I’ve recently rediscovered floorcloths, a refreshing alternative for dressing up your flooring. Let’s face it, there are just some places that aren’t suitable for standard fiber-based rugs. Floorcloths are about as vintage as you can get for a good reason: They are durable, lie flat on the floor and can be used indoors as well as outdoors.
You can use them in kitchens, hallways, entry areas, dining rooms or any place with high traffic and where messy spills are bound to take place. I love how easy they are to keep clean and how they can bring a burst of color and fun to any space.
Floorcloths, also referred to as oilcloths, come in a variety of materials.
The original ones were made out of fabric and then coated with layers of oil or wax. Today you will find floorcloths made out of vinyl or heavy canvas coated with varnish or wax.
Canvas cloths shouldn’t be used outside, where they may come in direct contact with moisture. Vinyl works great in all locations.
Spicher and Company has a wonderful line of vintage-inspired vinyl floor cloths designed by the Artist of the Design Loft. The designs are available in a variety of colors and sizes, in geometric designs that move easily from contemporary to traditional settings. www.spicherandco.com
North Carolina artist Kathy Cooper has been creating floorcloths for decades. Her Winston-Salem studio is splashed with bright, whimsical images. I was lucky enough to have met Kathy when she was a guest on my daughter, Sloan Payne-Rutter’s PBS series, “Paint! Paint! Paint!” She has books and videos available here: http://kathycooperfloorcloths.com/books.html.
If you’re a do-it-yourselfer, you might want to make your own floorcloth. I’ve done this before with the help of Kathy’s book, “The Weekend Crafter: Painting Floorcloths.”
It’s a fun, easy process. The tough part is coming up with a fantastic, original design. Keep it simple or free-form. Use two colors or multiple hues. This is the fun of DIY projects. They are an expression of your creativity.
For your first floorcloth, consider buying a remnant of vinyl flooring and painting your design on the underside. Remnants are easy to cut to size, extremely affordable and don’t require any special edge treatment.
Any good acrylic paint will work for your design.
Don’t forget to protect the surface with a couple of coats of Trewax once you’ve finished your work.
Most purchased rugs will come with a skid-proof backing already applied. If you are making your own, use clear silicone painted around the backside edges to keep your rug from slipping.
Here are tips when using floorcloths:
Always place them over a smooth, hard surface, never carpet or other plush rugs. If you are using them in a dining area or under a table, place scratch-proof plastic glides under chair legs to protect the floorcloth.
Don’t worry about normal, daily use even in high-traffic areas. Wear marks add charm. A good coat of wax every couple of years will do wonders to protect the design. Everyday spills and messes can be cleaned up with soap and water.
Discovering floorcloths again presents an exciting design option for a home’s summer decor. They are affordable little workhorses that can bring joy and unity into any room.
Vicki Payne is the Charlotte-based producer and host of “For Your Home,” available on PBS, Create TV, and in syndication. Reach her at www.foryourhome.com.