If you are carefully cultivating a period inspired home, authentic style floors will undoubtedly be of importance to you.
Obviously, the main consideration when choosing an appropriate floor covering for your home should be your lifestyle needs and the practicality of a faithful reproduction or antique floor.
It’s always a good idea to keep 21st century living firmly in mind even when you are putting great importance on the aesthetics!
What you may deem as the only choice in terms of decorative effect, or being in keeping with the age of your home, may prove completely impractical for busy family life or high traffic areas such as hallways and kitchens.
Consider also the upkeep of antique style floors as although polished floorboards look gorgeous, they require lots of ongoing TLC to keep them polished and waxed to a lustrous finish.
Marble, for example, is expensive to repair and renovate as are reclaimed or Restored Victorian geometric and encaustic tiles, which will often need specialist care to further preserve them.
These are all considerations to take into account before committing yourself to what could be a costly and ongoing exercise.
That’s not to say of course that interior designers and enthusiastic home decorators cannot use authentic items and good quality reproductions successfully throughout their homes or projects.
As long as you are aware of initial outlay costs, restoration costs, and ongoing care and repair costs, there is no reason at all why you can’t have the exact floor you want in your home – be that reclaimed ecclesiastical flooring or simple, bare scrubbed floorboards!
A Brief History of Flooring Through the Ages!
If you are stuck for ideas for the perfect floor for your period property, or you are following a particular theme then read on for a short overview of floor styles through the ages!
And whilst it’s certainly not set in stone that you have to follow any definite historical style, whatever the age of your house, it is generally considered that in older properties sympathetic renovation is generally easier on the eye than full on modernisation!
(Obviously if you live in a listed building your options will be limited by the restraints of the orders imposed on your home)
Medieval Gothic (c.1150 to 1550 and revived in the 19th century)
A style that dominated during the Middle Ages, until the Renaissance in the early 15th century and then revived again in the mid-19th century by the Victorians, the Gothic style is heavily influenced by church architecture with ecclesiastical details such as pointed arches, ogee arches, stained glass and heraldic emblems such as coats of arms, mythical beasts and the tree of life.
For floors, go for large flagstones if you can afford it or fake the same effect with clever ‘stone blocking’, a paint technique. Alternatively, if you have floorboards, stain them a dark, oak colour.
Georgian (1714 – 1837)
The Georgian style is famous for being airy, with austere lines and a focus on harmony and symmetry. Furniture was delicate and soft furnishings tended to be made of glazed cotton, with a pattern of small sprigs of flowers.
Think well preserved stripped floor boards, either waxed or subtly varnished, with a selection of rugs in colours to match your décor and the period: oriental styles and pale colours, such as duck-egg blue, palest green, and faded gold will all work well.
Marble or stone floors were also prevalent in this period, but although practical in bathrooms or kitchens, consideration would need to be given to their suitability in today’s modern, family home.
Many of the older, grand houses had pale marble or stone floors with keystone patterns and you can “cheat” this look by using more affordable linoleum in the same pattern.
Victorian (1837 – 1901)
The Victorian era is famous for its excessive ornamentation –from plump, heavily upholstered furniture to opulent accessories and dark, rich colours such as ruby reds and forest greens. It was also a time of imitation and reproduction, with people favouring an eclectic mix of styles in their homes.
From Painted Floorboards, to intricate patterned and chequerboard floor tiles, from slate slabs to luxurious, deep pile rugs, the Victorian era took in many different styles, looks and themes.
From the over-the-top style of the Gothic revival, through to the more simplistic lines of the Arts and Crafts movement, the period lends itself well to providing inspiration for most homes.
Floors in the Victorian Style have a faded grandeur, with patterned carpets laid so that they leave a border of polished floorboards around the edges of a room. Tiles were also used, especially in areas of heavy traffic such as kitchens and hallways.
Traditional Victorian tiles were highly patterned, with the pattern baked on using a kiln but it is possible to achieve the same look much more cheaply using production tiles.
For hallways and stairs in the Victorian style, use a runner in a plain, dark colour such as green or red, with a contrasting stripe and make sure the outside treads are stained a dark brown.
If you are not looking to create an authentic reproduction – or if you live in a modern house – take from the era the aspects you find aesthetically pleasing – painted floorboards, for example, or the clean, minimalist appeal of a slate floor.
Edwardian (1901 – 1910)
The Edwardian Style was very much a reaction against the clutter, dark colours and heaviness of the Victorian era, with people wanting something fresher and more cheerful.
Thus, the style is very informal and light, even feminine, with delicate bamboo and wicker furniture and a lot of floral patterns and pastel colours. Floors in the Edwardian style should be highly polished, ideally in wood block – but a similar effect can be achieved with cheaper laminate – overlaid with oriental-style rugs.
Quarry tiles, floor bricks and well polished wood block flooring will all fit wonderfully with the period.
And if you live in an Edwardian property, check under your carpets – who knows what restoration project awaits you under all those years of underlay!
Art Deco (c.1908 to 1935)
A style that began in Europe, especially in Paris, during the early decades of the 20th century, Art Deco was popular until the outbreak of World War II.
This style favoured geometric and angular shapes, with textures such as chrome, glass and shiny fabrics as well as highly polished wood and glossy black lacquer mixed with satin and furs. Travel was becoming popular for the first time so exotic accessories from foreign lands – such as animal skins, ivory, tortoiseshell and Egyptian artefacts – were common adornments in the home.
To get floors reminiscent of this era, opt for plain polished parquet or, for cheaper options, linoleum in abstract designs or vinyl tiles in a black-and-white chequerboard design.
Floors were also often overlaid with large rugs in geometric patterns – for inspiration of styles and colours, check out the original handmade versions by artists such as Duncan Grant then choose similar styles in more affordable materials. Another common decorating style was a large circular rug as the centre point of a room.
The notorious hippy era of free love, drugs and pop music, the 1960’s are often seen to represent all that is “groovy”. Despite the spirit of rebellion, people plundered the past for inspiration, coming up with a mix of Victorian, Edwardian and Art Nouveau styles which was then given an irreverent twist to make it all its own.
Materials like plastic and PVC were popular and homes were designed to be as open-plan as possible, with sliding doors and moving screens encouraging flow from one room to another.
Colours were vibrant, such a bright purple or red and deliberately clashing shades, such as orange and pink. As for floors, the shag pile rug ruled – the bigger the better! Bean bags and lots of scatter cushions across the floor also help to create a 60’s vibe.
Whatever the period of your home, let your own sense of style shine through with your own personal choice of interior design – remember your home is your own, special place to relax and enjoy – not a museum or public building – and let period style enhance your life there, rather than rule it!