splatter painted floors

July 29, 2011

dining room at Salt Timber, black floors with off-white splatters

Recently Julie at Remodelista asked me to write a piece on the splattered painted floors we both love. Having seen them in many Cape Cod homes, I thought it would be no problem to find some lovely examples online. An entire web search later, I was quite familiar with how not to get drips on my floor while painting, but still no images on intentional splatters. So finally, I just shot pictures of my own floors at Salt Timber Cottage. (No, I didn’t name it. It was thus dubbed when I bought it.)

Salt Timber was built in 1807 (apparently using timbers from the salt works that used to be in what is now my grandparent’s yard across the street). I don’t know when the floors were first splattered painted. Though it’s quite common here on Cape Cod, I have no idea what the origins of the technique were. Perhaps our ancestors couldn’t afford rugs, but I suspect that they just didn’t want to spend all their time constantly beating the sand out of them. Whatever the reason, I can tell you from personal experience that splatter painted floors are great!

First of all they hide a multitude of sins. Suffice to say, you feel it before you can see it. I’m sometimes amazed at how much dirt I’ll bring up after a good sweeping, that I didn’t even really know was there! Second, they wear well. What’s a few scratches with your splatters? Third, they are versatile. They look good with a rug on top, or not; with painted walls or wall paper. But most importantly, splatter painted floors are simply beautiful. They’re a wonderful way to add texture and interest, while still keeping the overall look minimal and clean.

cottage entrance into dining room

Making your own splattered floor is easier than it looks. First apply the undercoat (usually in a darker color than the splatters). Once dry, the fun begins. The best tool for the splatters is a plastic fork. Simply dip the prongs in the paint. Then, from a standing position gently tap the base of the fork where it meets the handle, as you move it over the surface of the floor. This technique gives you a bit more control and spreads the drips more evenly. Use a small amount of paint for tiny dots and more for larger ones. For character you’ll also need just a few dribbles here and there. For these use even more paint and turn the fork sideways so that it actually drips off the end. Then flick your wrist or move it in a curve. Luckily the important thing is not perfection. For best results, you want random globs and clusters in myriad sizes, not a uniform spread. But be careful not to over do it. Think small galaxies in the night sky, not Jackson Pollock.

above and below: closeups of the green splattered floor in the guest bedroom
Notice the application of the splatters is slightly different. You should feel free to play with the look.

above and below: my pumpkin colored kitchen floor
The splatters are very subtle here.

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