Around Australia, interior decoration often revolves around furniture, blinds, and carpets and flooring.

Walls are often seen as functional features and are painted white.

Nowadays, however, wall spaces are being reimagined and transformed into design elements. Toward this end, one material which is growing in popularity is Venetian plaster.

Originating in Ancient Rome and populated during the Renaissance in Venice, Venetian plaster is distinguished from traditional plaster by the addition of selected marble powders and is essentially a finishing product.

Whereas regular plaster is a smooth, flat wall which you generally paint over, Venetian plaster goes over the top of a traditional substrate of gyprock or tilt up concrete and is used to add colour or décor.

According to a white paper by paint company Dulux AcraTex, demand for this is being driven by growth in building markets along with a need for designers to re-examine the creative potential of their craft and seek a balance between straightforward installation, long-lasting functionality and aesthetics.

Whilst wall spaces are often overlooked, the paper says designers are looking to wall linings to provide colour, tone and texture. On wall linings, it says whites – which have been dominant in recent years – are being replaced by distinct colours and textures which convey a statement.

Venetian plaster, it says, has grown in popularity in response to this.

Andrew Sullivan, product manager at Dulux AcraTex, said wall linings should not be overlooked.

“There is a whole lot of real estate there which can be used,” he said. “Too often, it’s ‘what shall we do there?’ But if you think about the wall first, other elements flow from there.”

Whilst Venetian plaster has been around for more than a century, the technology associated with it has been refined to add stability and consistency. Advancements have also enabled the product to be tinted using paint tinters. Those wishing to tint their products can do so using in store products at Dulux. In addition, darker colours can be achieved through use of colouring pigments.

According to Sullivan, an interesting and popular opportunity with Venetian plaster is to opt for a greyish colour and an industrial look.

When deciding whether to use the material, he says there several considerations.

First, there is budget and cost. The process of installing Venetian plaster, Sullivan said, is multi-layered and requires tradespeople to return multiple times to prime the wall, apply three or four coats of the plaster and then put a seal or wax over the top. As some applications have to be done on a wet-on-wet basis, they may have to return during evenings and may require after hours access. Because of this, installation is not cheap and the finish is not an inexpensive option. Accordingly, the material is not often used on lower budget projects.

Another consideration is aesthetics. Speaking in particular of Dulux, Sullivan says the company has over 50 colours in its range. For larger projects, colour matches are possible.

On colour, Sullivan says Venetian plaster has typically centred around reddish pinks as well as greens. Nowadays, however, the shift is toward a more industrial-style appeal with a concrete and greyish colour. One option, he says, is to go for rustic appeal where the concrete appears to have been eaten away. Another alternative is a glass-like finish which is dead-flat, almost like a mirror.

Nevertheless, Sullivan cautions that there are some applications for which the material is not suitable.

First, it should not be applied to blue board or foam substrates. These move by nature, and will cause the naturally rigid Venetian plasterboard to crack.

Also, caution should be adopted around water. Venetian plasterboard should not be used in shower recesses or splashbacks. For other wet areas such as other walls within the bathroom it can be used but the correct sealer must be applied.

Throughout Australia, walls are being transformed into full design features.

As this happens, the popularity of Venetian plaster is growing.