Sunday, July 03, 2011

Floors I Have Known

Floors I Have Known

My husband just installed a beautiful new bamboo floor in our basement room. Who knew we would ever have floors made out of bamboo? When I was growing up, bamboo was used for fishing poles. Later I learned it was an invasive species. Now they are making floors out of it. Now if they could just find a similar use for kudzu, the scourge of the South.

We also re-carpeted the basement stairs in a commercial grade, heavy duty carpet that is called “Expresso” and is dark brownish, with lots of colors if you look closely. I am hoping it will outlast me. For sure it won’t show dirt or coffee spills.

All of this got me thinking about the floors I have known in my life. For sure there have been changes.

The floors in the house I grew up in had hardwood floors and every so often my mother and grandmother would paste wax them. What a wonderful smell! They waxed the floor and I played” train” with the dining room chairs all lined up.
The kitchen floor in that house was linoleum. They cleaned it with a mop and disinfectant. Once they put in a new floor and it was great – all fresh and clean!
I still remember the bathroom floor. It was little octagonal white tiles. Between the cleaning lady, my mother, and my grandmother the floor was always sparkling. Of course, we only had the one bathroom, but at the time there was nothing odd about that. People out in the country still had outhouses.
We had rugs in the living and rooms and throw rugs in the bedrooms – all over hardwood floors. My grandmother loved her canister vacuum cleaner. I got the impression that we were pretty lucky to have such a fine vacuum cleaner, but that didn’t stop me from hating the noise it made. (I still HATE the noise a vacuum cleaner makes.)

The front porch was made of wood that was painted bluish gray. Everyone seemed to have front porches that color—though I am not sure why. It was just the way it was.

In 1958 we moved to a new house. My mother insisted on hardwood floors everywhere except the kitchen (nobody ever did that back then), bathrooms (we had TWO), the basement. My mother used rugs in the bedrooms similar to what we had in the other house, and big oval rag rug in the family room. So far, this was all pretty normal and not a surprise to my 13 year old mind.
To my father’s amazement, my mother had the living room and dining room floors covered with smooth beige flat wall-to-wall carpet. Apparently at that time it was very cool to have wall-to-wall carpet. But homemakers of the day were wise enough to realize that at some point wall-to-wall would go out of style, so hardwood underneath was a necessity!
Sure enough, after 10 years later, my mother ripped up the wall to wall carpet in the living and dining rooms, touched up the hardwood floors, and bought Karastan “oriental” rugs! Those rugs were beautiful and still are – in my living room, dining room and hall.

A couple of years after moving in, my father built a “rumpus room” in the basement. Since I was a teenager, it was expected that I would soon want to be hosting my own “rumpuses.” I never figured out what a “rumpus” really was and the closest I came to it was a slumber party where we played Elvis’ GI Blues all night. But, for sure, we had the right floor for any “rumpus” that might occur. We bought square floor tile (oh my, I think they were asbestos) and one afternoon we installed them. They were beige with multi-colored speckles and we put them down onto the concrete with black gooey stuff. My father cut the “hard ones” with a blow torch, while my mother and I did the easy ones. That was one durable floor! It was still there 30 years later when we sold the house. I am sure, however, the new owners covered over it with something else. I can’t imagine anyone ever getting it up!

When I went to college in 1964 we had dark colored tile floors in our dorm rooms. We had to sweep them, but the cleaning crew mopped them – I think between quarters when we weren’t there! The major problem we needed to deal with was “dust bunnies.” Our rooms were inspected weekly and you could get in trouble for having “dust bunnies. “ No doubt the boys (who were even allowed of live off campus) were not subject to such scrutiny.

In graduate school. I had a couple of apartments and they had hardwood floors , except for the kitchens and bathrooms. When my roommate and I moved into one apartment in summer of 1968 we thought we had a gray floor. With the help of boyfriends, we cleaned it and discovered it was really yellow. In those years, I developed a profound dislike for linoleum.

After we got married, in 1969, our first apartment had ubiquitous beige carpet and linoleum in the kitchen. It was totally uninspiring, but so was the rest of the apartment.

A few months later we moved to brand new apartment. Much to our pleasure, it had harvest gold shag carpet (our other option was avocado)and the kitchen linoleum and bathroom had nice white vinyl tile. We were SO stylish and fashionable.

In 1971, we moved to southern California. We bought a house with avocado shag carpet in the living room, commercial grade carpet in the family room, and beige tufted carpet in the bedrooms. The entrance hall had dark brown vinyl and the kitchen had gray with little blue speckles. The carpets were OK, but the kitchen, entrance hall and bathrooms were a major challenge to clean. I had to use floor stripper – awful stuff. I remember buying a floor cleaning machine that scrubbed the floor and sucked up the water.

My next door neighbor introduced me to Solarian and I had to have it. In short order, we did the bathrooms and kitchen in Solarian and this saved me hours every week. All I had to do was clean it with a damp mop.

When we moved to Maryland in 1976 we bought a house that “needed work.” One place where the house definitely needed work was the floors. The hardwood floors had been stained dark brown and they looked terrible and we had the same green shag carpet in the living room as in the house in California. A few years later, we ripped it out and replaced it with a soft green soft carpet – what an improvement! By the mid-80s I could not STAND shag carpet OR avocado.

The whole time we lived in that house, we struggled with the floors. We covered over most the dark stained hardwood with wall-to-wall (the cheapest solution on a budget) carpet and we put down hardwood parquet floors in the entrance hall and a wonderful new addition. We opted for Solarian in the kitchen and were placed the 60s style tile in one of the bathrooms with random sizes of ceramic tile.

When we built our new house in 1992, we knew exactly what we wanted. The living room, dining room and entrance hall got hardwood and my mother’s Karastan rugs. We bought a matching Karastan runner for the stairs. The kitchen is hardwood (the best kitchen floor yet) and I have commercial carpet in my first floor office. The upstairs hallway is hardwood and the bedrooms have wall-to-wall. All four bathrooms have wonderful textured ceramic tile. My husband’s office and laundry room have wear like iron sheet vinyl.

In this house, installed a redwood “lift-up” floor in the basement room with our hot tub. Underneath the redwood, there is a concrete floor with a drain. Fortunately, we have never needed it!

So here we are today, living with floor choices we made ourselves based on decades of living with and scrubbing floors mostly selected by others. Come to think about it, we are pretty lucky! And I have a cleaning lady who LOVES to clean floors. Life really IS good!