Country houses for sale

Painting floorboards white

Dear Mrs Danvers, I am an avid reader of your column, and a few months back, you advised on treating wooden floorboards. We have old pine floorboards here, which I have, twice, had sanded and varnished. The last time was about five years ago, and, although they look great for a while, time takes its toll and now I would like to go for the slightly bleached/Nantucket look. The varnish has more or less gone, and I was wondering if I could paint them a sort of on-and-off dove-grey, and then let time take its course? Have you any ideas how I should achieve this effect, perhaps more professionally?

Your Nantucket look, in fact, started in Scandinavia, where they have a passion for painting everything floors, furniture, exteriors in the lightest, softest colours possible in order to maximise the daylight. Eva Johnson (01638 731362) imports Trip Trap Scandinavian wood-care products, which are designed to protect and colour floors.

The work involved is quite complex. To start with, you will need lye, which bleaches and removes yellow from the wood; then Master Oil sealant, in white, which effectively varnishes the wood with a soft, off-white glaze; and white soap which cleans and re-whitens the boards. Many people don’t bother with the Master Oil, but simply use the lye first, and then the white soap, which is also a sealant. Eva Johnson will send a leaflet with advice on what to use on which woods, and will then mail order the products you choose to you.

An alternative, which will give you a painted floor rather than a distressed whiteness, is to use Farrow & Ball’s floor paints (01202 876141; in one of its many off-white shades. This is an easier process we have just done two rooms here involving only painting. It seems to be lasting well, but it doesn’t have the soft, lived-in look that I think you want.

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