Tuscan, Southwestern, or just eclectic, the new faux finishes for walls are a lot more subtle than the ragging, dragging, and bagging looks of recent years. Plaster finishes are cropping up in warm, earthy colors and soft expressions.

American Clay has made using plaster products easier and greener than ever. Their “Original Earth Plaster” won 2004's Outstanding New Green Product Award from the NAHB. The non-toxic product resists mold and contains no volatile organic compounds (VOCs). It takes longer to set than traditional plaster, making it easy to repair and change during installation, a plus for remodelers. “Remodelers love it because it gives them an opportunity to do an interior plaster without having to do all the layers of a traditional plaster,” says co-founder and marketing director Carol Baumgartel. It's also a chic fix for hard-to-cover areas. “You can take a really bad surface, scrape it back, put our primer on, and create a new textural quality without having to completely rip out a wall surface,” explains Baumgartel.

Plasterer Ben Hagyard's clients love the unique look of the plasters. In New York, where he works, clients like the Loma style. “It's a coarser finish, [which gives it a] Southwestern, adobe look,” he says.

Paint companies are getting hip to the plaster look, too. Pratt & Lambert offers Ovation Tuscan Villa Interior plaster finish. The latex-based product is applied to one small area at a time, then burnished and dry-burnished to create a sheen. “The sponged-on and rag-rolled paint finishes of the past are giving way to more subtle and refined techniques,” says Heidi Sandrev, associate product manager at Pratt & Lambert. Ovation's lower price point appeals to those not ready to move to Tuscany.