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The Ever-Changin' Hood: 15 Minutes of Fame...

... and your old linoleum floor

Andy Warhol promised us all fifteen minutes of fame. Mine came from changing an old linoleum floor!

Well, not exactly...

As the houses on our streets are ever-changing… some with new paint and a shutter or two, others enlarged or torn down and replaced by McMansions, the inside of those homes and our homes are also ever changing.

For quite a few years, I had a run as an "on-air, guest design consultant and/or decorative artist" on HGTV (the producers never could make up their mind what I was), appearing mostly on "Your Home With Kitty Bartholomew." 

Most guest designers on HGTV are unpaid, the network argument being that the publicity is payment enough (and they’re cheap), but since I also structured and wrote my segments, I got a pittance. And I mean pittance... barely enough to buy a pair of shoes at Payless. But, it was fun and I loved doing it, especially if one of my “real job” TV/film scripts ended up in 'turn-around' (translation: rejected after a long option period). 

I liked being on location, staging the “set” for my shoot (a room or backyard at someone’s house) and mixing it up with my producer, Kitty, and the crew.  My least favorite thing was the “on-camera” part... I was nervous and often felt inarticulate (a way lot of “ummms”). But I eventually became more comfortable talking to the camera.

I even ended up getting fan mail. Really.  Fan mail! Well, actually, it was more “how do I do this?” mail. Even from guys in prison!!! Though, much to my chagrin, they never asked me for advice about decorating their cells which was sad because there are so many things one can do with a one room apartment, even a teeny, tiny one with a toilet in plain view.

But there’s more...

One afternoon during my fifteen minutes, I was sitting by my lonesome at one of those Costco “picnic” tables having a fat, juicy hot dog with everything on it, the toppings dripping through my fingers onto the table, when a family of four sat down at a neighboring table and just stared at me the whole time I was eating this delectable dog. Were they grossed out because I looked like one of those people eating an oozing sandwich in a Carl’s Jr.’s commercial? Had mustard or relish splattered on my faded blue work shirt?

Disconcerted, I kept wiping my hands and face with the wad of napkins I’d taken to assist me in this red dye culinary delight, but they continued to stare and whisper to each other every so often.

Finally, hot dog finished, hands and face clean, I went over and asked, "Can I help you?" The woman was so embarrassed, she turned away, but her husband asked me if I was on TV. My immediate reply was no. 

But he continued... "Don't you paint and decorate rooms?" It was then I realized that this family had recognized me from HGTV. He told me his wife watched Kitty’s show all the time and that they were visiting from Cleveland.  Cleveland! Ah, the power of television… even when it’s a little cable decorating program on a boutique network.

Kitty's show was eventually canceled a few years ago and along with it my fifteen minutes of fame. I don't regret those fifteen minutes, but I'm glad it never grew to a half-hour. I don't like people watching me eat.

However, because some of my segments lingered on the HGTV website, I continued to get “how do I do this?” fan mail, and the question I was asked most was “how to paint an old linoleum/vinyl floor.” On Kitty's show I had demonstrated how I had ‘freshened up’ my old kitchen black and white 12”x12” checkered, peel-and-stick vinyl floor. The same way Streisand found her fame singing and acting as Fanny Brice, I found mine crawling on my hands and knees painting an old floor, except I was paid considerably less.

First, I repainted the white tiles white, then wrote a few Dorothy Parker witticisms on a few, a line from a Beatles song on another, a music bar from “Ode To Joy” (all with just a black magic marker), some Jackson Pollock color drippings on one or two, and I even painted a 3’x2’ “old master” vegetable still life in front of the kitchen sink as a floor mat.

The “new” floor was colorful and whimsical. I had used leftover paint in the garage and my artist acrylics, so it didn’t cost a thing except the time spent with my chiropractor. Being on one’s knees hunching over a floor while painting it is not back-friendly, and I often wondered at the time if there were chiropractors in Michelangelo’s day.

Years later, when we remodeled the kitchen, we replaced the floor with beautiful hardwood, but I was so thrilled with my kitchen floor success, I turned to the old linoleum floor in our master bathroom. It went from an ugly white and blue 60’s floral pattern that the prior owner had installed over layers of other flooring to whatever design whim I had at the time (I liked to paint on floors it seems).

Over the years it became a Jackson Pollock drip floor, a western themed floor with Native American symbols here and there, an old-world Italian floor with stenciled gold ivy leaves and, until recently, “gray flannel” (translation: just a plain gray floor). The floor’s latest incarnation is just a simple golden brown color with a dark brown border to complement and contrast with the new white wainscoting and taupe-y gray walls. The only difference these days is that I no longer do it - my painter is the one on his hands and knees. I hope he has a good masseuse.

So, if you're like me, and you don’t have the desire or extra money to rip up old linoleum floors (and in our bathroom’s case, many old linoleum floors on top of each other), it only takes a can of paint and a bottle of Motrin to make them look all shiny and new again.

Here’s how I do it:

1.  After cleaning your floor's surface, paint one or two coats of water-based Bulls Eye 1-2-3 Zinser, interior/exterior Primer Sealer, Stain Killer paint (or other primer your paint store recommends). I recommend this product because I've gotten great results. It’s an incredible primer that makes the surface porous, allowing paint to adhere to it - just follow the easy directions.

2. Choose the color you want to paint the floor then go for it using any brand of indoor/outdoor water-based flat paint. Use flat paint to keep the floor porous for your design. Wait 24 hours. If you aren't painting a design on your floor, any good oil or water-based deck/cement paint will work as well.

3. Paint your design or picture onto the floor. Some simple ways to create a design are with stencils, stencil stamps, dripping different color paints on the floor a la Jackson Pollock, have the kids do drawings (or hand and footprints), stamp or print your favorite sayings or poems, etc. I use my artist water-based acrylic paint, but if you have old indoor and/or outdoor water-based paint you want to use up, by all means. I also use permanent pens.

4. After the design is dry (I’d wait another 24 hours), you need to seal it with polyurethane or varathane. I prefer Varathane Elite Diamond Finish as it is water-based, doesn’t really smell, doesn’t yellow and dries fast. Do at least 3 to 4 coats initially, then once a year or so, touch it up with another coat. Whether you choose a satin, semi-gloss or high-gloss finish doesn’t matter.

Note:  If you use oil-based paint, you must continue to use oil-based paint for you design and chose a polyurethane or varathane that can be used over oil-based paint.

And two little hints... always work toward a doorway (so you can get out of the room) and if your floor is big or you need to use it daily like I did my kitchen, do a section at a time, if possible.

The most important thing is to use your imagination and have fun.

You friends will be floored.

Richard Camp January 12, 2013 at 08:52 PM
Magic underfoot.
Irene DeBlasio January 13, 2013 at 12:14 AM
@IlonaSaari Another masterful job! The writing, the floor, the whole nine yards! I especially enjoyed your scene -- eating at Costco. Priceless. You done good!
Marcia Carroll January 13, 2013 at 12:54 PM
Loved this piece! Laughed and learned Wonderful writing
bob January 13, 2013 at 01:01 PM
Loved those floors..... love the gray flannel....
Ilona Saari January 13, 2013 at 04:34 PM
Thanks, guys... Now if anyone out there needs there old floor painted... ;o)
Kathryn Wallack January 16, 2013 at 04:26 PM
the floors looked great!!! Good to know.

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