Is Your Hardwood Floor Getting Wrecked? An Ages Old Solution

Who doesn’t love a beautiful hardwood floor?  A while back I did a post discussing different options and the best way to maintain them. Last Sunday, we discussed different ways to coordinate area rugs, especially in an open space.

But here is a comment I received from that post hi-lighting another common problem.

Another rug design dilemma: The rug over a hardwood floor under a dining room table where there are children dining. There are practical problems. Chairs scrape the floor and damage it even with fuzzy things attached (and anyone who’s lived through a hardwood floor refinishing knows it’s not the cost that’s the scariest, it’s the total mess).

The rug almost has to be washable. Definitely needs to be easy to remove and shake out. It needs to be large enough to go under the chairs, too. I’m almost ready to try skipping the large rug altogether (or using a large, cheap seagrass one), and putting a small washable cotton rug under each chair. I think that may look awful. If anyone has solved this problem I would love to know, and if I ever solve it, I’ll post the solution!



I told EE to hang on because I have a solution that’s never been discussed on the blog before.

First of all, a rug underneath a dining room table is not ever going to be easy to remove and shake out.

Sure, if you have a particularly-nice-and-handy-husband-with-a-good-back and a strapping not-too-nasty teen-aged son, they can lift the 200 lb table, skooch the rug out from under, take it outside, beat it with a baseball bat to within an inch of its desiccated-chocolate-milk-encrusted life…

…lay it out in the hot sun and remember to bring it in before the cloud burst that AccuWeather™  forgot to forecast, hits. :]

And then, do the entire exercise in reverse, hopefully laying it straight and smooth under the table.



You could do what our founding fathers did centuries ago.

You could put down a beautiful hand-painted floor-cloth.


You mean a piece of crap canvas, Laurel?


Well, Yes, they are usually made out of canvas, but…

They are only crap if they are some dinky-factory-fresh tchotchke from China and sold at Walmart.

Baltimore Room 021 Working Title/Artist: Drawing room of the Craig House, Baltimore, Maryland Department: Am. Decorative Arts Culture/Period/Location: HB/TOA Date Code: Working Date: 1810 photography by metropolitan museum of art

Drawing Room of the Craig House Baltimore, Maryland – via Met Museum

Not this exquisite beauty floorcloth home Captain Crawford House Newburg New York

Captain Crawford House via Big Old Houses blog

or this one… (actually, the entire floor seems to be a floorcloth in this entry)

listed on the National Register of Historic Places - Katherine Marks for the NY Times with a checkerboard floorcloth

From a home built in 1709 and on the Historic Register is 70 miles north of New York City.

Floor cloths were common in the 18th and 19th centuries by some of the most Aristocratic homes in the US as well as less affluent homes. They were very popular in England and remained so until linoleum replaced them in the early 20th century. (sad face) fc-tucker-house2

Tucker House Floor cloth via Black Dog Gallery

However, they have not died out completely. And for good reason!

They are not only very beautiful, but very practical too!


I remember years ago when I worked for a decorator in Bedford, NY she had commissioned a small tone-on-tone canvas floorcloth that sat over the seagrass wall-to-wall. I loved it and even when it became a little shop-worn, I loved it even more; it looked authentically antique. She didn’t agree with me and got rid of it, but I took it home and had it on my deck for a while. Eventually, it became REALLY antique-y complete with a cool patina of green mold. haha And yes, I did part with it when it became super grody. Checks-with-Decorative-Border-G2

The above floor cloth and the two below this one are hand-painted versions mimicking authentic reproduction floor cloths that have a distinctly Americana flavor. The owner/creator of Canvasworks Designs, Lisa Curry Mair can do anything you like. Her studio is in Vermont.


Her pieces are loving works of art! floor cloth over hardwood floor sheep-farm-hall-Knight

I thought the kitty (what a punim!) was part of this magnificent floorcloth runner at first.


The designs above and the two below are floorcloths, not on canvas but produced on a sheet of textured vinyl by Pura Vida Designs. I don’t know anything about the quality, but they come in a zillion sizes, including squares and large rectangles. The colors are gorgeous and there are dozens and dozens of designs. Please check out their website.

They also do custom-work.


Love them greens! By the way, the images are copyrighted. lol


I could see this in an entry.

