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Shall our Houses be Painted or Plastered?

Of course, says the American Builder, everybody knows, or ought to? know, that walls and ceilings are finished with plaster. But everybody may not be aware that plaster has the property of absorbing moisture. This, perhaps, will not take place in rooms where a fire is kept steadily; but in rooms left, as is often the case, for weeks without a fire, the walls will take up a considerable quantity of damp. The effect will be injurious to the health of the inmates. There are few persons who have not suffered from a mysterious cold, caught they know not how, though, perhaps, damp in the plaster had something to do with it.
The extent to which damp is absorbed in a plastered wall may be discovered by noticing what so often takes place in the rooms where the walls are painted and have become chilled by a season of cold weather. As soon as the temperature becomes warmer the atmosphere is condensed on the walls, and at times in
such quantities as to run off in streams. Now, had it not been for the paint, the greater portion of this moisture would have been absorbed by the plastered walls. And as a consequence the quality of the plaster would have been impaired and the room made unwholesome. In view of this defect in plastered walls, it becomes a question well worth considering, whether, in finishing a house, the walls should be papered or painted. If paint is decided on, it is highly necessary that the painting be properly done and good materials employed. White lead, which is the chief ingredient of all paint used is of late years heavily adulterated?a, reason why some painters can do work so much cheaper than others. There are also dishonest painters who will lay on nothing but ?whiting? and size for the first coat, and finish off with one coat of oil paint. It is not
easy to detect the fraud at the time, but as such paint soon wears off the wall, and attaches itself to the garments of those who rub against it, the customer speedily finds out that he has been cheated. It takes three or four coats of good oil paint honestly laid on to make good work of painting plastered walls.
In painting walls there is ample scope for taste, and such colors may be chosen as are most suitable for each apartment, and in harmony with the furniture. Apartments lighted from the south and west, particularly in a summer residence, should be cool in their coloring; but the apartments of a town house ought all to approach toward a warm tone. In a drawing room the coloring should be characterized by vivacity, gayety, and light cheerfulness; by light tints of brilliant colors with a considerable degree of contrast and gilding? the walls being kept in due subordination to the furniture, though partaking of the general liveliness. The characteristic coloring of dining rooms should be warm rich and substantial, without vivid contrasts, and gilding should be avoided, unless in small quantities for the sake of relief. Parlors ought to be in a medium style, between that of drawing room arid dining room. Libraries should be solemn, grave and quiet in color and finish, while bedchambers should be light, cleanly and exceedingly cheerful. A greater degree of contrast between the room and its furniture may be admitted in the chamber than in any other apartment. Stairways, halls and vestibules should be of a cool tone and simple in their style of coloring, being in that what they are in utility?a link between the exterior simplicity of a house and its interior richness and comfort.
- Taken from Manufacturer and Builder July 1879

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