Monday, June 3, 2013

I'm Floored

I haven’t blogged for months and there’s so much I want to write about flooring. Yes, the surfaces underfoot.

I’m a wall-to-wall carpet kind of woman. It’s easy care, cushy under foot, hides cat hair, and despite the plethora of colors and textures, I’ve never had any trouble choosing carpet I like.

Since our house is mid-century modern, we branched out and bought two boldly patterned area rugs, one in the studio, and one in the living room. 

Studio rug

Living room rug

They’re colorful and fun, but not cushioned, and I don’t think I can use my carpet cleaner when they get dirty without soaking the floor below.

A few days ago, after months of extensive remodeling, we carpeted the majority of our basement, which is now a den and master bedroom. The area was instantly quieter (so long echoes) and warmer. A transformation with insulation.

New master bedroom

 It’s replacing our hard surfaces that trouble me. And it needs doing. The dark areas in our kitchen linoleum are thirty years of dirt, not part of the pattern.

30 year-old vinyl sheet flooring. Durable but dirty.

 My choices are dominated by wood, tile, plank laminate (Pergo, etc.) that mimics wood or tile, linoleum that also mimics wood or tile, there’s even tile that looks like wood. 

Everything is trying to be elegant as if I lived in a Spanish villa with terra cotta flooring, or an English castle with stone tiles, or a Cape Cod with the original wood floors, or a tract home in Pacifica with walnut stained Pergo in every room.

Today’s flooring is so serious. Where’s the whimsy? In the mid 1970s my family moved into a house with kitchen-dining vinyl sculpted with giant neon daisies. I loved hopping from sink to table, jumping from flower to flower.

I had the perfect vinyl once. I saw it in a friend’s house first. When my husband and I remodeled our first house in 1993, the pattern was on its way out, but still available. It was cheerful in our long rainy winters, and it hid everything, including frozen peas.
The vinyl and the dog I adored.
All I want now is something inexpensive and durable with a bit of personality and dirt hiding capabilities. Give me vinyl sheet flooring that’s not trying to pass itself off as printed stone, or photographed planks, something that says: I’m completely manmade.

I’m going to settle for this.

It doesn’t end there. One must choose baseboard, or quarter round, or coving—that strip of wood, or plastic that forms a seal between floor and wall.

The thing about baseboard is that you never pay attention to it until you do.

In the doctor’s office, draped in a paper gown, waiting for an annual exam, I scan the covers in the magazine rack, count the acoustic ceiling tiles, and the squares on the floor, eyes moving down the wall and there it is: ugly, yellowed, plastic strip three inches wide with a coat of dust along the fork-tine thin upper edge.

It’s there again in the library restroom, the ferry terminal, the supermarket, leading to the inevitable conclusion: baseboard is disgusting. And even worse, not only are the baseboards in my home old, painted, and scratched, but I must choose new baseboard for the rooms we’re remodeling.
Old baseboard with quarter-round trim.

At Home Depot the choices are ridiculous: ornate coves and scoops with ropey undulations that cover six inches of wall, baseboard that screams for attention from human eyes and dust. All I can think of are the many discrete surfaces collecting dust.

When I dust, especially if I use a wet rag, I only succeed in pushing dust into the corner where the wall meets. Over the years it grows in mass, slowly, like a wart, until it’s thick and firm and I poke at it with toothpicks and wet Q-tips.

I’m told baseboard is required. Carpet or bamboo or tile or vinyl can’t fit precisely against the wall in a seamless transition, so there must be trim. When I think of trim, I think of bias tape, and how you use the smallest width possible when sewing.

So my husband and I comb the aisle for the narrowest, plainest strips of wood we can find. And we don’t paint it a contrasting color to set it off from the wall, which is the current fashion.

My new trim is inconspicuous and modest, fitting for a house built in the early 1950s.

If you visit my house, I hope you will like my mod area rugs, enjoy the plush carpets downstairs, nod at the sustainable bamboo in the dining room, ah over the heated tiles in the master bath (to be installed), be impressed by the restored stairs, understand the potential in the original hardwood floors we have yet to refinish, and never notice the baseboards. Not once.

Refinished stairs, new den carpet, new hearth, paint, and yes, baseboards.


  1. Only you and Kevin have the knack for angst over the fine details, with the multitude of choices, to settle on the best options! I didn't notice the trim at all AND the floors are beautiful, like you!