Published at Wednesday, 16 January 2019. Kitchen Floors. By Gerda Andersen.
Homeowners were at first content to varnish their beadboard or other wooden walls, but as concerns with sanitation grew at the turn of the century they covered kitchen walls with glazed white tiles, usually 3" x 6" subway tiles. White tile was frequently used behind coal-burning ranges, where it made the wall easier to clean, so it was logical to extend the tile to the sink area. Painted or sculpted tiles played an important decorative role early in the 20th century, primarily around the fireplace, but weren't common in the kitchen until the late 1920s.
Colonial-era homeowners created beautifully inventive floors when they had the means and materials. While painted styles range from a single color to grained designs that rival complex inlaid tile floors, most treatments in kitchens were simple: a deep yet cheerful solid earth color like dark red, ochre, or green, or a checkerboard.
Finishing painted or stenciled floors usually meant coating them with varnish, which mellows the colors. Today, you can protect a painted floor with several coats of clear, long-wearing sealer like polyurethane in a satin finish. For more authenticity, use an antique floor finish, like the one offered by Minwax, as the final topcoat.
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