Floors in the Period Home

This describes floors and flooring in period houses, covering the paints and stains used on floorboards and skirting, carpets, rugs and mats, geometric, quarry and encaustic tiles, terrazzo and linoleum.

Floorboards were normally pine or deal. They were either stained a dark brown and varnished, or painted a dark brown. Skirting boards were often grained.

Hardwood floors were treated to enhance the natural grain; floors in mahogany and walnut were prized.

Most people could afford carpets by the 1850s. The less affluent used rugs instead, and most people used them in less important rooms, or in front of fireplaces. Until the 1870s, carpets were wall-to-wall. For the last 25 years of the century, loose carpets became popular as they were easier to take up for cleaning. The Arts and Crafts Movement made rugs and mats fashionable once again.

Halls were often floored with geometrics (plain, single colour, unglazed tiles, also called 'quarry' tiles), encaustic (with a coloured pattern) or inlaid tiles. Quarry tiles usually came from Staffordshire. The name comes from the French 'carré', meaning 'square'. Terrazzo was used in a few better quality houses, particularly after 1900.

Linoleum was introduced in the 1850s. It was expensive initially and therefore used only in better homes. It was used where cleanliness was important, in the nursery and in corridors. The Scottish firm of Michael Nairn & Co was the leader in this market.

Specific comments are made for each room.

Visit our advice on caring for floors.