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Shiplap walls and tousled bed linens, wallpapered alcoves and dramatic pendant lights—owners Eliza Clark and Tim Trojian’s historic 11-bedroom inn, Foxfire Mountain House, is a cabin-like hideaway that feels simultaneously old and new. As it turns out, a whole lot of elbow grease went into reimagining the 100-year-old building into such a serene escape. In their first book, Foxfire Living: Design, Recipes, and Stories From the Magical Inn in the Catskills, Clark and Trojian are sharing exactly how they created their cozy retreat. Here, in an excerpt, Clark explains the process behind one seriously transformative project: painting the floors black.

In general, I love painted floors. I think they look cottagey and have an honest, welcoming simplicity. At first, we decided to paint the lounge and lobby floors to match and leave the dining room’s natural brown hardwood. We looked at so many shades of gray and white, but somehow we ended up deciding to paint the floors a striking rich, glossy black. We put beadboard panels on the ceiling and painted those the same shade of black to tie the room together.

We painted ourselves backward out of the rooms and finally ended up at the door to the veranda, where we gazed with admiration at what we’d done. It really was a beautiful look…until the next morning.

It was impossible. Literally everything showed on the floor. You couldn’t take a step without a white footprint appearing. Dirt showed, dust showed. It was a disaster, a beautiful disaster. But Tim believes everything is fixable. He came up with the idea to distress the floors so imperfections would be harder to spot. He got down on his knees with a hand-sander and went over the paint to lightly wear down the areas where the wood would have naturally weathered because it was raised a little higher or was in a natural traffic area. Hand-sanding dulled the gloss and let some wood show through and, most important, meant you could now walk across the floor without leaving dramatic footprints with every step. We joked that the method should be called de-stressing instead of distressing since that’s what it accomplished. 

Courtesy of Eliza Clark and Tim Trojian

Step 1: Prep

Lightly sand the floors with 150-grit sandpaper, wash them down to get rid of the sawdust, and apply a layer of primer.

Step 2: Paint

Use a specialty porch or floor paint and apply a thin first coat. When dry, apply a second thin coat.

Step 3: Wait It Out

Let dry for three days—the paint must be super-dry and hard so it can withstand the sanding without peeling.

Step 4: Distress

Use a light touch with a hand-sander to go over the boards, passing back and forth where there are raised edges or in natural traffic areas for a warm, worn look.

Color & Paint photo
Foxfire Living: Design, Recipes, and Stories from the Magical Inn in the Catskills, Harper Design ($31)

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