Walking on history
While I was still lying around sick and useless (I have fully recovered), Eric got busy in the spare room. Occasionally I would shuffle past the door, and each time I did, the room had a different appearance and quality of light depending on what kind of flooring surface had been exposed.
It’s easy to rip carpeting out. I did the entire living room, dining room, and foyer by myself in 2004. Just slice and roll, and tape it up. Schlep it out to the garage until it goes to the dump. I have to admit, though, it’s even easier when someone else does it.
Eric quickly took it down to the blue-backed carpet pad.
Anyone who has ripped out old carpet knows that it’s a gross job. Carpet holds a tremendous amount of dirt and nastiness, and much of that dirt is actually sloughed-off human skin (and in our house, pet dander). YUCK. So if you’re ripping out carpet, for heaven’s sake, wear a mask!!
After pulling a million staples and the tack strips from the perimeter of the room, Eric escorted the pad to the garage. And there it was, just like I remembered it—the green and gray linoleum “rug”!
Isn’t it fabulous?? I am such a sucker for acanthus leaves.
It takes a certain type of person to appreciate this funky relic … and I am that type of person. Wanna see more?
Are you dizzy yet? As much as I loved it, it’s not the look I envision for our new office/library/whatever room. It had to come out … but we were worried that it was stuck to the floor with mastic. If that were the case, scraping it off could ruin the fir floor. Eric peeled back a corner … and just kept peeling. It had never been glued down. How often does that happen? Soon the carpet, pad, and lino rug had been disposed of at the local waste transfer station. I honestly mourned the lino rug, but Eric assured me it was cracked and torn in places, and extremely brittle. But, he saved me a big swatch for my vintage linoleum collection.
The original fir flooring was finally exposed to the light of day for the first time in maybe 70 years. I wish I could create a scratch-and-sniff spot so you could experience the smell of this 100-year-old floor. NOT GOOD. Eric scrubbed it with vinegar and water and we opened the window and closed the doors, but the rank mustiness pervaded the house for a few days. (It’s much better now.) The wood is in great condition, although the finish is worn and scratched in places and quite dark, which makes the room look gloomy. This late-afternoon photo captures old-house gloom perfectly.
We’ll refinish the wood in a lighter shade that will match the living room and dining room floor.
As glad as I was to see our wood floor at last, I couldn’t get that linoleum rug off my mind. I gazed at photos like I was mourning an old friend’s demise. I pined for it. In the photo of the peeled-back rug, above, you can see “Armstrong” stamped on the back. But wait–linoleum always has a burlap backing. This backing is reddish, yet it’s obviously a linoleum-like product (definitely way too old to be vinyl). When we got home from the transfer station, I did some internet sleuthing. Here’s what I learned (from an OldHouse Online article by Jane Powell):
Linoleum has been around since the mid-1800s, but back in the 1910s, Congoleum invented a cheaper competitor. Instead of linseed oil, this product was made from asphalt-impregnated felt, and was known generically as felt-base. Patterns were printed on the surface and it looked just like linoleum. The back was coated with iron oxide, which accounts for the red color. Armstrong began making their version of felt-base in 1916. Felt-base rugs were available from Armstrong and other companies into the 1950s. Judging by the pattern, I think this one may have been from the 40s.
Powell says, “These are pieces of history and shouldn’t just be tossed into the trash.” … Uh-oh. Did we screw up?
“An old linoleum or felt-base rug is worth appreciating because it is unlikely this product will ever be made again. The few companies now producing real linoleum don’t offer patterns, let alone rugs, and no one makes felt-base flooring anymore. So if you have a linoleum rug, treasure it, even if your friends don’t understand.”
Well … damn. I feel sad that my rug is biodegrading in a landfill, even though I know the room will look better without it. I both regret that we didn’t keep our rare piece of history and look forward to creating a cleaner, brighter space. What can I say … except that the felt-base rug in our bedroom is definitely here to stay!!