Q:

Old House Journal - - Ohj -

I am an ad­dicted re­storer of 1890–1920-era prop­er­ties. In an OHJ is­sue, I noted pat­terned tile that I have not been able to find on­line—can you tell me the source? I’m work­ing on an 1896 Ge­orge Bar­ber-de­signed Queen Anne house: Do you think that tile would go well? In­stead of small white and black hex mo­saics? —David Barzen, Des Moines, Iowa

A:A Bar­ber Queen Anne can take over-the-top dec­o­ra­tive ma­te­ri­als, and these Vic­to­rian tiles were cer­tainly used in 1896 in the U.S. You see them in the vestibule of many New York brown­stones, for ex­am­ple. They were com­mon in en­try­ways, conservatories/so­lar­i­ums, and com­mer­cial spa­ces. Even in the 1890s, they were prob­a­bly con­sid­ered too ex­pen­sive for a bath. But I think a Vic­to­rian Re­vival bath­room would look great with a geo­met­ric or en­caus­tic tile floor!

These tiles are unglazed, which is good for be­ing slip-proof, but they must be sealed—be­fore grout­ing, in fact. They are por­ous; even stand­ing wa­ter stains them. As long as you fol­low in­struc­tions for seal­ing them, you should be fine. (I have them in a plant room, and the seal has held up for 20 years now.)

The col­lage of tiles shown above in­cludes both au­then­tic, hand-molded clay en­caus­tics (the lit­tle ones in blue and green) and also mod­ern en­caus­tics, which are dec­o­rated and then fired, and are cheaper and eas­ier to in­stall. Pat­terns, how­ever, are ab­so­lutely au­then­tic to English Vic­to­rian de­signs. The mod­ern-type solid-color geo­met­ric and pat­terned en­caus­tic tiles are from the English maker Orig­i­nal Style: orig­i­nal­style.com The com­pany sells through deal­ers all over the U.S.; see “find re­tailer” on their web­site.

The dif­fer­ence be­tween clay en­caus­tics and mod­ern floor tiles is ex­plained at the web­site of the U.S. im­porter: tile-source.com. That com­pany also han­dles the hand­made, ex­pen­sive en­caus­tics made in Eng­land. — Pa­tri­cia Poore I have an an­tique ta­ble lamp with streaked glass in the shade, which a vis­i­tor called “slag glass.” Is that the right ter­mi­nol­ogy, and what does it mean?

—Va­lerie W., Kansas City, Kans. Slag glass is a rel­a­tively re­cent term for pressed, opaque glass with color streaks, first made in Eng­land in the 1880s. The be­lief was that the streaks were pro­duced by the ad­di­tion of slag from iron smelt­ing works, hence the name. In the 19th cen­tury, slag glass was bet­ter known as mar­ble or mala­chite glass, or mar­ble vitro-porce­lain.

Pro­duc­tion tech­niques ar­rived with work­ers em­i­grat­ing from north­east Eng­land to the U.S. in the late 19th cen­tury. Soon ma­jor man­u­fac­tur­ers were us­ing the swirling col­ors of slag glass in ev­ery­thing from lamps to table­ware. Han­del, Bradley and Hub­bard, and even Tif­fany pro­duced lamps with slag-glass pan­els. Most tend to in­cor­po­rate shades of green and am­ber, which cast a beau­ti­ful light un­der il­lu­mi­na­tion, but you can find ex­am­ples from green­ish-blue to pur­ple. Its peak of pop­u­lar­ity here was dur­ing the 1910s and 1920s. —Brian D. Cole­man

A lit­tle “ex­ca­va­tion” in my 1930s kitchen turned up a mid-cen­tury “brick” linoleum. I think I want to sim­u­late but sim­plify that look. I was think­ing of Arm­strong lam­i­nate floor­ing L6541 in Brick Red. What do you think?

—Pa­tri­cia Lin­den, Ne­wark, Delaware Lam­i­nate floor­ing is durable and ap­prox­i­mates the look of wood or ce­ramic tile. Our contact at Arm­strong Floor­ing tells us that L6541is not cur­rently in pro­duc­tion, and rec­om­mends in­stead B3162, which is very sim­i­lar in style— bas­ketweave brick—ex­cept it is vinyl rather than lam­i­nate. With its low-gloss fin­ish and re­silience, it ac­tu­ally per­forms more like linoleum. Part of the Cush­ionStep Me­sita Vinyl Sheet col­lec­tion, it is sold in 12-ft.wide sheets. The sub­tle color is Colo­nial Red. See more at arm­strongfloor­ing.com/ res­i­den­tial/en-us/ —Pa­tri­cia Poore My early 19th-cen­tury brick house has a mois­ture prob­lem in base­ment walls, which a con­trac­tor called “ris­ing damp.” Is there such a thing?

—Richard Per­rault, New Or­leans, La. Ris­ing damp is in­deed a con­di­tion, wherein the cap­il­lary action of ma­sonry walls com­bines with a high wa­ter ta­ble to wick wa­ter from the ground—some­times as high as the sec­ond storey. Be­fore at­tempt­ing mit­i­ga­tion, in­spect the sit­u­a­tion to make sure this is the real prob­lem. True ris­ing damp is ac­tu­ally some­what rare; the mois­ture symp­toms may be due to dam­aged or miss­ing gut­ters. Qual­i­fied con­sul­tants in­clude soil an­a­lysts. Google “Preser­va­tion Brief 39” to read a thor­ough de­scrip­tion (nps.gov). —the edi­tors

RIGHT This spec­tac­u­lar 1893 Queen Anne in Florida is a tour-de-force de­signed by Knoxville ar­chi­tect Ge­orge Bar­ber.

A chan­de­lier in­cor­po­rat­ing slag-glass pan­els hangs over a ta­ble in a Jazz Age din­ing room.

A typ­i­cal mid-cen­tury linoleum pat­tern, and Arm­strong’s sheet-vinyl her­ring­bone brick.

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