Floor stenciling adds color and style to any room in the house.

Designs painted on the floor are a personal way to add character and color to any room in the house. A floor design can be as simple as a light border pattern around the perimeter of a room, or as comprehensive as an all-over floor pattern that then becomes a major design influence in the room.

A floor stencil can emphasize and reinforce the style of a room. For example, in a room furnished with Early American items, a Colonial floor pattern will set off the motif. Choose colors from that period and watch the room come alive with the style of that elegant period.

Stencils are available in many bookstores in a variety of motifs, including Early American, art deco, Victorian, art nouveau, and more. To make your floor painting project a success, follow these directions:

* To begin, be sure the surface is wax-free, smooth, and clean. Before painting, go over the floor lightly with a mop dampened with mineral spirits.

* Apply a basic coat of polyurethane varnish or stain and allow it to dry for 24 hours. Stains should always be applied by working with the grain of the wood. After a stain dries, it should be covered with a protective clear coating of polyurethane before the design is painted over it.T

* Trace your design onto the floor and fill it in, using water or oil-based paint. Because different effects can be achieved with a variety of painting utensils, it is a good idea to practice your technique on a spare board.

* Try using a pure bristle brush, a soft cloth, a small sponge, or even your fingers to fill in the design.

* After the design has dried, cover the floor with consecutive coats of protective clear polyurethane varnish. Lightly sanding the surface between coats will aid adhesion.

* To keep your design looking shiny and new, wax the surface just as you would any fine hardwood floor.

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