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Boscobel Floorcloth Project

Boscobel Boscobel House and Gardens is located in New York’s Hudson River Valley and sits on the banks of the river, affording a spectacular view. The 1808 Federal style mansion, built by States and Elizabeth Dyckman, was moved from its original location in the 1950’s following an heroic effort to save the house from demolition. Boscobel was initially opened to the public in 1961, with significant assistance from benefactor Lila Wallace, and then reopened in 1977 following a year long complete decorative renovation by Berry B. Tracy, then a curator with the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Research conducted by Boscobel’s Curator and Collections Manager, Judith Pavelock, suggested some changes to the decor of house, beginning with the grand entry hall. In April, 2014, Boscobel reopened to the public as it does each spring, with the entry hall having new period-appropriate wallpaper, the floor showcasing a new historic floor covering, and the painted woodwork trim receiving a new color.

Gracewood Design was initially contacted by Boscobel regarding this project in April of 2012 and responded to a formal bid request in July 2012. We were notified that we had been selected to create three floorcloths for the entry hall in August and visited Boscobel in September to consult with Judith and her historical consultants, Jane and Richard Nylander. We were able to agree on an optimal size for the three floorcloths and on the pattern, which was to be marble tiles surrounded by a scroll border. We then went about doing the math to determine the tile and border size that would work best. Eventually, we made four samples, each refining the palette as well as the interpretation of the scroll border.

Here is an image of the scroll fragment from the collection of Historic New England, supplied by the Nylanders as the basis for the border design: Scroll Image

Here are photos of the first and fourth sample, showing the modifications in border interpretation and the palette:

Sample 1: Sample One

Sample 4: Sample Four

Initially, the plan was for the floorcloths to be installed in Spring of 2013 but due to personnel changes the date was moved to 2014.

We started our production work for the project on January 2nd, 2014. We were making three floorcloths - one for the main entry area measuring 21’ 2.5” square and one for either side of the staircase, each measuring 6’ 6.5” x 10’ 8”. We started on the large one first. We use #4 cotton duck for large floorcloths which can be sourced in widths up to 10’. When a wider floorcloth is required, generally a seam (or in this case, two) is sewn to create the appropriate size sheet. We have come up with a method of creating a very robust canvas join that does not involve a sewn seam thus creating a less visible join.

Here is a photo of the canvas preparation for the large floorcloth: Bonding Layers

More canvas prep: Bonding Layers

Once the large canvas sheet had been prepped, it was painted with six coats of Benjamin Moore wall paint. We usually apply four coats, but Boscobel wanted maximum smoothness so we added both an extra layer of gesso as well as two extra paint coats and sanded between all layers. Now we were ready to start creating marble tiles! The large floorcloth has a total of 288 20” marble tiles. Ken individually faux painted each tile using a variety of methods and tools:

Stippling: Stippling

Sponge: Sponge

Chip Brush: Chip Brush

Feather: Feather

Last, but not least, the magical Badger Brush: Badger Brush

Ken ponders his next move: What Next?

Once the tiles were complete (and this took a number of weeks) it was time to stencil the grout lines: Stenciling Grout Lines

And then the border: Stenciling Border

Almost done: Stenciling Border

Then six coats of polyurethane were applied: Polyurethane Application

Next, the floorcloth was hemmed. We had planned to turn it over and hem all four edges at the same time as we usually do, but daunted, we decided to roll each edge back over a large tube and hem one edge at a time. This required a day per edge as the glue we use needs to cure overnight before the hem can be completed. Fortunately, we had extra time in our schedule. Polyurethane Application

The final step was to wax the floorcloth: Wax Application

Here we are on the finished product - weary but proud: Ken & Gwenith

However, our work was not yet done. Now we had to wrap up the floorcloth for shipping and though we have lots of experience in packing floorcloths, this one was an unusual challenge due to the size and weight of the floorcloth and the shipping tubes.

We set up a special device to assist us in rolling the floorcloth around the shipping tube and hired some muscle: Rolling Up for Shipping

Rolled Up for Shipping

The package going on the truck - all 460 pounds: Shipped!

Some close up shots of the floorcloth.

Corner: Corner

Marble Tiles: Marble Tiles

Canvas join: Canvas Join

We also made two smaller pieces and here is a photo of one of them: Boscobel Runner

We installed the floorcloth on March 24th, 2014. It was easier (though not that easy) to remove and unroll the floorcloth than it was to roll it up and pack it.

The floorcloth installed in the beautifully appointed entry hall: Boscobel Installed

The runners that flanks the stairs: Runner Installed

This photo does not do justice to how beautifully the floorcloth compliments the exquisite wall paper produced by Adelphi Paper Hangings. Floorcloth/Wallpaper

Click here for a detailed history and photo tour of Boscobel, published on 12/29/15 by John Foreman.