The work that I do goes by many different names – faux finishing, decorative painting, specialty painting, precision staining… OK, I just added that last one to most accurately describe the checkerboard floor I did in Boston!
I have done work on floors before, but this one taxed my math skills more than most. Working with one of my interior design partners, the goal was to stain a diamond-shaped “checkerboard” pattern into the entryway floor of a condo that is being completely remodeled. When we first met at the condo, the designer and I bounced around ideas using different sized diamonds and tried to roughly map things out to see what would look best. Based on these conversations, we went with a 12” square diamond to get a full 3 shapes across the entry hall with enough room for a border on both sides. To go with her design themes and create a bold impact with the floor, the designer chose to use a black stain. As usual, my first step was to do a test board to show the designer and the client what the color would look like.
With the color approved, I began my thought process on how I was going to design this floor. To do the loose planning step, I decided to cut a number of 12” square templates from poster board. Anticipating the need for some problem-solving, I also made sure to have all of my measuring and cutting tools at the ready!
Once I was on-site to start the job, the first step was to start laying out my templates to collaborate with the designer. We knew we wanted the main entry hall to have the pattern centered with 3 diamonds across – so that step was easy. From there, I focused on the distance from the front door to the end of the hall – which amazingly fit perfectly with full diamond shapes from one end to the other!
Knowing this, we let the rest of the pattern fall in line with the entry pattern, which we knew would end up with the side halls having a less symmetrical look. With these “big” decisions made, I was on to the specifics of how to make this all happen. The first challenge was that the hallway was not square. The floorboards were straight to the right wall, but the left wall angled in about ¾ of an inch from the door to the far corner. Since the pattern needed to be aligned, we chose to use the floorboards as our guide. Aligning with the floorboards meant the left side border would get gradually smaller - so we decided to use a thin border that would abut the diamonds and leave between 2 and 2 3/4 inches between the wall and the border.
The next decision was how to handle the doorways, which were recessed from the walls. To make the final design as clean as possible, we decided to treat these transitions as if the design was a rug – resulting in sharp, straight ends to the pattern.
Phew – now with all the decisions made, I was on to actually mapping it all out! The fist step here was to draw everything out in pencil. Below are some “before” pictures of the floor – but if you look closely, you can see my pencil lines. To do this, I first measured the center line of the entry hall (again, using the floor boards to determine “center”) and drew out the middle row of diamonds from the front door to the back wall. This then became my guide for everything else – as I measured and drew all other diamonds to create a consistent pattern out from this center row.
With the pattern drawn, I was on to taping everything off in order to create sharp lines with the stain. While doing this, it was important to constantly recalibrate what was going to be black and what was going to be “white”! The taping itself needed to be very sharp and precise, so I used some specialty blades and a LOT of patience. You can see the tape mapped out here.
Before I started staining, I also marked the “white” diamond with an additional tape line to make absolutely certain I didn’t put any stain in the wrong places! You can see that in this shot.
With this done, now I was on to the staining! I am always very cautious to avoid any drips, but with black stain on a light floor, this was absolutely essential. I put my stain can in a larger bucket and put all of it on a tripled-up drop cloth that I pulled right up to the edge of what I was staining. I also made a conscious effort to stop before I stained each shape to make sure I was staining the right thing. I am thrilled to report that not a single drop of stain was out of place!!
As I always do, I started my staining in the least conspicuous spot and pulled up the tape to make sure my prep all worked correctly before moving on. Once I determined that the plan all worked (!), I was on to staining the rest of the 52 diamonds!!
The best part was when the designer and contractor came and were absolutely enthusiastic about the result. Patience and math paid off.
Here are shote of the final result (before the floor is polyurethaned). Enjoy!