Floorcloth Fancy

Tywod Arian, Jenny Lee-Katz

Floorcloths, also known as “painted canvas area rugs” and “oylcloths” originated in England in the 17th century.  Initially made from defunct sailboat canvases, their patterns typically mimicked parquet flooring and geometric marble inlay.  Primarily adorning the stately entrance halls of the wealthy, floorcloths eventually spread in popularity to middle-class homes and Colonial America, where the variety in patterns increased to include hand-painted stencils and stamped woodblocks.  The invention of linoleum flooring in the 1860’s fueled the floorcloth’s decline, as linoleum and carpets became more fashionable and eventually overtook over the decorative flooring market. However, in recent years a resurgence in this functional artform has emerged with diversity ranging from intricate historic replicas to bespoke modern marvels.

Floorcloths offer several advantages over other floorcoverings.  Foremost, they are custom works of art that can be made in any size, configuration, color or pattern.  Few flooring options allow limitless and unique design possibilities.  With floorcloth design, one may say the sky’s the limit!

Considering it is a piece of painted fabric that is walked on, floorcloths are considerably durable.  Constructed from a base of heavy canvas, which is sanded smooth and covered with two or more layers of gesso, painted and sealed with several more coats of paint and polyurethane, and often sealed with an additional top wax and a resilient backing fabric, they certainly have some heft to them.

Floorcloths will last for many years, but they can also be repainted if the design layer wears out over time.  They are also easy to maintain; loose dirt should be removed and then wiped with a sponge or mop. It is suggested to replenish the top wax layer by applying a paste wax several times a year.

Here’s a sneak peek of just a handful of the myriad of floorcloths available. These professional, high quality selections are by artists Gracewood Design, Jenny Lee-Katz, Sophie Sarin, Early American Floorcloths and The Lime Loft.



  1. Love these. This idea has been around a long time, it just never seemed to catch on?

  2. These are great! Really digging the Early American Collection w/ Gracewood Design!

  3. My favorite – the Detail Kentwood Hall, Sophie Sarin:)

  4. These are great… I really liked The Lime Loft pieces. I actually think these would work well in the Middle East, inside or outside, as sand would not really penetrate all the layers of polyurethane.

    • Karen Egly-Thompson says:

      I agree! I think some of the more geometric designs with an Islamic pattern reference would be especially popular here. In addition to the sand issue, I think they would work well with pets, especially cats, which tend to claw at carpets.

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