The Timeless Charm of Vintage Vinyl Floorcloths

April 5, 2022

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Text by Maria LaPiana

The attraction was swift. Designers and homeowners fell hard for Vintage Vinyl® floor cloths when they were introduced to the market a decade ago. It was a sense of nostalgia that first captivated his customers, says Daren Lechner, who was one of the first vendors to offer the flooring—both in his shop, Pura Vida Home & Gift in Needham, Massachusetts, and online.

Today the design world’s love affair with the retro-inspired vinyl floor cloths is still going strong, thanks to a combination of practical good looks and versatility, says Lechner. They remain one of his best sellers. “Customers love the fact that they essentially create an instant floor,” says Lechner. “They’re stylish, durable, and low-maintenance.” And now that the floor cloths are available in even more patterns and sizes, he’s seeing more creative applications than ever—everything from desk pads to backsplashes.

Smart and good-looking floors
Painted floor cloths were the original carpet substitutes of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Often painted to resemble faux stone, tile, or exotic woods, they were made of canvas, treated with linseed oil, and sealed with varnish to make them water- and pest-proof. In time, floor cloths morphed into mass-produced linoleum flooring, which gave way to easy-care, “no-wax” vinyl. As old-home renovations took off, the search was on for a product that had the look and feel of vintage flooring, but was more practical. The Pennsylvania-based Spicher & Company hit paydirt when it developed a material that was strong, flexible, and held onto its vibrant colors. Enter the Vintage Vinyl® floor cloth, evoking the styles of centuries past on a non-slip, lay-flat, easy-to-clean surface. (They also made the floor cloths non-flammable and UV-resistant for up to three years.)

Style and substance
Today, Pura Vida offers Vintage Vinyl® in all of its make-it-your-own glory. Choose from more than 1,000 floor cloths; more than 130 patterns (each with its own options) are available in eighteen standard sizes, and in five shapes (rectangle, square, runner, round, and oval). Plus, five out of its seven collections can be customized.
“There really is something for everyone,” says Lechner. “I’ve seen the floor cloths work as well in midcentury homes as they do in modern loft spaces.” There are four new collections available:
Persian Bazaar – Extraordinarily detailed patterns with names like Farahan and Tabriz that call to mind grand palaces and exotic places.
Mosaics – Classic and edgy tiled patterns you might see in a New York City subway station.
Norwegian Wood – Trompe l’oeil patterns that look for all the world like intricately pieced wood floors.
American Folk Art Museum – Americana quilt-inspired patterns like Wedding Ring and Sunburst.

The new collections were selected to complement the originals: Classic (from basic and simple to ornate Victorian and Baroque); Williamsburg (a fresh take on historic floor cloths, including updated concepts with warm colors and a beautifully aged look); and Artisanry (designs that look like real wood, complete with grain and knots).

Vintage Vinyl® now appearing everywhere
Vinyl floor cloths can transform a space—whether you need to conceal old or unsightly flooring or just want a new look—in a flash. It’s an efficient way to cover up a multitude of sins. They make sense as area rugs, of course, but they can also be used to cover a room from wall-to-wall. Because floor cloths don’t require rug pads—which can stick to the floor and leave adhesive behind—there’s no risk of damage to the flooring underneath (so they’re good for apartment dwellers). They can beautify outdoor living spaces as well, as long as they’re protected from the elements. For a more permanent application, they can be installed using a commercial-flooring adhesive.

Having sold more than 5,000 floor cloths so far, Lechner says he’s seen it all—and then some. Because Vintage Vinyl® cuts easily with scissors, there’s no limit to where you can use it, or how. Consider a (personalized) welcome mat. Or a tabletop protector, cut to fit for use with or without a cloth. For decorative tablescapes, try placemats and table runners. Beautify your home office with a desk pad, or match your dog’s bowl mat to the kitchen runner. Some customers are even installing the cloths as kitchen backsplashes. Outside the home, Lechner has seen them used as custom flooring in van conversions.

Durability + easy care
“I can’t tell you how many customers have told me they’re tired of pets making messes, or sending carpets out to be cleaned,” says Lechner. “Vintage Vinyl is the perfect solution because it’s easy to keep looking new and can last for years with proper care.” The hard-working vinyl floor cloths wipe clean, so they’re ideal for high-traffic rooms or spaces that attract everyday dirt, like kitchens and mudrooms. The low-profile design (they’re only 1/16-inch thick) makes them a good choice in rooms where too-thick rugs make it hard to open and close doors. And they’re a boon to family members with allergies because unlike rugs and carpets, they don’t harbor dust.
Vinyl floor coverings require only regular mopping to remove any surface dust or dirt; Lechner recommends Formula 409 for quick wipe-ups. And while the material is immensely hard-wearing, it can be damaged if you’re not careful. Floor cloths are the perfect choice for under dining room tables (especially if you have kids), but you should use felt pads under chairs and avoid dragging heavy items across the floor. Keep sharp objects away from the vinyl—use caution when wearing high-heeled shoes—and you’ll enjoy your stylish floors for years to come.

Curious how other homeowners have used Vintage Vinyl®?  Click here.

Pura  Vida Home &  Gift
Needham, Massachusetts

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