The folks at The Year of Mud: Building a Cob House have put together a great site, including very informative articles on creating mosaics in earth plaster and building a reciprocal roof (we’ll save this for a future topic). Dirt cheap techniques like mosaics can really enhance the appearance your home.
In addition to mosaics, there are many other low cost ways to enhance the beauty of a home. Years ago on my previous home in Colorado I built some wainscoting with red-colored tamarisk branches (“salt cedar”). The brightly colored branches were nailed (with a small brad gun) on top of turquoise painted wood paneling. A piece of fancy wood trim with a thin turquoise wash finished off the top edge. Total cost: about $10 for a 12 foot wall. Tamarisk branches can be lightly rubbed with various colors of paint and used in cabinet doors, valances, room dividers and more. They’re also great for shutters, because they block excess glare yet allow a soft, filtered light through.
Other options include scraffito designs; adding niches and recessed shelving in walls; embedding bottles, stones, sea shells and drift wood in plaster; creating cob wall sculptures and stenciled designs; using decorative finishes such as aliz, stain, lime wash and sponged designs; you can even imprint leaves, sea shells, etc. in the plaster to create interesting textures.