Plaster walls may be varied by two means, texture and color, and with the possible variations of these two qualities many different effects are attainable. In many rooms the severity of plain plaster walls in neutral tone provides the most successful foil for tapestries or paintings of rich color, while some rooms which lack such distinctive decoration welcome the addition of more perceptible texture and color in the plaster. The modern use of rough plaster finishes, with soft color in plain or stippled effect, can be decorative and satisfactory, but it is easy to overdo uneven-ness. Moderation, here as elsewhere, is a wise rule. Moreover, where uneven finishes are used, the unevenness should not be mechanically regular. Avoid extremes in designing a finish of plaster or plaster-substitutes. To increase the soft and uneven effect of hand finishes, the corner-bead is sometimes omitted from the process of making the corners, and they are molded as squarely as may be by hand. This seems in pleasant scale with the roughness of the wall surface, but is more liable to chipping from careless treatment.
Whatever the texture and color of plaster walls, the contractor should be called upon for samples from which selection may be made before work is begun. Actual samples should be required of all wall treatments except plain plaster. For color, a row of shingles, for example, painted the different shades under consideration and observed in the very room where the color is to be used - to see the true light-conditions, and so forth - will save much expense and energy. See for yourself. If you cannot be sure of your visual imagination, try an actual sample in the proposed environment.....
1 For illustrations of plaster finishes and plaster glossary see The House Beautiful Furnishing Annual, 1926, pp. 15-16.
Fig. 50. - A smooth-plaster wall finish provides many opportunities for artistic results. (Photograph by Haskell. Living room of a house designed by Allen & Collens.)
Color may be given to plaster walls in two ways: By adding dry color to the plaster before it is applied to the wall, or by painting or calcimining the finished wall. The first method has so far been less practicable than the second, as it requires experience to be sure of obtaining the color desired, and fading has been considered due to the "eating" of the color by the lime in the plaster. Modern materials and methods are removing this objection.
The use of flat wall-paint - dull surface without gloss - on plaster walls is a practical finish which may be readily washed and kept clean. In most rooms it is preferable to any of the enamel-paint finishes, although in kitchen or bathroom a glossy enamel is clean-looking and easily cared for. As a background for pictures and hangings, in plain color, the mat surface of flat paint is the more harmonious. The degree of roughness of the wall surface, rather than the applied color, determines the texture in this case. By stippling - dabbling on the paint from the end of a coarse brush - a smooth wall may be given more texture, or a rough wall an appropriate finish; but this, like unevenness of the plaster, is a practice which should be followed in moderation. Avoid much contrast in the tones of color used; only a slight variation is pleasant. The same is true of the various other two-toned finishes by which smears of another color than the background are applied with wadded newspaper or similar vehicle.
For maintenance, painted walls on account of their washableness are usually preferable to a calcimined finish. Calcimine, however, is perhaps simpler to apply, and is less expensive in preliminary cost. It is often practical to calcimine new walls, then later, after a settling period of a year or two, to wash off the calcimine and apply the permanent treatment. This lowers the first cost without obtrusive economy. To patch either plain paint or calcimine is a difficult process, for which a perfect match in tone is requisite, and a light hand on the brush strokes. Calcimine - cold-water paint - is usually considered inexpensive enough to make an entire new coat more satisfactory than an attempt at patching. It is generally used in light tints, and always in plain colors.
Obviously, the roughness of a wall surface will govern to a certain extent its dust-catching proclivities. But this is not serious enough to alarm . any housewife, considering the convenience of wall-brushes, with or without "vacuum" power. Another practical aspect of rough surfaces is their scratchiness. For livableness, choose a finish which has no sharp particles adhering to it, although it may look comparatively rough.