I’ve taken on the task of peeling back layers of renovation and reversing the scars of more than a century of use and abuse, to put this home back together in a way that is respectful to its history and its original style. However, the home can be a do-it-yourself minefield, and this front parlor Victorian flooring has turned into just that.
Here’s my Victorian Italianate dilemma of the week. I’ve been working on refinishing the flooring in the front parlor, and I hate the way the hues of the original plank flooring fail to combine with the ornate border that wraps around the room. It’s a mess of contrasting colors that makes my eyes hurt. If you have any experience dealing with flooring issues involving old Victorian homes, I would greatly appreciate your input.
Now, having said that I’m dissatisfied with the flooring, I need to take a deep breath, step back, and recognize that I’ve come a long way with the flooring. Here’s what this bad boy used to look like:
The plank flooring is what has turned into a nightmare. It covers the whole room and runs underneath the ornate border. Over the years, it has been covered with shellac, then paint and/or varnish, then plywood, and then linoleum. I’ve ripped up everything on top of it, removed all of the nails, and completed a month-long process of sanding and sanding and sanding. The gunk is gone, but it has exposed a series of other problems with the original wood.
In a nutshell, I hate the way the exposed plank flooring looks. When I was sanding, it looked like it was basically the same wood or about the same color as the lighter wood in the border, or at least complementary enough to the border that I could put a polyurethane finish on the whole thing and it would all blend in nicely together.
However, when I tested the planks with polyurethane, they become much redder and darker than when dry. Here’s what the floor looks like when wet, which is close to what it will look like when coated with polyurethane, based on the patch test.
When the wood is dry it is a lighter color than the surrounding border (see photos above). I like that look because then the border stands out and is emphasized. However, with just a polyurethane finish, the planks take on this redder, heavier look, and to me that is too much competition for attention, and the border just gets lost.
I have tested a couple of patches of the planks with different stains, but nothing seems to be a great match with the border. The best one so far has been Provincial from Zar. However, I’m not thrilled with it. It just is the least of a mismatch with the surrounding border.
Adding insult to injury, the planks are fairly soft, so I have to be careful what I put on them while this discussion is going on, because the wood scratches easily.
I’m thinking that I should put a light-colored stain on the planks, such as Zar’s Honey Maple or Country White. That would allow the border to pop, and perhaps give a greater chance of a match between the finished planks and the surrounding border, much like the pictures above of the planks when dry.
Any thoughts? Has anyone out there dealt with this problem? If so, any advice would be greatly appreciated!
[NOTE! As of 12-16-09, the front parlor flooring is finished! Read the update here!]