Armstrong 5352 Embossed Inlaid Linoleum – the most popular resilient floor ever?

armstrong 5352A short pause today, to reflect upon and ogle the linoleum pattern that we believe was The Single Most Popular resilient floor pattern in midcentury American houses: Armstrong No. 5352. So far in my research, I have found No. 5352 in Armstrong catalogs as early as 1935 and reader Scott says that it was still being sold at Sears in the mid-1990s! That is quite a run!

Originally, Armstrong No. 5352 was available as real-deal “Embossed Inlaid Linoleum”. I am pretty sure that later in its life, it was available made from other materials such as vinyl/vinyl composites. I have been reading Jane Powell’s excellent book, Linoleum (affiliate link) and now am beginning to understand and study vintage linoleum more extensively. “Inlaid” means that workers actually sifted different color mixtures — up to 38 different colors per design! — onto the linoleum-sheet-in-progress. “Embossed” means that the entire piece was then pressed to create texture — in thes case of No. 5352, the divits suggesting grout. Incredible workmanship required for such a “humble” material. Let’s take a look at the complete process of making Embossed Inlaid linoleum and at additional historic images of Armstrong No. 5352–>

embossed inlaid linoleumHere’s more detail on how embossed inlaid linoleum was manufactured, as described by Armstrong in 1949 (above):

  1. WIDE COLOR RANGE: As many as 38 colors may be used in a single design of Embossed Inlaid. The use of mottled colors creates unusually rich effects. Armstrong’s Embossed Inlaid Linoleum patterns have long been famous for their wide color range and their subtle shading.
  2. DISTINCTIVE DESIGN: A finely granulated mix is sifted through stencils onto the backing material. The intricate stencil shapes reproduce every line of the artist’s design and make possible the beautiful patterns available…
  3. KEYED TO BACKING: An adhesive coat on the burlap or felt backing helps to bond the mix and backing securely together under the pressure and heat of the giant presses.
  4. DURABILITY: Under the repeated pressings, the granulated linoleum mix is formed into a dense, unified sheet. After the final pressing and long baking in the maturing stoves, Embossed Inlaid has the long-wearing quality for which Armstrong’s Linoleum is known.
  5. STREAMLINE EMBOSSING: The top face of this press has an embossing plate which depresses parts of the design, creating a textured effect…. The unique streamlining of Armstrong’s embossing assures ease of cleaning.

Precautionary Pam notes: I also want to relate that in her book, Powell says that while linoleum is known today for its use of renewable resources (cork, linseed oil, namely), heavy metals such as lead may have been used in the manufacturer of old linoleum. In particular, she points out that lead and other heavy metals such as cadmium and chromium may have been used in the pigments used for coloration. Other resilient flooring may have contained other hazardous materials such as asbestos; check adhesives, too. So — Precautionary Pam repeats: Be sure to test the materials in your old houses for vintage nastiness like lead, asbestos and more — get with your own properly licensed professional to determine what’s in your house and its layers, so that you can make informed decisions about how to handle. For more info and links see our Be Safe / Renovate Safe page.

armstrong linoleum 1935

Armstrong linoleum available in 1935

Armstrong 5352 — why was it so popular?

5352-armstrongBack to Armstrong 5352: Why was it so popular? I will theorize that 5352 resonated for decades because so many American kitchens were “traditional” in overall character, year in and year out. This floor design — with its warm, essentially neutral colors — and with its evocation of timeless brick flooring — would have fit into many a kitchen.

Armstrong pointed to its versatility, describing it as a “Tile effect with a warm informal look. Good choice for a small room, hall, den, kitchen, living room, or dining room.”

armstrong 5351 - green

In 1955, another colorway

5331-armstrong

And we see variations, such as this Dutch Colonial delight.

I am pretty sure that 5352 lasted well into the 1970s, at a minimum — see the photo below, Jon & Trixi found it in their 1960s house, covered up. By then, the material likely changed to vinyl or some sort of vinyl composite; test this old stuff and adhesives underneath for vintage nastiness such as lead and asbestos, too, please.

avocado kitchen floorTo be sure, I can envision it successfully complementing dark wood cabinets and avocado and harvest gold appliances, too. Armstrong No. 5352 had legs. Oh, how it wish it were still available today!

Armstrong 5352 in a bathroom design, 1956

In a bathroom, circa 1956

These old linoleum floors — amazingly amazing.

Thanks to archive.org and the MBJ collection for making these images available via creative commons license.

Armstrong-5352-linoleumUPDATE: Reader Hannah sent this photo of vintage Armstrong linoleum in the 5352 pattern and left this comment on the Retro Renovation Facebook page:

I have two partial rolls down in the basement a friend gave me. It was left in HER basement when the original owners sold them the house. Not sure what I want to do with it though. It’s not enough to cover any floor we have. I just knew I WANTED IT!

