A painted floor might seem old-fashioned, but designers are revisiting the throwback decorating move, which is both economical (just paint over what’s already there) and totally transformative to a space. In a London flat for two 20-somethings, AD100 interior designer Beata Heuman brightened things up by coating dark wood floors in an electrifying raspberry hue, which, as her senior designer Caroline Barker explained, “sounds like a really bold choice but actually ties everything together and feels quite calming.”
Meanwhile, Will Cooper of the AD100 firm ASH NYC is fond of covering floors with white epoxy paint, as he did in a family home in Tribeca and his own petite Manhattan pad. And who can forget the emerald green and sunflower yellow floors in Brock Forsblom’s minimalist color-blocked New York apartment, which ran in New York magazine? AD100 designers Rodman Primack and Rudy Weissenberg used a similar jewel-toned green on the floors of their Mexico City home.
Of course, decorators have been painting floors for decades. Centuries even. Bunny Mellon, the legendary gardener and philanthropist, famously commissioned interior decorator and painter Paul Leonard to create imitation inlaid marble floors in her New York City town house. They were modeled after the Swedish imitation of the Italian vogue: “Marble was too expensive and too cold underfoot, so the practical Swedes did a painted checkerboard in imitation of marble,” Leonard once told AD. Meanwhile, the great decorator Mario Buatta conjured a veritable pattern book of floors over the course of his career. Nearly all of them were executed, for the past quarter century, by decorative painter Haleh Atabeigi, who swears that a painted floor “somehow always makes your room bigger.”
Years of experience have armed her with a wealth of do’s and do nots. Rule number one? “Once you’ve decided on the design, you can’t start worrying about the furniture,” she advises. Still, there are a few rules of thumb: “Some spaces lend themselves better to a central design,” she explains. “Spaces that don’t have any furniture—entryways and such. For a room that has a lot of stuff, an overall design and definitely a border makes sense.”