall-stenciling should be carefully designed to take its proper place in the decorative scheme, and removable samples showing the proposed effect should always be passed upon in advance. An attractive, unobtrusive form of stenciling is done in flat paint and enamel paint of the same tone; with the pattern done in gloss on the dull background, an effect is wrought suggestive of damask.