Experts Explain Why Plaster Walls, an Old-School Interior Design Detail, Are Trending Once Again
Venetian plaster walls are having a moment, and it's not difficult to see why. Originally popular in prewar homes (before the widespread use of drywall in the 1940s), walls made with this technique add depth, sheen, and dimension to a space. Plaster, in general, is made from gypsum or limestone that's treated and ground into a powder. This powder is then mixed with water and additives such as sand, cement, or marble to create different effects. "Plaster is a creative medium with which you can create an unlimited variety of surfaces and textures," explains Adrian Taylor of Hyde Park Mouldings.
While the Venetian plaster walls of yesteryear are remembered for their rustic, retro charm, the ones popping up in contemporary interiors are surprisingly chic, if not design-forward. "They're a stylistic choice that can be used to create a certain ambience in a room," says broker Tania Isacoff Friedland of Warburg Realty. Traditionally, walls are skim-coated to smooth out any imperfections in the surface of the drywall before paint or wallpaper is applied, but plaster walls are hand-applied by artisans—using a trowel to smooth a thin layer of plaster in varying directions—to achieve a rugged finish." The look is catching on. "Thanks to social media platforms, designers are finally seeing the beauty of plaster," says Kim Collins, founder of Kamp Studios. "It's amazing how many of the same plaster install photos you see shared amongst the global design community."
And if all the decorative perks of textured plaster walls aren't enough, turns out they're also long lasting and environmentally safe (free of VOCs). "Textured plaster wall are extremely durable and last significantly longer than normal painted walls, which crack over time due to temperature extremes," says Friedland. Looking for more reasons to consider plaster walls for your space? We asked four design experts to share their opinions on the trend.
Bring Movement and Texture into a Room
"Cladding your walls in plaster adds movement, texture, and an old-world quality to a space," says Athena Calderone, founder of Eye-Swoon and author of Cook Beautiful. The design expert even wrapped travertine-looking plaster onto the ceiling of her master bathroom. "For me, that warmth envelops a room while also infusing a touch of curiosity, causing your eye to move about the space with intrigue."
Add Layers and Drama
"We're starting to see a shift away from the gallery-white walls trend," says Jamie Davis, cofounder of Portola Paints & Glazes. "People want a bit more character in their homes." One way to create an inspiring layered look? "Use a few different natural colored pigments of Marmorino, a type of plaster, and press them together to achieve a striation of color as well as a dismantled appearance," says interior designer Heather Hilliard. "Your walls will look stylishly deconstructed—like you're showing off gorgeous coats of paint and plaster from years gone by."
Create a Custom Look
"Plaster is my go-to wall treatment," says designer Nicole Fuller. She loves the many ways they can be used to customize a space. "You can carve into the plaster, layer it, or give it a matte or high gloss finish. It's also super durable and easy to clean," she adds.
Bring Nature In
Another reason plaster is having a resurgence is because of the current lifestyle trend towards nature and earthy elements. "Textured plaster finishes are popular in garden rooms because they emulate the look of tree leaves casting shadows on the interior walls," Hilliard says. "To achieve a similar look, apply darker and light hued plaster all over the walls—instead of consistently white throughout—to trick the eye into a sun dappled effect."