Ideas for Painting or Stenciling on Old Wood Floors

By Jan Czech

Painted and stenciled wood floors date back centuries to when traveling artists embellished the floors in early American colonists’ homes with primitive freehand drawings and more complex stenciled designs. Today, painted wood floors are a staple in country-style homes. Use painting and stenciling techniques to give your home folk-art charm, prepping the surfaces first with an oscillating sanding tool so your "canvas" is smooth and ready to absorb paint.

Faux Floor Coverings

Forgo a traditional carpet runner on the stairs. Paint the stairs a solid color that complements the rest of the décor. When the paint dries, use a stencil to embellish each step. The stencil can be as primitive or intricate as you desire. Apply the same principle to faux hall runners. Or, if you dare, paint on a freehand pattern. Floor cloths, a type of area rug made from canvas and painted or stenciled, were often found in colonial homes. A substitute is to fool the eye with a painted or stenciled one placed in a spot where an area rug would go.


One of the most iconic of painted floor patterns is the checkerboard. This geometric design can grace any room in the house, from the traditional black-and-white checkerboard often found in foyers to a country red, green or blue in a kitchen or bedroom. Originally conceived as an inexpensive way to copy more expensive flooring materials like marble, painted checkerboard floors have become timeless. You can apply this design to wood floors with a stencil or by separating the floor’s expanse into squares and painting them freehand.


Itinerant painters during the early colonial period often painted intricate scenes on walls in place of more expensive wallpaper. They also applied their art to floors as a substitute for carpeting, which, for many families, was out of reach. Follow their lead and use your imagination to stencil or paint scenes on an expanse of wood floor that isn’t hidden by furniture, like in a large foyer. Think about a scene that has some special meaning to your or your family or incorporate your name and a painting of your home and surrounding grounds.


Wood floors in well-to-do homes of the colonial era through the Victorian age were often bordered in geometric designs of inlaid wood, darker than the floor itself. This process was expensive, but lower-income households could achieve much the same look with painted and stenciled borders. Let your imagination go and use stencils or freehand designs to highlight the space bordering a large area rug, or simply apply a border to a naturally finished or painted floor.

© Demand Media 2011