Floors predated walls as the first surface in a house to be decorated. The practice is thought to have been widespread but subsequently lost through wear, repainting and fire. In the earliest years they were hand painted.
Over the span of 100 years, this fashion, which began in only the most affluent of seaport mansions and inns, spread into surrounding rural homes.
Colonists suffering their daily hardships, remembered fondly the beauty and comforts of their European homelands and were well aware of fashions abroad. A 1739 booklet published in England exhibited geometric and floral floor patterns popular there at that time. Enterprising young artisans were prepared to embellish many grand homes in the New World by this means. They also grained and sponged, painted overmantels, fireboards, tavern signs and walls.
Stenciling of floors was a way to simulate woven carpet, floorcloths and parquet floors without that expense. The whole was protected with varnish which, over time, mellowed to a rich yellow/brown causing the black, red, green and white paints to appear as the finest inlay of variegated woods set in background colors of yellow ochre, grey, "Indian red", and green. We can create this look today by antiquing. The combination most often used, and no doubt most economical, was black on pumpkin pine, either natural or painted yellow ochre. During the Clipper Ship era, circa 1810-1870, the canvases from ripped sails were stenciled and used on floors for ornamentation, warmth and cleanliness.
Today in addition to traditional wood floors and canvas, stencils are being used on plywood, tiles, low loop industrial carpet, sisal, cement and the backside of vinyl floor coverings.
As with the border wall stencils, the patterns have been trued only to assure proper alignment. Their irregularities create the charm we seek. Although many patterns were stenciled in black alone, I have offered them as one, two or three color patterns for today's preferences. Please note that the patterns are not size-related to each other. Know their sizes by the dimensions given.
Stenciling will be much more effective on your floors and stairs than it appears in our illustrations. See our Gallery for photographs of selected examples sent in by our clients (like you!).
Jo Sonja paints and quality stencil brushes can be purchased through MB Historic Décor, as well as our 5 other catalogues of stencils.
NEW TUTORIAL - "How to Stencil a Floor"
Esther Stevens Brazer
Until her death in 1945, Esther Stevens Brazer was an avid researcher, chronicler and teacher of what otherwise might have been "forgotten arts". She recorded many decorative designs of the 19th century and their methods of reproduction. "The Brazer Guild" founded in her memory by students of her work, is known today as the Historical Society of Early American Decoration.
Floors are but one of the disciplines of which she left an invaluable record. Her collection, now at the American Museum of Folk Art, and other authentic floor patterns are presented here. In her 1940 volume Early American Decoration, Brazer foretold that "Colonial interior decoration will come into its own as a delightful background for daily living."
Click on a page below to view, or click here to
download the catalogue as an Adobe Acrobat PDF file.