FORGET WALL STENCILS – WE’RE HITTING THE FLOOR

Some friends of my family have this marvellous house with bright frescoed walls, interesting split levels and a colourful corridor that circularly runs throughout the house (the owner in an architect). I have always loved it and often fantasised about having a house like that. Compared to it, our house looks pretty normal. But it is our new playground and I think I’m slowly getting more and more adventurous.

As part of our perpetual renovations, my boyfriend and I recently had a whole new floor to think about. We have slept in our attic for over two years on a makeshift chipboard floor and a month ago we finally decided we had had enough. I have always wanted to wake up to white painted floor boards, Scandinavian style, but we also liked the idea of a floor stencil, but not everywhere, maybe just in a corner, like a naughty afterthought.

Have you ever wondered how difficult it is to stencil your floor?

We just discovered it is actually pretty easy, as long as you are armed with a bagful of patience and a few days off, as it’s worth doing it carefully to get better results. And, we just experimented with a method which seem to cut the normal process by half the time.

Here is how to start from scratch like we did:

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1. To save on costs, buy good but cheap new pine floor boards – it really doesn’t matter which colour they are, as you are going to paint them. My boyfriend and two carpenters spent two days laying it down – nail-gun and all – and whenever I walked into our attic, I couldn’t help thinking that they were all getting a bit high on the gas.

2. Fill all major, uncomfortable, or ugly holes and make sure you treat all knots with a knotting solution, to stop them from seeping.

3. Decide on your stencil and the area you want to decorate. Draw a design on a program such as Adobe Illustrator, send it to a vinyl printer and order your stickers (here’s the trick!)

4. Just before painting, give the areas you are going to stencil two or three coats of floorwood oil. If you are stencilling only a section, like we did, corner it off just before painting and then give your floor a coat of white primer and then two of floor paint.

5. While the paint dries, draw on the floor a few pencil lines to help you lay down your design and apply the vinyl stickers, making sure they are completely flat.

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6. When all the stickers are laid, apply over the whole design a coat of primer and two of floor paint, like you did for the rest of the room.

7. Let it dry properly and then carefully peel off all the stickers one by one, picking up the corners with a sharp blade. The blade is also useful for cleaning up the edges where the paint has bled a little.

8. At the end, you might need to retouch a few corners and lines, especially along the gaps between the floor boards.

Et voilà!

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A few small tips:

  • I have done some research into eco-friendly floor paint, and I was quite disappointed. The best one I found was Earthborn, but they were very honest and strongly advised me against using their paint on the floor – they said it would chip easily, which is something you don’t want from your new floor. But if you are painting anything else, here is a good guide to more eco-friendly paints. We finally settled with Farrow and Ball’s floor paint, which is very low on harmful VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds).
  • When oiling your floor, make sure you use a quick-drying hard waxoil, or you’ll wait forever before the paint can be applied – we used eco-friendly Blanchon Original Wood Environment, Ultra Matt.
  • If your design is modular, it’s easier to improvise as you are laying it down (Even afterwards, when it was all painted, we made a few changes by covering up a few more triangles). A modular design also helps reduce the vinyl costs, because you can group all the shapes closer together before sending them to print.
  • Beware of hair, dust or dirt! They create bubbles under the stickers and then you get annoying loose edges.
  • If your stickers are all together in a big roll, cut it out in smaller chunks; it’ll be easier to handle.
  • Be careful when you pull the vinyl to smooth it, as by pulling too much you might distort the shapes.
  • If you stencil on floorboards, the vinyl will naturally get slightly distorted by the gaps in the boards, so don’t expect it to be perfect and choose a pattern which you can alter slightly as you go along.
  • The paint might seep through a little, so again, don’t expect it to be a perfect thing.
  • And finally: this process is a killer for the back, so take some breaks while you do it.

Photography: Dee Ramadan
Styling: Margherita Poggiali

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