Traditional Floorcloth Textiles Are Making A Stylish Comeback


Megan Enright of Studio Teppi with floorcloth textiles

Megan Enright of Studio Teppi makes vivid floorcloths, a textile back in vogue due to creatives rethinking their aesthetic possibilities. Enright primes the cotton canvas floor covering before hand-painting and sealing it. Behind her is the textile “A Sacred Sheet.”

The humble canvas floorcloth rose to fame in 18th-century England, but its practicality was soon embraced stateside, too. George Washington used them at Mount Vernon, and White House inventory records show Thomas Jefferson’s use of a “canvas floor cloth, painted green” in his dining room. While they were a popular and inexpensive means of protecting floors, the arrival of even-cheaper linoleum in the 1860s heralded their demise. But thanks to a new crop of innovative creatives, floorcloths are returning with a fresh look.

yellow check floorcloth textile with geometric design and colorful dots

"Spinner in Light."

vibrant blue and green check floorcloth textile

"Split Check in Fizz."

“I love them as an alternative to a painted floor, especially in spaces where spills are inevitable like a bar, kitchen, or under a breakfast table, because they’re durable,” Lilse McKenna says. The Connecticut-based designer has commissioned variations painted with wall stencils, as well as faux-marble designs for clients with period houses as “a little nod to their home’s history.” (Early floorcloths were often hand- painted to resemble parquetry or stone, but intricately stenciled designs became equally favored.) “The bold patterns typical of floorcloths punctuate simple wood floors in a dramatic, yet timeless way—they add that ‘wow’ factor,” notes New Jersey–based designer Michael Aiduss, who recently used a checkerboard floorcloth for a client’s entryway.

At his New York City gallery, Culture Object, Damon Crain is encouraging makers to push the boundaries even farther. “We’re in a moment of reassessing floorcloth for its sustainability, but also for its creative potential,” he explains. Two of the artists he represents, Mumbai- born, New Jersey–based Neelam Padte and Megan Enright of Studio Teppi in Los Angeles, are exploring playful motifs in vibrant palettes. He likens Padte’s “gestural abstractions” to works by artist Paul Klee, and Enright’s hard-edge designs to the Pattern and Decoration movement of the 1970s and 1980s.

Enright, who grew up with treasured floorcloths made by her grandmother, gravitated to the craft naturally but her process (stretching and priming the canvas, working with robust latex paints, and finishing the cloth with sealant and wax) is largely self-taught. “There weren’t many guides or tutorials, so I feel like a trailblazer,” Enright says. “Floorcloths can be washed with soapy water, or refinished as needed, but they last for decades and patina beautifully, like leather,” she adds. “People want furnishings with a narrative now, and my goal is to revive interest with a new visual language so that floorcloth isn’t lost to history.”

“What we’re creating today matters for the future,” Crain remarks. “The execution of floorcloths is a creative aspect unlike most other flooring options, and they’re such an interesting way to do something expressive.”



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