The other thing you can do if you want a custom floorcloth is… great tutorial PAINT-a-remnant-of-linoleum-to-look-like-an-area-rug-for-under-your-dining-table-Sawdust-and-EmbryosSawdust & Embryos

Make it yourself.

If you’re feeling adventurous and creative, you could create your own unique floor cloth. This site has an excellent tutorial on how they did that. They didn’t use canvas but actually a dated piece of linoleum. You know, the kind with the fake tiles on it and dainty little flowers? The very faint indentations made it easier to lay down the design.


Royal Stencils via their instagram feed

which is via BrocanteSpirit’s feed

 Love this all-over damask pattern and such a pretty shade of blue. I believe that is Annie Sloan Chalk paint they are using.


HGTV Design Star Mikel Used a cheap outdoor mat as a stencil. How clever is that?

But, there’s something else.

Any design for a floor stencil could be adapted to a floor cloth. Right? kota stencil floorcloth bathroom_3

Nicolette Tabram has a very lovely website with some gorgeous images like this bathroom above

And this way cool Souk design

cement tile shop BouquetIII_16ALT

Above and below from the Cement Tile Shop

Another idea would be to stencil on an encaustic (cement) tile look onto a floorcloth.  It would be a great way to update a kitchen without taking the plunge into actually putting in real cement tiles. I think this would be especially hot over a painted wood floor.



I would be careful to look into putting a very thin padding between the floor-cloth and the hardwood floor so that it doesn’t stick and pull up the finish!


tile-wool-kilim-rug-aquamarine-west elm

West Elm

Or you could adapt a design from an existing rug. But what if… I’m just thinking out loud here. Could you put a truckful of plastic down and then spread several layers of poly over a rug like this? I suppose it would be best to start with a doormat size and experiment with that. The idea is that if it’s thin and can be mopped clean, how wonderful is that? Stencil-Floor

Catherine Cleare

Holy Moly! How gorgeous is this! I would never ever be able to move out!

If doing a floorcloth, you could do a similar design in a tone-on-tone color scheme. It would make an amazing rug!


I think that floor cloths are a wonderful solution to protect your hardwood floor for:


  • Dining Areas
  • Entries to a home, especially if there’s no room for a rug to fit under the front door!
  • Kitchens
  • Bathrooms
  • Mudrooms
  • Playrooms


Have any of you ever done a floor cloth? Did you make it or do you have a special source for them? Please share, if you do.





PS: Some of you know that I’ve had a long-time love affair with Serena and Lily. (the brand, not the two women. haha) For years, I’ve admired from a distance the growth of their home furnishing offerings. And they just unveiled 500 new products, so I thought you might want to know about it. I believe they also offer a discount if it’s your first order.

serena and lilyplease check out the 500 New Arrivals at Serena and Lily




55 Responses

  1. An idea I did was your beloved black and white harlequin design with a black frame – all using peel and stick black and white marble Home Depot tiles (cheap) and I put it all onto a large piece of clear vinyl plastic (from a roll). Moveable, wipeable and that high contrast design.

  2. Hi, Laurel!
    We are remodeling our powder room and thinking of using similar tile black and white floral design. But we are afraid this will look dated soon comparing to the natural stone look tile. Can you, please, advise ?

    1. Hi Nataliya,

      I’m sorry but I’m not doing consultations and besides, I can’t see what you’re talking about. But please don’t send it to me, I am asked either in comments or on email dozens of times of week for advice and it’s not possible. Thank you for your understanding.

  3. Hi Laurel,
    I just found this post about wood floors and floor cloths. Great info.
    I also thought I would share this with you and your readers. Twenty years ago I bought a sisal for my Dining Room and had it painted in the diagonal squares like the floor cloths you have posted. The gal that painted it also rolled it with polyurethane to seal the painted pattern. It worked. It protected the rug and it was easy to clean. An example was chocolate cake, I would let it dry then vacuum the next day. If it was the icing I also let it dry and would lightly brush it loose or use a fork and vacuum it up. It was terrific! I have a new one and I am seriously thinking of polyurethaning it too.

  4. I settled on a Ruggable–it’s a non-skid backing that has a thin, washable cover cloth laid over it (think Velcro). I can remove the cloth cover any time I want and throw it in the washing machine, and it’s good as new. I have them in front of my front and back doors and under my dining room table. The one under my dining room table is a tiny bit small for the table when it’s got a leaf in, but without the leaf, it’s a great solution. You can’t even tell it’s a two-part rug. A recent dog “incident” that required a full washing of one of the door rugs has convinced me that I made the right choice. Any other rug would have been toast.

