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.