Brick tile flooring — is it original to the 1960s — and should Marie keep it?

brick tile floorBrick tile flooring: Is it appropriate for a mid-century home? And… do we like it? Marie writes:

Hi Pam,

Need to pick your brain. We’re in the process of buying a home from 1950. It’s got a lot of original details. I’m trying to figure out if the kitchen floor is original. It’s a glazed brick tile. To me it looks 90s, and I don’t like it… but maybe it is original? My aunt an uncle live in a house built in the early 60s, and it has a similar glazed brick floor in the entry and kitchen. Was glazed brick a midcentury thing? 



Congratulations, Marie, on the new/old house, and thank you for sending this question.

Brick flooring in a 1964 kitchen, from my archives. This is one of my favorite kitchens I’ve EVER show on the blog.

My answer:

My archives indicate that glazed brick flooring — either with real clay bricks or in a vinyl/asbestos or vinyl/composite resilient floor tile — were used in the midcentury era all the way through to… well, yes, the 1990s.  The brick tile flooring in your house could well be original.

retro room decor rendering
Louisa Kostich Cowan of Armstrong Flooring showed this style of flooring in her sketches. What a fabulous find these illustrations were!

Personally, I adore the look. Brick is warm and inviting, and it’s a neutral that can be matched with ‘most any style of cabinetry.

One downside to clay brick flooring would be that it could be hard on the back, like any ceramic tile would be. On the upside, though, real clay brick flooring is virtually indestructible — and golly, why wouldn’t you want flooring that would last forever and save so much money never needing to be replaced. Note, the old vinyl flooring also lasted a long long long time, I think — this stuff was made back in a time when “planned obsolescence” was still not necessarily a manufacturer’s de facto mode of operation. That is: Folks expected quality. Folks expected stuff that would last a long, long time — and were willing to pay for it.

Should it stay — or should it go? Well, here is my regularly repeated answer: Sometimes we get shocked by an old design, an old look, that we’re not accustomed to seeing anymore. It’s not popular today. It may even be “despised” by the mainstream design world (which wants us to tear out everything old and install the new stuff that They Are Selling.) So because we are are unaccustomed to seeing the old, and because the new is so well-marketed, we decide that we, too, h*** the old.

1963 Arnstrong catalog from my collection. Faux brick looks were all the rage. Armstrong #5352 — the most popular flooring ever sold — was still selling.

However, if we hit the pause button, and take the time to learn about it, and see how it was used — and loved — historically, we may come to like, or even love, it ourselves. I suggest: Live with it a while before taking costly and irreversible steps. See: Just bought a mid-century house? My 9 tips before you start remodeling + 21 more tips from readers.

  1. Erin says:

    OMG! That Armstrong 5300 in the first image is the flooring I found in my house! 😀 I guess it is really linoleum! (It just looks so dull and papery).

  2. Jeanette says:

    LOL! I lived in a home with similar brick asbestos flooring to the first ad in this article. It was definitely made to last, but dark, very dark…and a pain to make look clean. No “no wax” floors here. To make it shine, I had to actually wax it. It was also glued to the concrete subfloor, so my feet and back ached a lot. It was definitely original to the house, built in 1964!

  3. Norma Waldau says:

    Keep the brick floor it’s beautiful unique and high quality ,it’s provobly to costly for the rest of us to install:

  4. Charlotte says:

    I would be thrilled to have that brick flooring in my kitchen! Indestructible and pretty to boot. The house I grew up in had brick-look linoleum in the 1970’s, but it had been there for a long time. It always looked good.

  5. Kim says:

    Beautiful. Just beautiful. I would love to have that floor in my 1959 ranch. You just don’t get that kind of of artistry anymore. Live with them for a while, as you may regret removing the floor and once it’s gone it’s gone. I am looking into the Armstrong Mesita to replace the original 1959 linoleum that is worn beyond saving.

  6. Amara says:

    These comments are so refreshing. We are in the process of redoing our kitchen floor in our 1925 home (the current floor is not historic, it’s cheap tile from Lowe’s that was put in 2008 by the previous owners. We’ve uncovered a few layers of lino, but they are covered by the tile and the backerboard, so we can’t save it). We have decided to go with a brick-inspired tile floor (google Emser Newberry tile). I have been really worried because brick-inspired floors aren’t at all the trendy thing to do, but you all have inspired me. Thanks!

  7. Amy says:

    I can relate to your initial reaction, but honestly I think that brick is lovely. With those white cabinets, black tow kick and maybe a bright tribal rug (I know that’s trendy and not so MC), it’s super warm and rich.

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