  5. Timely post for me as My chairs are doing battle with the hardwood floors in my new house as we speak! In desperation after running through numerous sets of stickon chair leg options i just ordered an indoor outdoor rug to try. Wish I’d read this first!

  6. While shopping online for heavy-weight canvas to use to make a floor cloth, I stumbled upon oil cloth. Now I’m wondering whether I could use oil cloth on the floor in an informal kitchen, at least as a temporary covering until I manage to make or acquire a painted canvas floor cloth. Oil cloth is quirky and retro, to be sure, and there are some hideous patterns out there, but some patterns are not too bad and the Swedes seem to make good use of the material. (Some of the happiest times in my life were spent around an oil-cloth-covered table at my German aunt’s.) What do you think of oil cloth, Laurel? Retro chic or just plain tacky? P.S. I’m with the other poster who said she’d happily pay tuition here. I would gladly be charged by the minute to read Laurel’s blog!

    1. Hi EE,

      The only time I ever encountered oil cloth was in elementary school when we used it to cover our desks when we had art projects. I’ll have to look at Remodelista’s post.

  7. What a fabulous idea Laurel. I never heard of such a thing as a floor cloth! Although I had considered (really) putting a giant quilt down there at one point. I am considering a DIY project.

    Is a seagrass rug a practical thing in a dining area? I mean, can you spray it off with a garden hose without ruining it? Pressure wash it at the car wash?

    Thanks for helping us figure out how to have a lovely home when a concrete floor with a drain in it would be more practical. By the way, when does that period end? I just got through kids, and now it’s grandkids. And of course I wouldn’t trade any of them for the most perfect home in the world!

    1. EE,

      It only ends if you leave and go live by yourself. I always chuckle when people say it has to be “family friendly.” Uh huh…

      Believe me, I know!

      Seagrass is great. You will not need to hose it off. Only regular vacuuming and perhaps spot cleaning, but generally, they are very difficult to stain.

  8. now am ready to meet with flooring guy about engineered wood floors- what color- I can now figure a lot out- thanks

  9. The home I lived in when growing up had hardwood floors in its vestibule which (I am guessing) measured about 5′ x 8′. Living in the ‘great white north’ and a hoard of children in the house; when a teenager my father commissioned me to paint an oil cloth that was laid for the winter months and used for countless years. Cannot recall exactly what it was made of since it was many years ago (I am now older than dirt … ☺) but suspect it was a piece of left over linoleum and that I used oil-based paints for its design. Long story short, its installation was wall-to-wall and closely resembled that of the (harlequin) ‘Tucker House Floor Cloth’ that you posted above which only required masking off (no stencils back then) and the OB paint allowed sufficient open time to work the faux marble effect (extremely easy to do) plus its finish was as tough as nails. Though it did its job, come Spring it was always removed. -Brenda-

  10. Great post—I shall be using this knowledge

    2 round rugs under round dining table?—and
    can someone help me find the post about “fans”?

    1. Hi Kathleen,

      I love round dining tables and have done several of them in my career. Every time we left the floor bare except for once we did a square rug and it looked great. It’s just my thing. Of course, others are free to put a round rug under their round table.

      There’s a little search box in the sidebar, if you type in the word fans, it should take you to what you are looking for. I have not done a post specifically about fans that I can recall. They’ve been talked about in a few posts, however.

  11. Laurel, re my comment on the Pura Vida rugs. It might be personal, but the old linoleum rugs found in houses I saw struck me as somehow “cheap” looking. They yellowed with time. Maybe it was just they were old-fashioned. The area rugs I have in my kitchen from Pura Vida are floral and viney, really pretty design and easy to clean. But they are what I would call linoleum, “spongier” than floor cloth and less depth of field somehow. I can’t see using them in a formal room, whereas I wouldn’t think twice about a nice floorcloth. I remember your column about the virtues of wool rugs and the way they “self clean.” Pretty old orientals can often be had inexpensively and even if they are nearly well worn, they hide stains from oatmeal and cake crumbs and such. I used one in my breakfast room until children were civilized eaters. My vocabulary is limited when it comes to describing the linoleum or linoleum-like rugs.

