Monday, July 30, 2012

Kentile Floors (1950's)

Good morning! Hope everyone had a good weekend. Mine was d-i-s-a-s-t-e-r-o-u-s, but in the immortal words of Elton John (or Bernie Taupin, however you want to look at it), "I'm still standing...yeah, yeah, yeah". Emphasis on last three words, belted out with mournful sincerity. At any rate! Why don't we look at some mid century floor tile ads? These always cheer me up!

Kentile Floors was a company formed in 1898 in New York, providing for most of the fifties' and sixties', quality, low cost floor tiling that were made of up to 25% asbestos (oops). So, if you find a box of these MIB at some estate sale, it might be your best interest to steer clear, but from a historical point of view, weren't they lovely? The advertising campaigns from the 50's took an almost schizophrenic sales line, alternatively pitching the brand as a low cost, do-it-yourself option, and a thrifty-but-high-end floor covering with cost advantages to elegant marble floors. Ya gotta decide, Kentile! Which tact do you want to take?

Using one of my favorite, old-time descriptors that we don't really take advantage of anymore, Kentile Floors tout themselves as being used in "Today's Smartest Floors". And how smart! Look at the Madame de Pompadour era paintings! The mink casually draped over a fedora on the fancy entry-way chairs! I would be lying if I didn't tell you the red couch, white carpet, ZEBRA RUG, and clean symmetry of the room did not highly appeal to me. THE ZEBRA RUG. I now want and would give my eye teeth for an imitation one. However! Contrast the icy "just-so" ness of this first ad (not exactly the kind of living room you can eat mac and cheese in while watching a Law and Order: SVU marathon, which is EXACTLY how I gauge livability) to the coziness of the kitchen in this next ad:

Oh yes. This we also like. From the stony kitchen back drop and oven hood to the built in blonde wood cabinets which include (drumroll)...a radio, an aquarium, and A TELEVISION. Just plain gorgeous. See the brass tipped leg on the cushion to the far right, as well as the matching hanging-lamps and striped couch thing going on in the far background. I mean, really, the tile is seriously having to compete for attention in this set up, because I am all about that couch. Not particularly good set design if you are in fact advertising the floor, but I excuse you Kentile ad makers for introducing that couch into my life.

Above, a series of the available tile selection (38 colors! 3 styles!) is displayed by a very Diana Vreeland-esque model. I think it would be intimidating to go and a select a color, much less think about the decorative motif you're going for in terms how you're going to arrange the tiles (see the first photo and the neat, faux marble look of it). Still, the tile model's chignon and slim LBD makes me believe in the implied elegance of the product. I wonder if she was initially holding a handbag or a ready-to-wear dress and they simply substituted the tiles in this case.

Here, we see the practicality angle being worked again-- I swear I didn't take these from ads that were years apart! I'm pretty sure they appeared in the same time frame as each other. What appeals to me most about this one is Mrs. Richard Lansing's green velour, Peter Pan suit, wide brown belt, and loafer slingbacks. Yes, yes, and yes. With so many women keeping their maiden names when they get married these days, how retro does "Mrs. Richard Lansing" sound? I should go by Matthew's full name with a Mrs. tacked to the front when we finally tie the knot, just to weird people out.

This one easily takes the cake on the elegance front. Do you see what I see. DO YOU SEE WHAT I SEE? Take a minute...reflect on the scene....and then let your eyes sink in for a minute on the GOLDEN FOUNTAIN FROGS at each corner of the sunken bathtub. I don't even know if you can call it a "bathtub", seeing as there is no relation between this and what is currently in my ranch house bathroom...I think it's something more akin to the saucy Cleopatra bathing scene from the Burton/Taylor version than anything I've seen in a domestic setting. Or maybe something from that "Remember the Time" Michael Jackson Egyptian-themed video. What I am trying to tell you is, this looks super ancient Egyptian decadent, and I love it. Fountain frogs, people. Fountain frogs.

Back to a more mundane, less Egyptian themed room. I was interested in this one to see that round, directors'-chair-legged end tables replace traditional, square type end tables, that the seating in the dining area matches the throw cushions on the couch, and there's a  peacock mural behind said couch. I really need to get behind this midcentury mural thing, I wonder how hard it would be to pull off in a professional manner.

Back to "weird elegance" with the 1800's, topless Indian carving/statue (I mean, who doesn't have one of these in their den?), faux ivy hangings, and abstract Picasso style painting. Rooms like this always make me think "WHERE IS ALL THE STUFF?" You can't show a packrat a prospective home without that they should try and figure out where they would put things. That said, I really like the living room set here. I don't know what those buffet tables are doing out, unless they're about to have a party, but there they are nonetheless.

Last but not least, more homey-fifties'-ness as Mrs. William A Loock [sic] lays her own Kentile kitchen floor. My question: where, in this and the last "Mrs" ad, is MR William A Loock? I know he works all day, but shouldn't he be helping with this home-renovation project? That said, I like the cookbook storage on the door, and the green wallpaper. The cabinets I'm not crazy about, but the tile floor makes up for it.

What do you think? Which Kentile floor room would you most like in your home? Have you ever been in a grandparents house or estate sale house with the added luxury of fountains, statues, murals, or...saints preserve us...golden bath frogs? Let's talk!

Keep a good thought for me that this week is gonna look up! See you guys tomorrow!


  1. The love to gaze at these ads and simply dream about the time America was booming with families and the housing developments that were created because of them. I am thrilled when I stumble upon old magazines that have these ads. Ah, dreamy. From what I understand the Kentile sign and the building it occupied can still be viewed in NYC. Of course, that was up until a few years ago. Now it may not be there. Sad the company had to end as it did.

    1. Oh yes, I am sorry to hear your weekend was disastrous. I hope by that it was not terribly disastrous. Glad to hear you sing the words of Elton and friends. We all can only hope for that! Onward to next weekend.

  2. Oh, definitely going for the sunken bath ad, if I have to pick one for my house. Thanks for an entertaining as always post, and hope that writing it cheered you up, and that your week gets better from here on in x

  3. I don't have to dream; every room in my house has a beautiful Kentile floor! Seriously- it's under the carpet in all 3 bedrooms. Forest green/white and tan/brown in a boxed pattern (6 squares in a contrasting color interspersed among the normal pattern). I try not to think about the asbestos factor while I'm sleeping... :)

  4. Sorry about your craptastic weekend. I hope this next one is much better.

    I LOVE the interior decor of the first ad. I would totally live in that if I could have a space just as large to store all of my junk so as not to clutter the clean lines of the design. I'm terribly messy. And the sunken bath! With the equally awesome balcony! I need it.

  5. while i love the look of the golden frogs i can't help but think how annoying they could be in the bath! i like to read when i bath, and keep my hair dry, so i feel i would have to keep ducking the frogs! but i guess that isn't what they want me to think about in that photo. also, when trying to picture the michael jackson video all i can think about is the "you are not alone" video with the disturbing nude swimming with lisa marie scene.



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