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Canvas Floor Cloths are Canvas Rugs

canvas floor cloths
Laurel in her Studio 2008

People ask me how I started making the canvas floor cloths.

Some think I came up with the idea! Many are surprised to learn that the art of canvas rugs, or floor cloths as they are called, date back to the 1600’s. There are varying stories but we know the English called them Oyl cloths and used them on the floor. As the English came to America and built their roughhewn wood cabins colonists used old sails and painted them with oil paint to cover their drafty floors. The wealthy continued to import canvas floor cloths from England. Eventually, they were created in America.

Floor cloths
Museum Floor Cloths

Canvas floor cloths were popular but expensive and with the invention of linoleum became out of fashion. But now they have resurfaced as an art form and interior design choice.

My Story

One day I was leafing through a Mother Earth magazine and read an article about Lisa Curry Mair and canvas floor cloths. Lisa focused on the colonial designs and has refurbished many of the historical homes with floor cloths covering their entire floors.

The concept of what a canvas floor cloth was hit me with the powerful recognition of how perfect they are for the tropics.

I had lived at the beach for 20 years before moving to the San Jose Valley. Finding anything to put on the hardwood floors was a challenge. We used a woven mat that sand sifted through and wore out very quickly, jute rugs got moldy and regular rugs weren’t even a consideration.

A canvas floor cloth is sealed with varnish. You sweep and mop it along with the rest of the floor. Amazing!

I was astounded by the possibilities of this product for Costa Rica.

I immediately bought Lisa’s book Floor Cloth Magic.  The book has step-by-step instructions with photos of how to sew the rugs.

I’ve experimented with paints and varnish and made a lot of mistakes along the way. The journey of my canvas floor cloth creations is another chapter.

But, canvas floor cloths are perfect for the tropical climate.

In the lowland tropical rainforest, they do not MOLD. Sand does not seep through. They can be wiped off as you sweep and mop the floor.


canvas floor cloth
Perfect Anti Dog Urine Rugs

This feature alone has made them popular in all parts of the country. In the San Jose Valley, we have a monsoon weather system with six months of dry weather and six months of rain. Or as I say, six months of dust and six of mud.

Many of us live in a country setting, i.e. no sidewalks! We live in gardens and coffee farms and bring the outdoor living into the house via rubber boots and flip-flops. So canvas rugs have been a perfect fit for our country life.

Costa Rica
Wood house in Cahuita, Costa Rica

Canvas rugs are canvas floor cloths. The evolution of my art and design is shared on my website with stories of how we create individual designs for our clients.

I’m happy to say that after 14 years I still have the privilege of designing canvas rugs for clients and am still excited about the possibilities for their use and design in the future.

If you’re interested in making your own canvas rugs email me for your free shopping guide at

AND for a free tutorial on making canvas placemats CLICK HERE!


2 thoughts on “Canvas Floor Cloths are Canvas Rugs”

  1. Wow, I have just accidentally run across your work on facebook. I love your work. In Sept, I decided to paint our dining room kite rug with house paint. I love how it came out although I never varnished it because I didn’t know what I should use. What do you suggest? It has held up well so far under daily use of chairs, feet and paws.
    I would love to be trained correctly! If you have some suggestions I would deeply appreciate it. I wish you were closer to San Diego so I could visit your studio in person. Thanks for your help, sincerely, Tiffany Johnson

    • I use an oil based polyurethane because that is what I have available in Costa Rica. I have used a water based polyurethane by Minwax. My guru for canvas rugs, Lisa Mair uses a marine coating by Sherwin Williams but it’s pricey at $100 a gallon. I think you should use a polyurethane to protect the paint, you can wash it that way and prevent staining.


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