One of the biggest complaints, and hardest things to change, about a rental kitchen is the floor. When you own a kitchen you can put down new tile or wood floors — but even then you may not want to for reasons of cost. So, many of us are stuck with ugly, peeling linoleum tile, but here's one great option for renters and budget owners alike: Canvas floor cloths. Floor cloths (or floorcloths) are a rather antique form of floor covering. They were in vogue in 18th century England, where they were painted with patterns that were either artful or imitated wood or stone. Early American colonists also developed their own art and patterns, as did other design movements like Arts and Crafts and Prairie. They are freshly back in style right now, partly as a lost craft enjoying a renaissance, and partly as a practical way to beautify a room.
These cloths are suitable for use in the kitchen, since they are meant to be placed on a hard surface like tile or wood (not carpet), and they can be swept and mopped. A little wax, applied once a year or so, helps keep them protected.
Because of floor cloths' roots in primitive and early American design, many of the floor cloth sources we've found focus on country motifs and bright primary colors. These aren't particularly in our style, but there are some sources that also carry Arts and Crafts cloths, and others that could suit a modern kitchen.
The one drawback to these hand-painted cloths is that they tend to be quite expensive — you could easily pay $1000-$2000 for a cloth to cover your kitchen floor. The flip side to that, however, is that they are relatively easy to make yourself. You treat an inexpensive canvas drop cloth with waterproofing oil, or shellac, and then paint it. The finished cloth is varnished and sealed.
Of course, the success of a homemade floor cloth would then depend on your own artistic ability! But we could imagine using simple stencils for a checkered pattern, or painting diagonal stripes for a chevron look. You could even cut a custom cloth to fit your floor and corners.
• Floor cloth instructions: Creating a Floor Cloth --- Four Ways at Rugmaker's Homestead
• Make Your Own Floor Cloth at HGTV
• Another good overview of floorcloths and their care at Painter Girl
• Canvasworks Prepared Floor Cloths - Shrunk, primed and hemmed floorcloths.
Do you have floor cloths in your home? Have you ever tried to make one?
Related: Color Under Your Feet: A Gallery of Painted Kitchen Floors