Internal linings: original details

Interior walls were typically lined with timber, overlaid with scrim and wallpaper in living areas.


Living areas

In living areas, walls were originally finished with:

  • ½–⅜ x 8–14” (9–12 mm x 200–350 mm) wide match lining, typically kauri in the upper North Island and rimu elsewhere, fixed horizontally and closely spaced – the match lining passes continuously behind the end of wall framing of an intersecting internal wall
  • hessian or scrim tacked to the match lining with reinforcing ribbon to prevent sagging
  • wallpaper glued to scrim – wallpapers often incorporated a frieze line formed by installing a single roll of wallpaper horizontally to the top of the wall or by using narrower frieze rolls (Figure 1).

A timber lath (Figure 2), typically totara, was also used. Applied to this was a locally made lime plaster, which was then painted, or T&G match lining, which significantly improved the airtightness of these villas.


Corridors and hallways often had a profiled dado rail at about 4’ (1200 mm), with panels beneath of:

  • pressed metal (zinc or mild steel), or 
  • polished or varnished TG&V vertical timber boarding.

Hallways usually had a lintel or arch to divide the public and private spaces within the house. These arches could be quite decorative, and were constructed from:

Service areas 

In the kitchen, pantry, scullery and other service areas of the villa, wall linings were likely to be 4” (100 mm) rimu TG&V match lining, although kauri was used in the north. Wider boards such as 6 x 1’ (150 x 25 mm) were used in a number of buildings.

Boarding was installed both vertically and horizontally.

Linings used may be ½” (12.5 mm), ¾” (18 mm) or 1” (25 mm) thick, usually with a rough sawn back and a dressed face. They were generally either painted or clear-finished with varnish or shellac.


Ceiling linings varied with the function and considered importance of the space.

Living and sleeping areas

In parlours and main bedrooms, ceilings were likely to be kauri or rimu boards, typically 8” (200 mm) or 12” (300 mm) wide with decorative mouldings to the board joints (Figure 3). Both painted and varnished or shellacked finishes were used. Cornices or scotias were typical – an ornate amalgam of timber mouldings to finish the wall ceiling junction.

Pressed zinc or mild steel patterned ceilings were also used in the ‘important’ rooms – the earliest metal ceilings were zinc, as mild steel panels were not produced until after 1900 (Figure 4). Matching cornices were produced for the metal ceilings.

Other ceiling finishes that were originally used included:

  • (from 1903) fibrous plaster in a number of Wellington villas – its use owing to the location of the Carrara Ceiling Company, a fibrous plaster manufacturing company in Newtown (fibrous plaster is said to have been first made in New Zealand in 1890 in Dunedin)
  • an embossed paper finish similar to modern anaglypta wallpapers
  • lath and plaster – the construction of an ornate lath and plaster ceiling in Dunedin was recorded in the 1880s (Figure 5)
  • scrim.

Service areas

In service areas (and occasionally in other areas), 4” (100 mm) TG&V rimu boarding was commonly used (Figure 6). This was typically finished in paint, clear varnish or shellac and had a relatively plain cornice moulding.

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Ceiling roses

In all rooms that originally would have had gas lighting, ceiling roses provided ventilation into the roof space for the gas. Roses were made from timber, moulded plaster and stamped metal.