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Walking on history

March 18, 2014

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.

strip of carpet removed and rolled up

Eric quickly took it down to the blue-backed carpet pad.

blue carpet pad exposed

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”!

green and gray linoleum rug

Isn’t it fabulous?? I am such a sucker for acanthus leaves.

close up of linoleum rug

It takes a certain type of person to appreciate this funky relic … and I am that type of person. Wanna see more?

more linoleum rug

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.

linoleum rug peeled back to expose floor

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.

dark floor makes the room look gloomy original fir floor

We’ll refinish the wood in a lighter shade that will match the living room and dining room floor.

bedromm floor is darker than dining room

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!!

bedroom lino carpet with rose pattern

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13 Comments
  1. D’Arcy,
    That room will be great when its finished. I too loved the acanthus leaf flooring…too bad it wasn’t a wallpaper, I could envision a bathroom adorned with it’s beauty. The colors were lovely. As you were taking us step-by-step through the process of getting rid of the carpet, etc. I was waiting for the other shoe to drop on the carpet being glued down. Lucky you. When we removed the black tile that was in our entry when we bought the house, it took what seemed like forever due to the way the tiles were “glued” down to the concrete foundation.
    I’m happy to hear your feeling much better. Mr. B. had some kind of cold like infection that just didn’t want to go away. At last he’s better too.
    xo,
    Karen

    • Thanks, Karen. Boy, there have been some bad bugs circulating this winter. Glad to turn the corner to spring!
      I will have to learn to live without the lino rug … regrets will get me nowhere! Have to keep moving forward! 🙂

  2. A very compelling story, D’Arcy, and thankfully it is not a complete loss – you have a piece to cherish! Those acanthus pictures are lovely. Does the bedroom have the same pattern?

    • The bedroom has a busy rose print–the last photo on the blog. I kinda wish I hadn’t read about the felt-base rugs … made me feel worse! Ah, well … live and learn …

      • I understand that sentiment, but at least you own it free and clear, now!

  3. Laura S permalink

    I loved that lineoleum and I’m sure it was a treasure. But you saved a piece, and that’s awesome.

  4. Wow…that was really interesting. I thought the pattern was beautiful but definitely think a revamp is in order.

  5. I am glad to hear that you are feeling better! I liked the old felt-base carpet too, but I can understand why it had to go.

    • Thanks, Jessica! It took a while before I quit kicking myself about the felt-base … but it’s gone. I grieved and I have moved on.

  6. First visit here … found you via a comment that you left on another blog (can’t remember which one). Glad to be here and I have thoroughly enjoyed scrolling and reading this morning. Hearing and seeing other people’s renovation stories makes me feel as if there should be some sort of fraternal renovation brotherhood association. Blogging is sort of like that, I guess. Anyway, I have added your URL to my blogroll so I can keep up with you on a regular basis. Very pleased to ‘meet’ you. (Oh, when you have a second, I would love to hear more about the roses in your yard. Historic roses are what I do, and I am very interested in seeing yours.)

    • Hi Connie–thanks for stopping by! I have spent this evening looking through your wonderful blog. Your house is so beautiful, and I love the story of your barn restoration. I see we are both cat-and-dog lovers as well as historic house renovators! (My mom had a greyhound.)

      I wish I could tell you more about my roses–I don’t know their names … but I promise to write a post about our gardens later this spring, and I’ll include photos.

      Great to meet you! I’m following your blog now! –D’

  7. I’m late to read this post but still can appreciate the lovely Lino!!! I’m pleased to hear that you decided to keep a piece of it. I’ve also saved some from our house. What I’ll for with it is anyone’s guess.

    • Thanks! We finally got it in a frame and I’ll show it soon in the blog! It makes great art!

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