  12. Laurel, re the Pura Vida Designs “floor cloths,” I have three in my kitchen. Pretty. But if you are old enough to remember the old linoleum rugs once used in most kitchens, they will bring back memories. Different texture, depth, everything from the floorcloths I’ve seen.

  13. Fantastic inspirational idea Laurel! I’ve been searching for rugs for my entryway and bath, unable to find one thin enough for under the doors and in a design I love. This way I get to have something ‘custom’ and sounds easy enough to do! Ah! I may even do the same for my covered front porch where I need two in an odd size, soluuuuution!!! You’re the best:)
    ‘Not too nasty teenage son’ hahahaha!

    1. Hi Kim,

      I wish I had headed my own advice. I had a very small entryway in our old townhouse. And for some reason, when we put in hardwood floors, put that in the entry too.

      Well… after years of nasty teen-aged boys (I forgot that bribery of tickets to whatever it is they’re into works like a charm – lol) AND they’re friends (band-mates and “groupies”) + harsh winters which means copious amounts of SNIRT tracked in… you can well-imagine how that front area looked after a while.

      However, not as bad as it might have because we had a wonderful floor guy who clued me in about oil-based fabulon poly.

      Unbelievably durable. But still…

  14. Great article, only problem is there is no link (at least that I can find) to the one from sawdust & embryos. The one that they did on a piece of vinyl.

    1. Thank you so much for that BL. I was just working with my guru Eileen Lonergan – who I recommend highly for wordpress help. We were both bemoaning the changes wordpress has made to their linking and formatting.

      What happens is that it sometimes doesn’t do what you tell it to do, but what it thinks it should do. It’s very much the same as a 15 yr old child. Very much the same. lol Although not so funny because I spend an insane amount of time going in and making sure the spacing is more or less what I want and I have to get into the CSS to do that! It’s not difficult, just annoying.

  15. Hi Laurel. I enjoyed this timely article. We just had our maple floors refinished (Yes, the mess! We moved out for 2 weeks and very smartly, at the last minute, decided to get the paint done too) and already I’m seeing some scratches under the table from the chairs. I’m constantly reapplying the chair leg pads. So frustrating. And when they come off, they leave gummy gunk on the floor that’s almost impossible to remove. I recently saw some knitted ‘booties’ for chair legs but that was at a cafe in cottage country so it fit, kinda. But in a home, I think it could look quite frumpy. I shall now be looking into a floor cloth. Thanks! Enjoy your blog very much.

  16. Floor cloths can be wonderful, but tend to curl on the corners. Any help with that would be great! Also, have painted sisal rugs, then coated with layers of polyurethane. You are right, it takes a lot of plastic, but solves the staining problem with sisal.

    1. Good question Mary. I don’t know if a little heavy-duty double stick tape would work or not. Tacking down is not a good idea, I don’t think. I am wondering if some corner weights like they use for drapes would help?

  17. Hi Laurel, I love this post! But the size floor cloth I would need is too expensive for me. So I looked at sites that teach you how to make them. They suggest using a vinyl off cut. So it occurred to me maybe you could get a cool piece of vinyl flooring and use it instead. I know it won’t have the same timeless appeal, but what do you think? There are so very cool vinyls on the market now..
    Best wishes Laura

    1. Hi Laura,

      The link wasn’t working for the sage green and white geometric for Sawdust & Embryos but it is now. (wordpress has done something which makes linking more of a challenge and sometimes they revert to the one above!)

      Anyway, they used a piece of vinyl flooring and sanded it down and primed it so the design would be hidden and the paint would stick. I didn’t read the follow up post, but hopefully, it has held up well.

      The vinyl floorcloths from pura vida and spicher are gorgeous and maybe more affordable than something hand-painted. A 12 x 12 is about 1,500.

  18. I am intrigued! We are about to refinish the floors in the home we are buying, and I don’t want to do that again for a very long time. How does one install a floorcloth? I keep envisioning myself or others catching our feet under the edge and falling, but perhaps that fear is unfounded. Are floorcloths attached to the floor somehow or simply laid on top, as a rug would be?

    1. Hi Anna,

      It depends what type of floor cloth. The vinyl ones from Pura Vida or Spicher lay perfectly flat. Otherwise a thin, non-skid pad is what I would do. You could also perhaps use some double stick tape for the corners, but tripping shouldn’t be more of a problem than for any other rug.

