January 21, 2018
This whimsical neighbourhood floor cloth has been created on the back of a sheet of linoleum.

Dear Debbie,
Someone in my neighbourhood was making painted floor cloths a long time ago -- I think out of linoleum. I cannot find anything in the library about this “craft”. What could you tell me? And do you know of any books that could teach me?
Many thanks.

Dear Mardy,
Your question is very timely as I am looking back on the many queries I have been sent over the past 20 years, and this was a popular topic. Painted floor cloths are a clever and practical decorating aid. Because you can paint any design or motif on the flat surface, floor cloths fit into whichever style you choose. Inside, they suit kitchens, hallways and children’s rooms. They also add character to porches and balconies as long as you don’t allow moisture to build up underneath the mat. Make sure to lift and dry, or the built-up moisture will become mildewed and erode a wood or cement deck or porch base.

The basic instructions are very straightforward. Instead of using canvas, which is the traditional material for making a floor cloth, I have utilized a piece of paper-backed linoleum cut to size. The trick is to decorate on the flip side or paper-backed side. It’s an excellent alternative as the mat will lie flat, and the ends don’t need to be finished. Look for ends of rolls or sample pieces at your home or lumber store. To prepare the back, apply a coat of primer and let dry. Apply two coats of base coat and let dry. Now you are ready to decorate as you please.

Shown here is a mat that I designed for a child’s playroom in 2000. It is as fresh and fun today, and sits ready for lots more imaginary walks. The neighbourhood around a child’s home is the first ‘big world’ that they know. I made a freehand map of the area and painted on details and landmarks that were most familiar. It’s not necessary to draw everything to scale. There’s a park, and a library, a grocery store or post office, some street signs, and anything else that makes the neighbourhood unique. My base colour is yellow, roads are painted grey, grass is green, and I used a small sponge dipped into green paint to mark off trees and bushes. Draw in the child’s house, of course, using colours that match. This scene became the focus of many hours of play.
Whether it’s a jaunty geometric design, a bouquet of flowers, stripes or simple motifs, enjoy making your floor cloth and please send me a photo when it’s finished.

Dear Debbie,
We have a challenge that I suspect a lot of folks have and are hoping you can help. We have a covered back porch on which all kinds of stuff piles up: running shoes, gardening this 'n that, BBQ gear, and dog leashes -- all the stuff that can't quite make it into the garage because we use it daily. I have been thinking of getting some kind of outdoor armoire. The porch is covered but still gets some weather. The house is craftsman. Any suggestions?

Dear Gwen,
Storage is a perennial challenge, one we can all relate to. The solution is to add some kind of storage system to organize your outdoor tools, shoes and boots. Since your home is Craftsman or Arts and Crafts style, you will want to choose either an armoire or build a wall of shelves that are made of wood, and stained to match the exterior colour/s of your house. You’ll find authentic armoires on line. If they are too costly, buy a simple, box shape and add trim detail in keeping with the handcrafted style. Choose bronze, brass or copper hardware to mount the wood shelves; these are warm metals especially when rubbed or antiqued. Finish your armoire or shelves with a few coats of exterior varnish to protect the surfaces from the weather. Now your next challenge will be to keep the armoire or shelves tidy.

Written by Debbie Travis and Barbara Dingle. Please email decorating questions to Follow Debbie at,,