Decoupage kitchen floor — Missy’s unique and long-lasting vintage magazine floor

I’ve long been a fan of Gloria Vanderbilt’s collage art and her decorating style, too. She has a beautiful eye for mixing pattern, color, materials — all of it. Reading her book about collage a few years ago, I saw that in the 1970s she had vintage wallpaper pasted onto her bedroom floors in her Manhattan apartment. And it was spectacular. Here’s another take on the idea: Missy’s kitchen floor, made with the pages of vintage women’s magazines from the 1940s and 1950s. She tells us how she did it. >>

Missy writes:

Hi Pam, you contacted me about doing a story on my magazine ad floor. I would love that!

You should know, I don’t currently have it, it had to be taken up after 12 years. I don’t have a before picture, it was white stick on tiles, and the only reason the floor had to come up was because the tiles started breaking off under the magazine ads. If it had been a solid piece of linoleum, I’m sure it would’ve lasted even longer.

Info on how I did it: I bought a giant box of old magazines at an auction for $2. Chock full of 1940’s-1950’s Better Homes & Gardens and Woman’s Day. I wanted a unique floor for my vintage kitchen, so I thought, I’ll give this a shot. Worse case, I pull it all up, including the sticky tiles that were down, and get new flooring put in.

I used wallpaper paste for unpasted wall paper, working in sections, I painted the paste directly onto the existing flooring, and laid the ads in alternating directions. When dry, I painted on about 6-7 coats of clear oil based polyurethane. Oil based poly does yellow slightly, but in this case, I was okay with that, it just adds to the vintage. It also holds up better than latex based poly. It held up unbelievably well, over 12 years of kids and pets, and twice a week mopping!

Thanks for sharing the photos, Missy, I love the floor — and your whole super cozy kitchen!

Readers, you can follow Missy on Instagram at @cherrywinksvintage.

And a reminder, dear readers, to be aware when dealing with the materials and layers and products in our old houses — such as old floor tiles, adhesives, etc. — that they can contain hazards. Consult with pros to assess what you are dealing with so that you can make informed decisions. For more info, see my Be Safe/Renovate Safe page.

Gloria Vanderbilt inspiration:

  1. Neil says:

    Looks utterly fabulous.
    And the mopping could happen on the occasional wacky whim, since the riot of images will hide any spills or crumbs (!)… but in any case the pup will take care of the crumbs, thank you.

    And just imagine the fun of hosting a felicitous crochet-club/cannabis clatch for a mellow snack-n-chat in the kitchen….best to start early in the day: They’ll be there for hours reading the floor : )

  2. Kim McDonald says:

    Ok, am I the only one blown away by the fact that she mops her kitchen floor twice a week. Great floor though!.

  3. Karin says:

    Great floor idea. Those ads were so charming. I remember looking

    at GV’s art in the 70s and marveling at the lush attention to detail.

    It seems to me that her decor style was a hip re-imagining of

    eighteenth century British country home style. It’s quite

    refreshing, and is as wonderful now as then. And Anderson

    Cooper was adorable even with brown hair, lol.

  4. Karen says:

    I had that Gloria Vanderbilt collage book in the 70’s, just ordered it again! Also had several of her chintz fabrics from that era, one made into an apron currently displayed in my kitchen. Wish I could find more of her vintage fabrics.

  5. Michele says:

    What a great idea to use the vintage ads! I just finished doing a small vintage tiled (1962) turquoise bathroom floor in vintage maps. A friend gave me a bag full when cleaning out her mother’s home. I needed a new floor so, boom! I love the colors of the maps with my turquoise tile walls! I coated mine in 10 coats of water based poly. Hope mine lasts even half as long as Missy’s did!

  6. CarolK says:

    I read an article about paper bag floors or maybe wallpaper floors in Yankee a few years ago. It sounds like a neat technique and it’s so New England. “Use it up, wear it out, make do or do without.”

    I love that black and tan accessory standing on Missy’s floor! I have a chocolate dapple smooth myself.

  7. Jay says:

    What a shame it is no more, still 12 years is a long time. My sheet vinyl didn’t last much longer then that. If I was a guest in that kitchen I would be flat out face down on the floor ogling all those vintage food and household goods ads. No doubt the oil based varnish helped to prolong the floor’s life. Such creativity!

  8. ineffablespace says:

    If you track the photos of Gloria Vanderbilt’s apartment, particularly the bedroom (but the apartment in general), from c.1967, 1970-72, the mid 1970s and the 1980s, there is a persistent signature, but there is a lot of change.

    In 1967 it’s pure neoclassical; in 1970 heavy layered quilting and decoupage; this veers into high country in a lighter palette through to the mid 1970s. Between 1975 and 1977 the now heavily floral bedroom changes somewhat, maintaining the black grounded paper, and by 1984, back to a mostly neoclassic look with casual clutter.

    I think she is able to live with the extreme patterning and layering because it was in a relatively rapid state of flux and the turnover between reiterations was probably rapid, as in when Gloria was in the Hamptons a squadron of people came in executed it as fast as possible. This is an on-going million dollar budget at work.

    Compare and contrast this to the apartment of another heiress, Brigid Berlin.

  9. ALLISON says:

    Having done a “torn paper bag” floor in a previous dining room, I can attest to the durability of this type of floor covering.

    I glued the torn paper with ordinary Elmer’s (you dip it in the thinned Elmer’s and smooth it down on the floor with your hands or a squeegee) but if I were doing magazine pages I would use Titebond II, which is waterproof and will prevent the later poly coats from soaking into the pretty pictures. with regular Elmer’s you will get some darkening of the paper.

    I used 7 coats of water-based poly (it dries fast; you can recoat quickly) but one caution; make sure you seal *the edges * of your floor very well, or water from mopping or rain through a window can creep under the poly coats and discolor your paper.

    Her floors looks so marvelous! I’m thinking now of where I can try this…

  10. Carolyn says:

    Missy, thank you for sharing!
    Oftentimes we run across mags/books from days gone by but pass on them because they might be slightly musty. I’m thinking the coats of poly probably seals that in. Just the idea of using the poly can spark creativity in other projects. Now I feel like a dope since, in storage, we came across some posters glued to boards and dipped in a thick coat of poly (Cyndi Lauper). Why not Christmas cards or Valentines, etc.?! I wonder how hard-cover books could be done? Maybe grouted???
    Missy, what was the reactions from family and friends when they first saw your floor?
    And the puppy’s name would be…?

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