  19. I love you.
    This is a great idea. And better than my current solution of forbidding hard to clean food ( rice and spaghetti).

  20. Liora Manne rugs are worth looking into. I have one in my foyer and it’s amazing. Her technique is completely unique and the work is beautiful . Mine is a mosaic

  21. Laurel, if you make them “the old-fashioned way,” you don’t have to–probably should not because the top coat is varnish most often—put coats of poly over the finished product. In my back-to-the-old-days period, I made a small one in preparation for a larger one. Everybody else was doing cross-stitch and decoupage, and I did a floor cloth for apartment, proved that even a paint idiot could turn out a decent product. But I was in grad school and didn’t have time for a bigger project. You nailed this one, I think. They age beautifully.

    1. Hi Gaye,

      It’s funny, but I used to do all sorts of crafty projects in my late teens. I was a ballerina then and it was relaxing for me. (when I wasn’t darning pointe shoes!)

  22. Thanks for sharing the info…here are a few more things to consider:
    1. If a pad is used under a floor cloth you risk damaging the cloth walking on it with high heels.
    2. Painted floor cloths are more durable than painted wood floors.
    3. Not sure chalk paint is a good idea – when dry the properties of the paint may be too brittle to be durable. Milk paint definitely does not work. Be sure to test before you do it yourself.
    4. Use a water based protective coating – other finishes will discolor overtime.

    Having lived with floor cloths for over 30 years they are the best!!!

    1. Hi CLS,

      Great advice. I’m jealous of anyone who can wear high heels. I’m lucky if I can find a pair of anything that’s comfortable with my beat up dancer’s feet.

      The folks who used chalk paint seem to say that it’s fine. I imagine that there’s still a heavy coating of poly or varnish over it. Not sure about that though. And yes, I always say to test anything one isn’t sure about first!

      And yes! Thank you! Water based is good— unless one wants it to discolor and get more antique-y.

  23. My goodness Laurel, you have made me remember something That I had completely forgotten! When I was little, my great aunt took care of me during the day while my parents worked. She and her husband lived in a small 1920’s house with an even smaller kitchen. On the floor under the kitchen table was a canvas rug. I did not know what it was-if it wasn’t vacuumed, it couldn’t be a rug, or so my small self surmised, I’m sure. Anyway, Aunt Mae Mae’s was red and white and it looked like it had lived a full life. From what I remember, the pattern seems to me similar to a wedding ring quilt. She always canned in the summer, I remember all the pretty jars lined up on the table and my job was to count the pings. I loved her jams! Thanks to you I understand its purpose now. All the photos were lovely too.

  24. I bought a small one from Debra Phillips at 5th and State. I think it was one from Spicher (Pura Vida) and the quality was good. I even put it outside by my back door and it has held up really well.

    1. Hi Bridget,

      That’s great to know. I’m trying to figure out if Spicher is the manufacturer or Pura Vida. PV has a lot more options on their website. They sure are lovely!

  25. Hmmm…So this could be the answer in my dining room/living room combo. Open floor plan with huge space for this use. Traditional wool area rug in the living room side, but didn’t want another pattern rug in the DR. So nothing there while I figure it out. Question: does the floor cloth attach to the floor at all, or is it just laid (over a light pad?) on the floor like an area rug? I”m thinking of a canvas type floor cloth now, but not sure how to lay it.

    1. Hi Maryanne,

      Unless it has some kind of non-skid backing, I would use a thin pad. Usually, they come in 6 foot widths, so if your rug is larger they require taping together.

      Or if your rug might possibly be slightly tacky on the underneath, you’ll definitely want a rug pad.

      I’m not a floor cloth expert but there may be others chiming in who are more knowledgeable.

  26. You should charge tuition. I learn so much with every post. This is an option to the indoor-outdoor rug solution I was considering. Thanks!

  27. Thanks for another great post. I have made floorcloths in the past using artist’s canvas. After painting the design on the canvas I turned the edges under and glued them in place and did a few coats of poly over the painted surface.

  28. Love floor cloths. I had a crazy graphic design neighbor who used to make them. They are fairly easy to make, not that expensive and if you coat them correctly, they will take a beating. Ya’ got me thinkin’ for my dining room in my new house… great post, thanks again, Laurel!

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