WhiteMountainHistory.org                
Telling the story of 200 years  of White Mountain History

                            Art of Homesteading 5
                    Making The House A Home     
     Final decorating often required the skills of   
       several specialized artisans.  A plasterer
     prepared the walls for painting, and often
      stencils were used to add interest.  Some
        homeowners used graining on doors to
                imitate more expensive woods.

                

Interior Walls
Time, energy, skill and money were spent on the interior walls of the house. Walls were either paneled with wood or filled with lath and covered with horsehair plaster.

Lath is a thin strip of wood nailed in rows to framing supports as a substructure for plaster, shingles, slates, or tiles. These are narrow strips of wood nailed horizontally across the wall studs. Each wall frame is covered in lath, tacked at the studs. The lath is about 2 inches wide by 4 feet long by 1/4 inch thick. Each horizontal course of lath is spaced 1/4 inch away from its neighboring courses. Then the plaster is applied using a wooden board. The applier drags the board upward over the wall, forcing the plaster into the gaps between the laths and leaving a layer on the front the depth of the temporary guides, typically about 1/4 inch. A helper feeds new plaster onto the board, as the plaster is applied in quantity.

Horsehair plaster is made by adding horsehair to lime putty and sand. The horsehair works as a binding and reinforcing agent. This creates a more flexible mortar that is less likely to crack than cement mortar.

Once the plaster dried it was ready to be painted.


               
 
                       Click here for a larger view of this panel

Faux Graining

White pine was the most common type of wood used for doors and furniture but the finished product would have uneven color, graining, and knots. Wealthy citizens could pay to have more elegant woods used in their homes such as tiger maple or cherry, but the common homestead could not afford such lavish expenses. To make the wood look fancier, tools such as corn cobs, feathers, and combs were used to faux grain the surfaces of cheaper wood. These graining techniques made the wood look more elegant.

 
                                     Stencilled floor cloth

Handmade pile carpets were the most desired floor covering during the 18th and 19th centuries. These were neither affordable nor practical for the common homestead. Carpets were expensive and required a great deal of maintenance due to the dirt covered streets or yards tracked into the home by the comings and goings of everyday life. Floor cloths were a cheaper and more practical alternative. Canvas could be cut to any size and shape. It was then hand painted or stenciled to look like carpet or another desirable design. These attractive cloths were tacked to the floor and easy to clean.

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