A Custom Painted Floor

By Bruce Wentworth, AIA

Painting your wood floors is a wonderful way to give your home variety and create a custom look. If you keep it simple it can be a cost effective way to enhance your old wood floors. If you want a more refined, detailed look it will cost a bit more.

A recent design problem involved oak floors for a kitchen and adjacent dining room. The kitchen was being remodeled with a new 9’ wide opening to visually link the dining room and gain natural light from the south facing room. Custom mahogany cabinets, and dark gray limestone counter tops, were a dressy touch for the new kitchen. The design dilemma was how to handle the wood floor finish. The homes’ existing oak floor had a medium dark stain - but continuing the stain color into the kitchen did not provide visual contrast with the cabinets; it would have been muddy. And changing to a lighter stain would have looked odd against the existing dark oak floors. Solution: paint the wood floor. Paint provided a natural break from the existing stained oak floors, and a color compliment to the new kitchen cabinets.Of course, once paint was selected we had to decide upon the color and pattern. Without too much agony, a light gray neutral color was selected because it worked well with the gray limestone counter top and complemented the mahogany cabinets. I was fortunate to know Maxine Cohen who had experience with painted floors. I knew that painting a monolithic gray would not suffice – so with the idea of a two-tone gray floor, I prepared several drawings with subtle striated patterns.

Conceptually it is a rectilinear pin wheel; a small rectangle, in a solid gray, placed as the center of the pinwheel, around which a large rectangle and a large square are placed. The square and the rectangle are differentiated by the differing widths of their stripes.

The pattern creates a gentle visual movement on the floor and never feels dead. Maxine made three test mockups to get it just right and cleverly cut rubber squeegees with different size slots (like combs) to create the stripped patterns. It worked like a charm…but took seven days to paint. The long days of taping the pattern, painting, and letting it dry to implement the detailed design was worth it - as the evidence shows.