When we last left off, my kitchen it looked like this:
Freshly painted everything, no more upper cabinets, new light fixtures, hood fan, window covering, sink, faucet, countertops, hardware, appliances — the kitchen has been worked over in the past two years, for sure.
What hasn’t changed in 25 years is the linoleum sheet floor in here. The opportunity to refloor was way back in 2017 — before we replaced our appliances or our baseboards. At that time, reflooring seemed really stressful, the straw that would break Pierre’s reluctantly renovating back, and I convinced myself that we didn’t need to change everything in the house, that probably wouldn’t even notice the linoleum once we’d made all the other changes that we planned to make. And didn’t it even have a bit of a retro flavour to it?
Fast forward to fall 2018, when the countertops, sink and faucet went in, and yep — do you still notice that linoleum floor? Because I sure did. And retro was a bit of a stretch. It just looked old.
I tried covering it with a big rug, which only lasted a few days before being moved to Frankie’s room. (The only photo I have seems to be this one on Instagram.)
I looked into all manner of “stick on” tiles that could go right overtop of the linoleum, but the cost per square foot seemed prohibitive and I knew nothing short of truly and properly replacing the linoleum sheet would ever be a “love” situation.
I investigated whether our original fir hardwood floors are underneath the linoleum — they are! — but the inconvenience of refinishing them had us right back where we started — just not a project we’re willing to endure with two young kids and a cat and nowhere to “move out” to.
As a side note to that option, while I love hardwood floors in a kitchen (especially hundred-year-old ones that match the rest of the flooring in the house), I think hardwood floors would require painting all the oak cabinets — this after we’d gone to great lengths to love our cabinets as-is — and this would either be a great expense or a great inconvenience or, probably because this is this house, both.
Instead of painting the cabinets, I decided to paint the floor instead — I’d had great success in the bathroom recently — and was in talks with Urban Walls for a custom colourway of their large brush strokes pattern. Similar to the irregular dots pattern chosen to match our shower curtain, I thought the large brush strokes would play well with our art from Minted in the kitchen.
For about $50 plus the cost of the decals, they were going to create a custom colour pack for me — something that included mint green, obviously. But before I’d decided on colours, I got a coat of primer and two coats of white porch paint on the floor underneath the stove, only to realize that the decals weren’t going to work like they had in the bathroom, as you could still see the faux grout lines of the linoleum sheet under three coats of paint. I had envisioned the decals looking like their own sheet tile and having the old tile pattern visible underneath wasn’t really part of that vision.
Since I had started with the area underneath the stove, I figured I could experiment with a few things — and first up was painting the faux grout lines black with an old eyeshadow brush. I had lots of Tricorn Black enamel paint leftover from painting the inset trim for our stained glass windows so that’s what I used.
I sent a photo to Pierre and he agreed it looked pretty good, albeit with a bit of a DIY flavour to it, so the black crept onto the visible part of the floor, got three coats of polycrylic as a sealant and the stove got pushed back into place.
I made a plan to tackle the kitchen floor in small sections so that our kitchen was never in too much disarray. After the stove area, I did the landing at the top of our basement stairs. This is where we keep Archie’s litter and his cat door has a cover so that we can close him in the basement or keep him on the main floor as needed. Once the landing was done, we’d be able to keep him in the basement while we had wet paint in other parts of the kitchen. Turns out he has developed a healthy fear of painter’s tape and never once put a paw on the kitchen floor while it was drying.
Third, we moved the fridge out of its cubby and I painted under the fridge.
At which point I wondered if what actually looked a lot better than the full square/diamond patterned grout lines was just the plain squares. The squares were able to be painted using tape — nice crisp lines — whereas the diamonds had to be done by hand. They diamonds looked pretty good in a photo, but in person looked sort of sloppy. Plus, my eyeshadow brush was not a real paintbrush and that showed in the application. So, I decided to redo the area under the stove and at the top of the basement stairs before moving on to the rest of the kitchen floor.
I sanded. I re-primed. I repainted. I re-taped. I redid the grout lines. I redid the polycrylic top coats. My pregnancy became full-term.
Luckily the time it took to redo these areas was more than made up for in the overall time it would take to complete the floors, now that the planned grout lines were just straight squares. Plus, I was really liking how the square pattern mimicked squares all over our house, like in the art in our bathroom, design of our stained glass windows and the grilles on our wood windows.
One of the reasons I had decided we could keep the linoleum, aside from it being a pain in the ass to replace flooring in high-traffic rooms, was because I really didn’t know what I would like so much better so as to make replacing the flooring worth it in terms of expense and hassle. What sort of floor tile suits a kitchen with oak cabinets, quartz countertops and white appliances in a 1913 craftsman bungalow? In painting on these white square “tiles” with black “grout lines” I feel like I have an answer to that question; it’s a great way to test this look out and maybe, down the road, we’ll lay real tile in this style.
But let’s get back to it:
I primed and painted the remainder of the kitchen floor in one go and then tackled the remaining “grout” over a full week, finishing with two coats of the polycrylic. The polycrylic will help protect the floor from dirt and food spills and allow me to treat the floor normally in terms of cleaning, etc. It darkened the floor a little bit, but is so much easier to sweep and wet Swiffer.
This whole project took a little over a month, working a little bit each day during Frankie’s quiet time or after she’d gone to bed for the night. The actual painting time wasn’t very intensive, but between the primer, floor paint, taping, two coats on the grout lines going in each direction, touch-ups where the grout looked a little fuzzy and two coats of polycrylic, there were a lot of coats to get done as well as a lot of drying time, all the while trying to keep our kitchen at least semi-functional at all times.
The hardest part was keeping the kitchen floors as clean as possible over that whole month-long time period and in between all the coats of paint. Alas, there’s definitely little hairs, crumbs and particles of cat litter sealed into these floors! But for the time, money and effort, I really like the end result. I’m not quite as happy with it as I would be with, say, original fir or vintage tiles — it’s just painted linoleum, after all — but I like it a whole lot better than the beige diamonds and think the colours and pattern suit the house.
As a final, how-am-I-still-pregnant step I decided to paint our toe kicks a fun colour, Wisteria by Sherwin Williams, a perfect match for that little triangle of lilac in our big print. The toe kicks, along with our crown moulding, was oak but some bout of pregnancy hysteria (it’s hard to pin down exactly which bout it was) made me prime and paint it all white. I was at the height of hating our tan linoleum floor and experimenting with how easy it would be to prime and paint our cabinetry and mapping out a plan for refinishing our fir hardwood floors. The result was not exactly bad, but it was not exactly better either. The lilac improves the toe kicks, at least.
There’s a little bit of light purple, pink, mint green, black and an orange-y colour that suits the cabinets in this rag rug (sort of the can-do-no-wrongness of a rag rug) that looks better in person than it does in photographs, though I may be on the lookout for a rug with a little more purple in it as well as other colourful kitchen accessories to help tie things together. I’ve become a little obsessed with enamelled cast iron cookware and have started scooping it up at thrift shops, specifically the Danish brand Copco, replacing totally serviceable (but aesthetically boring) pots and pans. We can also order additional coloured panels for our hood fan, purple being an option. So the kitchen might see some additional tweaks in the coming months, but I’m going to go ahead and call it done.