5 Ways to Spruce Up Your Floors

Written By John Richards on Tuesday, July 31, 2012 | 6:33 AM

Color Underfoot

painted rugFrom crisp stripes to artsy (but easy!) detailing, check out five pretty ideas for transforming overlooked areas, like floors, stairs and rugs. A bold pattern in the entryway––think of-the-moment zigzags or broad blocks of color––sets a vibrant tone for your home. It's also a chance to try a style before making a bigger commitment, like painting your entire floor. Your basic tools: acrylic fabric paint from the craft store and a bristly paintbrush to work it into the weave.

Striped "Runner"

A pattern of painted lines creates the look of a colorful, vibrant runner down crisp white stairs. For this look, practice your design on posterboard until you get the right mix; lines of different widths, in tonal hues (like the ones here) or up to three colors, will look best. Use masking tape to lay out the design on the stairs, then take a step back to eyeball it, advises decorative painter Annie Sloan, author of Quick & Easy Paint Transformations : "You'll know immediately if it's not right."

Artful Risers


Take a staircase from utilitarian to charming with a different design painted on each riser. Use stamps, stencils or freeform designs, but to keep it looking eclectic, not crazy, stick to just a few colors (like the blue, green, orange and yellow here). The watercolor effect on these stairs, with visible brushstrokes, is achieved by thinning your paint with a latex extender. Not an artiste? Painting risers in different solid colors will give an easy, bold stripe effect, suggests Sloan.

Checkerboard Pattern

Bold checks aligned on the diagonal keep the eye moving through a room, making it appear bigger. For this hallway of a renovated home in Bedford, NY, the painted floor also bridged original and new flooring, so the difference wasn't so noticeable. The look is "warm, casual and fun for a young family," says designer Hadley Scully of Hadley Scully Designs in Greenwich, CT. "The colors keep the palette neutral but are bright enough to hold their own without needing too much accessorizing." *For sharp lines like these, painter's tape is key. Want a worn-in look? Daub on the paint with a sponge.

A Stenciled Design
Painting a ruglike pattern onto a floor helps define a large space. "It's a great way to add pattern in kitchens and baths, where fabric's a mess magnet," says Ingrid Leess, who created this stenciled floor in the open-plan kitchen of her New Canaan, CT, home. For a crisp look, apply the design, then a clear sealer over the entire floor. For a floor that will scuff more easily (mimicking thosein historic homes), skip the sealer and apply primer instead before you paint.
Follow these steps ensure a perfect paint job every time:
1. Do the prep work. Deborah Zimmer of the Paint Quality Institute recommends first washing the floor with soap and water (for mildew-prone rooms like the bath, use 1 part bleach to 3 parts water), then sanding down the finish. If sanding seems daunting, apply a primer before painting instead.
2. Use Quality Paint.. A 100% acrylic paint is best for floors: It's the toughest and most durable interior paint, it goes on smoothly and doesn't splatter, it washes off your body with soap and water, and in a low-traffic room (like a bedroom) you won't have to add a sealer on top. Spring for top-of-the-line paint from your favorite brand.
3. Wait for it. Paint may feel dry in a few hours, but wait the full recommended time (usually 24 hours) before adding another coat. Give the room plenty of ventilation (windows open, fans going), and remember that humidity will slow drying. To avoid walking on the paint while it dries, work strategically: Leave a path, then paint it when the rest of the floor has dried. 

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