 

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Comments

  1. Barb says

    My family has an old house with this linoleum in the kitchen. Any idea how to rejuvenate it? It looks a little tired.

    • Barb says

      House was built 1918, I think my grandparents put the flooring in the late 60’s and it’s still going strong.

    • pam kueber says

      I would probably just try putting a floor polish on it and buffing. Note: Take care because the vintage materials in our vintage houses can contain vintage nastiness such as asbestos, lead, etc. Consult with your own professional to assess what you have so that you can make informed decisions how to handle.

    • Jane says

      Use the Armstong cleaning products on the floor.. First strip it with floor stripper, then coat it with Shinekeeper. Several coats work best. Keep clean with The Armstring Once ‘n Done. Regular cleaning products dull the floor. And no, I do not work for Armstrong!

      • Jane says

        My floor is Armstong embossed Solarian. No wax. The original shine has worn off, but doing the above makes it look new again. ( after 3 boys and countless dogs and we do not require shoes come off at the door.) it was installed in the 90’s and is a very unusual quilt pattern that is very busy. But I have a white kitchen.

  2. Duke Romo says

    I saw Hannah’s reply about the Armstrong 5352 “brick pattern” linoleum. In that post she stated she had two rolls, our Historic Society “Upland Heritage” would like to see if she would part with one? We have a member with a mid century modern that has three floors of the old Armstrong flooring and is need of a patch of about 2×2 square feet.

    Duke Romo
    Upland Heritage
    d.dukeromo@live.com

  3. EMandranis says

    The most wonderful flooring. After 30 years, two kids, and many dogs, ours is finally finished. Cannot find anything remotely as good. The tiny brick floor pattern was SO good because it hid the dirt, scuff marks, and felt warm and rich. Everything we are looking at now is just so wretchedly “neutral”(-the curse of the modern age decor)!

  4. Marjorie says

    This was the linoleum pattern on my Grandmother’s floor. I’ve seen it only a few other times in my life, and on each of those it has evoked happy memories of her warm heart and home, and the magic she created by allowing her young grandchildren to explore and become independent.

  5. oceana says

    Well this is just the reassurance I was looking for! I feel a little better about the butter-orange-cream version in our kitchen and office now! It has a slight variation in the pattern from the 5332, but I am sure it is very closely related. I was feeling like it wasn’t “mid century” enough, as the kitchen was remodeled in the early 70’s. Now I feel like it has a bit more “provenance” : ) We do have dark wood cabinets and harvest gold accessories, like you mentioned in the article, so even though I was hoping for more of a 50’s kitchen, there is still some fun to be had with what we got.

  6. says

    My parents, siblings, family members, and neighbors are much older then I. I grew up with much of the “old school” furnishings and materials in homes such as this linoleum. My neighbors had blue, green, and this brick colored version in the same pattern. As of recently, I had seen a brown and light gray version of this still being made. It is true, these floors do bring back many fond memories and the quality does outlast anything that is made in recent years. It would be great for these companies to re-introduce many of these patterns again in both modern and retro colors. I actually was trying to look for this brick color mosaic linoleum to put in my kitchen. I have an older home with used brick and maple cabinets/paneling. The new stuff I see, doesn’t look right and want to keep the original feel to the house. I hope I can locate this pattern again.

  7. Brenda says

    GaCk!~ my husband and I owned a flooring store, we saw LOTS of this pattern down, and as ugly as it was, it wore like CRAZY! You could NOT wear it out! We joked that He%% was paved with the stuff. LOL

  8. R. Rudolph Van Dyke says

    My Wife (Christine) and I are doing a retro rehab of sorts on the home I grew up in from 1961. We have the Armstrong 5352 in our kitchen and plan to keep it along with the dutch style wood cabinets. We do plan to update in other areas but are looking at retro appliances.

    Thanks for all of the information.

  9. Robert Lothrop says

    I sold flooring for color tile in the early 90’s in Capitola, Ca, and we had 4 colors available then- the original, an off white, a tan and a blue-ish, I think, and we had samples of it, too. An Armstrong Wall and a Tarkett wall

  10. deborah burkhart says

    We had the yellow and orange version on the kitchen floor of our house on Sunset Mesa in southern CA, built 1964. Mom used to wax it with Jubilee.

  11. Lisa Bollman says

    I was looking for this. I remember it so well from my grandparents’ big bungalow in San Leandro that had a huge kitchen. I don’t know how old the house was, though. It dated at least back to the 30’s. I wanted to put it in my kitchen. About 20 years ago they were still selling it at Home Depot and it even came in a tan range. Funny how it’s a big part of my wonderful memories of them in that house in the 50’s. I guess it’s no longer available?

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