With all the variety of modern materials available for wall covering, choice among them rests entirely with the kind of house you have, or the kind of room, which may be anything from Elizabethan to ultra-modern.
To begin with the oldest materials, there are plaster, wood paneling and tiles; to proceed to the less old, there is wallpaper; and to proceed further, to more modern ideas, there are such materials as glass, vitrolite, sani-onyx and chromite.
If the house be Norman, Elizabethan, English cottage old or new, or if it be Spanish or Italian, plaster walls are preferred, perhaps with paneling in the Elizabethan house. Spanish or Italian types, moreover, and especially the former, are full of ideal opportunities to use decorative glazed tiles.
In houses of Colonial or Early American derivation, certain plaster finishes can be used, always wood paneling and always wallpaper. The -modern in interior treatments is not so stylized by precedent: You can use any of these things, with the exception of wood paneling (which is "old fashioned") and you can use various new materials, such as glass, cork, or vitrolite.
Let us make a few specific notes.
First, there is plaster, with all its finishes, from semi-smooth to textures as rough as you please, and plaster, too, is modeled in decorative ceilings or in bas-relief incidents which may be built in. And for the formal interior, and especially for the foyer or hall, there is cast trouvertine, marked in the effect of ancient masonry.
A great deal of variety has been added to plasterwork by the development of colored plasters and by the ready availability, now, of really well-designed and well-cast mantles, placques, bas-reliefs and other decorative incidents. The makers of these casts now go to authentic sources for their models instead of putting out the very poor castings that tended to discredit the whole art of plastering. This, is, in fact, an art usually performed with a higher degree of appreciation by the Italian workman than by any other. He seems to have inherited some of the fine artistry and craftsmanship of Renaissance Italy.
With good, sound plasterwork as a base, there appears to be, at the present time, a revived popularity for decorative glazed tiles, which are to be had in a wide range of good colors and pleasing patterns.
1 Adapted from "The Walls of Your Home," Arts and Decoration, March, 1930. Printed by courtesy of Arts and Decoration magazine.
Tiles have been welcomed with joy by lay decorators who do unconventional modern decoration, because there is no limit to the colors or arrangements possible. Being small units, tiles are particularly adaptable to whatever scheme the decorator wants to execute.
Nor are tiles the only wall material. Vitrolite and opaque glass are constantly revealing new possibilities. Combined with built-in mirrors and colored plumbing fixtures, here are unthought of possibilities. Even the ceiling is now "glazed" with slabs of these materials, and it is doubtful if anything more sophisticated, more decoratively exotic, than black glass has ever been utilized by decorators. Combined with mirrors, and with one other color, such as jade green or coral, black glass has an incomparable depth and richness.
Orchid, grey, gold, amber - here are colors to conjure with, and the new bath-dressing-rooms, designed in the new wall materials, are like nothing that has ever been attempted before, except in a few isolated instances.
Color ranges that include jade and sapphire and turquoise - shapes of all kinds - patterns from odd floral motifs to quaint animals and figures, or a grand Spanish galleon sailing over a singing blue sea - what materials for any decorator to work with!
All these tiles are not of baked clay: Some are of new and special materials, such as sani-onyx, which is a vitreous substance, or chromite, smooth, flint-hard material that is cemented to the wall in sheet form. Each offers practical as well as esthetic advantages; we are living in an age of new materials which are revolutionizing interior decoration. We are offered new textures, new colors, new possibilities of building color into our houses in permanent form.
Nor does modern departure end here. Some vibrant effects have been obtained in sheet metal and leather. The new decorators, to whom precedent is only another term for anathema, have argued that, if tiles, sometimes a floor material, may be used for walls, why not use cork tiles, normally a floor material, for walls? Cork has, indeed, much to offer for unusual walls. Rich and mellow in its natural color, deeper still when waxed; soft and interesting in texture, it is also an absorber and deadener of sound.
The moderns have looked at various woods, too, and seen in them possibilities that have nothing to do with our old ideas of wood rooms, which were paneled. They have seen figure as wood's chief claim to decorative value, and are using it in great, flat, unpaneled expanses. ....