Early 19th century critics suggested that the intended use of space determined the color choice for paint or paper.
Entry and stair halls were "somber". Such as gray, stone color since the hallway color should not contrast with those of the rooms opening onto it. Marbleizing the walls or woodwork was popular. Another treatment was to score the plaster while it was still wet to resemble blocks of cut stone. Ashlar-patterned wallpapers were also popular since gluing on a new "block" could easily repair any damage to the paper.
Most recommended that the ceiling be the lightest value in the room. The walls darker, and the woodwork lighter or darker than the walls, while the cornice should be painted a value different from those of the ceiling and walls. It was recommended some sort of cornice to distinguish the ceiling from the walls.
Grained and marbleized finishes frequently appeared on doors and woodwork. Graining imitated "better" woods, such as oak, mahogany, and walnut, that was more expensive than pine and more difficult to work.
The middle of the 1850’s saw architects offering several other wall treatments. Moldings (or paper resembling molding) were applied to walls to create panels that could be papered or covered with a rich fabric in imitation of Louis XVI style. This time period also brought about the use of actual hardwood wainscoting used in conjunction with wallpapers. By the 1890’s, the reform philosophy wholly condemned the fakery of grained woodwork. Critics favoring the Craftsman interior recommended stained and varnished woodwork, particularly for rooms on the first floor. Critics favoring revival styles urged pained woodwork, particularly for French and Colonial interiors. Natural wood might be suitable for dining rooms or halls, often furnished in different styles, but never in the drawing rooms or bedrooms
Writers began to specify rules for interior color choice and placement. Most relied upon the work of David Ramsay Hay of Edinburgh, Scotland, a housepainter and author. Hay had two theories. The first was "harmony by analogy", using those colors next to one another on the color wheel. The second was "harmony by contrast", employing those colors opposite one another on the color wheel. This was the more popular approach to selecting interior colors throughout the 1850’s, 60’s and 70’s.
As early as 1870 Eastlake recommended the use of three floor high wainscoting around the walls of the principle rooms, both for visual interest and protection. He also introduced the new three-part horizontal treatment of wall surfaces, which remained stylish for two decades. This division included a wainscoting or dado at the bottom of the all, a frieze or cornice at the top, and a field between two. In keeping with this new look, it was recommended to hang pictures at standing eye level in a single row around the room and never placed high up as they had been hung in the past. Critics recommended hanging pictures on hooks and cords from a picture rail just under the frieze to avoid defacing plaster walls.
The tripartite wall could also be achieved without the application of wood moldings by using sets of wallpaper imitating dado, field, and frieze patterns. ( This triple division was popular until the late 19th century. As early as 1886, the design conscious might have read, " the ubiquitous dado has seen its day in certain apartments; in halls and dining-rooms it still holds its own, but fashion has decreed that in drawing rooms and bedrooms it is to be known no more.)
Lincrusta-Walton was another alternative that became popular during the 1880’s. Frederick Walton, who created linoleum in 1863, patented the process for embossing semi-liquid linseed oil, backed with heavy canvas or waterproofed paper. Although Lincrusta was a thick, heavily embossed material, it was applied much like wallpaper. When heated it became soft and easy to shape, which allowed it to conform to corners and curves. Available in a few colors or plain, it could be further painted or highlighted once installed to resemble wood, leather, or metals. Households unable to afford those better finishes turned to Lincrusta. Its durability and variety of designs made it especially popular for entries, halls and dining rooms.
Anaglypta was a thick, embossed paper. Not as durable as Lincrusta, Anaglypta was suitable for wall, frieze, and ceiling decorations; it was colored or glazed to fit the scheme of the room.
Ceilings, commonly eight to fourteen feet above the floor, utilized a variety of decorative treatments. One technique was first tinting a ceiling three shades lighter than the walls and then adding some ornamentation to arrive at a "simply enriched" effect. Tin ceilings also produced ornamental effects. The easiest way to obtain a decorative ceiling was with wallpaper. Because most housepainters could not execute decorative ceilings. Two new ceiling treatments appeared toward the end of the century. In one treatment, ceiling paper with an unobtrusive pattern was employed. In the second treatment, the ceiling was painted in a tint that blended with the wallpaper