Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Nairn Linoleum Floors (1941 Interiors)

Good morning!

Do you ever have mornings where you wake up feeling markedly less than stellar? I hardly got any sleep last night from tossing and turning-- Matthew and I stayed up until about 10:30 watching Barbara Stanwyck in the 1930's weep-a-thon Stella Dallas (I hadn't seen it in years and he hadn't seen it period), and after that, I could NOT sleep. Not because I was wrapped up in the melodrama of the title character's maternal self-sacrifice, I don't know...just because I couldn't sleep! I finally managed to nod off after what seemed like a hundred years, but woke up this morning at 6:45 feeling like I had stayed up the entire night without repose. Ugh! Hate it! Accordingly, my world view is particularly mopey, even for a Wednesday. I've spent most of the morning self-indulgently wallowing in John Lennon's Mind Games (no better morose jam-out in the world; not on Spotify, but on Youtube in its entirety) and looking at 1941 linoleum ads to try and buoy up my spirits!

The second of these, I hope you readers can benefit from!! Take a look:

In 1941, Nairn Linoleum took out a series of full-page ads in Life magazine, hawking their high quality, low cost floor coverings to the wartime domestic population. What Johnny GI wouldn't want to come home to the cheery colors and clean, modern lines of these interior scenes? The pictures in these spreads focus on the two main areas you would probably want linoleum-- kitchens and dens. I was surprised they didn't include bathrooms in their product showcase, but maybe most houses of that time came with tiled bathrooms as a basic. As tiny as my kitchen is, this makes me want to rethink the whole thing, especially in terms of the flooring. As usual, seeing 1940's interiors in C-O-L-O-R sets my imagination spinning. Look at the yellow and the periwinkle blue of the kitchen above! The burgundy-with-green-accents of the kitchen below! I would never in a million years have guessed these vivid combinations if you showed me the kitchen in black and white.

Nairn boasts in these ads to be "the oldest makers of linoleum", though they were not the first in America. Linoleum was invented in 1864 by Frederick Walton, who went through several possible uses for linseed oil before hitting on the idea of inexpensive, decorative flooring. Walton initially produced the formula as an agent for waterproofing textiles, but according to Wikipedia, "little interest was shown in his varnish, his first factory burned down, and he had persistent and painful rashes." Dang, Walton! His second endeavor, as flooring king, was much more successful. He named his new product "linoleum", a portmanteau of the Latin words linum ("flax") and oleum ("oil"), and, after a period of exporting his product from Scotland, set up shop in New Jersey. In 1887, eighteen years after Walton had begun commercially manufacturing linoleum, the Nairn company's linoleum factory, also in New Jersey, caused Walton to bring a trademark infringement lawsuit against Nairn, which he lost on the grounds that the term "linoleum" was at that point so common place that anyone should be able to use it. Check out this George Orwell-level-disturbing illustration of Walton from the 1800's. I wouldn't have ruled in his favor either, that picture is positively unnerving!

But back to the interiors:

Would you believe chevron, as tired and played out as it may be in design motifs of the present day, is being used to great effect in this 1941 rumpus room? I'm also scratching my head but also vaguely attracted to the pair of swords hanging crossed under a regimental kepi on the wall over the fireplace. Green and red, off set by the white and blonde-wood colors of the rest of the room, don't look too Kris Kringle to me in this combination! 

Now, HERE'S a living room:

This looks so 1940's Hollywood to me...  the smooth walls and floors standing in for marble. Now, is it all linoleum? HA, you should be the one to ask, look at the caption, which helpfully explains the room's inexpensive though luxe-looking appointments:

I would say one of the things I am most jealous of, in terms of mint-condition, time-capsule-y houses you see on Retro Renovation, are these restaurant-sized 1940's kitchens with built-ins, upon built-ins, upon built-ins. Look at the little dining nook there with its red Formica and blue bar stool seating! Look where I could catch up on my correspondence and household bills while supervising the oven at the little desk adjacent to the food prep area! This is suh-HERE-iously a jewel of a kitchen.. I would never want to leave it!

I wasn't much into this one until I saw the glass doors on the kitchen cabinets and that accented-black-backsplash. Ok, fine, you win, Nairn, let me have this kitchen.

OH. MY. GOODNESS. The red and the black and white stripe and all that white wicker... doesn't this design look fresh as paint even seventy-two years after it was in the pages of Life? One, I want a sun room; two, in the event that I have a sunroom, I want a sun room that has this patio set, including a weird wheel-barrow like contraption that seems to serve a wholly decorative purpose; three, given the sunroom, and the patio set, I want a black and white rectangle tile flooring pattern THAT MATCHES THE AWNING OVER THE OUTSIDE PORTION OF MY PATIO. I can't even look at it. It's too cool. Please let my dream come true.

Last but not least, I DO NOT approve of the piano in the corner being painted green by its fickle, color-scheme conscious owner-- so many gorgeous old pianos, wood gleaming, perfect condition, were painted to "go better" with decor in the forties', fifties', and sixties', and I STILL see these things at Goodwill, seemingly pleading to either be shot and put out of their misery or returned to their original finish (I can't save you all! I'm sorry!). However, I will allow the travesty going on with the piano for the eye-popping charm of the floor scheme. I love how you can make something so appealing out of just clever, geometric arrangement of contrast color tiles. Also, the green, yellow, orange, brown, and white colors should clash horrifically, but I think they go together well in this space. I'm often surprised at what will surprise me in terms of what I like!!

So! See, don't you already feel better about Wednesday? I do! I still need an extra forty winks, but this was a welcome distraction from my teeth-grindingly annoying lack of sleep. Which interior is your favorite? Have you ever seen amazing linoleum out in the wilds of estate sales or your relatives homes? Have any of you tried incoporating vintage-style linoleum into your own retro themed homes? Let's talk! This makes plain old black and white kitchen tile (which I desperately want) seem like such a cop out, when there's a rainbow of possiblities, probably still out there in 2013!

That's all for today, but I'll catch you tomorrow. Keep a good thought that sleep overcomes me at the appropriate time today, and I'll talk to you later! Til then.

1 comment:

  1. when we bought our house there were still linoleum from around 1900 - simply red/brown, very brittle. but underneath are wood and thats the kind of floor i really love.........



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