faux leather floor from brown paper bagsFaux leather floor, photo by TheBudgetDecorator.com

This is just an amazing decorating technique, very easy, very cheap, and very effective!

I envisioned this faux leather finish on my dining room walls, to cover up some old cracked plaster that would have required an expensive restoration job — not in the household budget at the present time!

Because the walls would have ended up being darker than I like, the sensible option is to wait until the paper is completely dry and just do a simple wash over top with a thinned latex in warm pale yellow, then dry-sponge an antiquing glass lightly over top to accentuate the look of old leather… Okay, I confess, that last bit was my clever designer sister-in-law’s idea!

How To Make a Rustic Leather Floor from Paper Bags!

by Kathy Wilson

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Sometimes one of the toughest decorating challenged we have when we are on a budget is replacing old, worn, or ugly flooring. If you have vinyl flooring that has seen better days, or you just want more of a natural or luxurious look in your rooms, hold on to your hat! I am going to show you how to create a faux leather floor from ordinary paper bags from the grocery store!

Tools Needed

• Paper bags or a roll of brown Kraft paper from the postal supply aisle (enough to cover your entire floor, with some overlapping)

• Gallon of water based polyurethane

• Scissors

• Old work clothes

• Strong Knees and Back!

First off, put up the “Room Closed” sign! I did my kitchen in the evening so the last coat of sealer would have a chance to dry well before the kids and the dogs hit it in the morning! Even better if you can keep it closed off for 24 hours or more.

Now, clean the floor thoroughly… TSP is a great idea here! It is normally used on glossy paint surface, but will work well for these purposes. Rinse well. Let dry.

Tear your brown paper into irregular sections in a size that is easy to handle. It is important to tear, and not cut, as that will give the natural edge you need for the look. Only use the scissors to create a straight edge on some pieces to line up against cabinets, walls, or a change in flooring. Now crumple each torn piece tightly, then smooth out. This will give it texture.

Pour a small amount of polyurethane onto the floor where you will place your first piece, and smooth it out with a brush, although I preferred to use my hands. Lay the piece of paper down, add a little poly to the top of the paper, and smooth down. Kind of like decoupage! Now continue to lay down papers each one slightly overlapping the other. Smooth out bubbles as you go. Your hand is the best tool for this!

If you find bubbles forming underneath as the poly starts to dry, poke the bubble with a pin, add a little more poly, and smooth down.

Once you finish covering the whole floor with paper, let the poly dry. Recoat the poly once each hour until you have 4 to 6 coats of poly protecting your floor. This should be allowed to dry hard, at least overnight, longer if possible.

When you notice the floor getting dull, clean and add a maintenance coat of poly. Repairs are easily made with another torn piece of paper bag laid right over the existing treatment. Seal with poly.

Damp mop when necessary, and it should last you years! Definitely not your neighbors floor, and all for the price of some polyurethane and some hard work!

Do you want free tips and ideas for decorating your home on a budget? Visit author and columnist Kathy Wilson at http://www.TheBudgetDecorator.com, and don’t forget to sign up for her free newsletter while you’re there!

This Post Has 31 Comments

  1. emma williams

    Did a small counter in bathroom, on my own. How long does it take to dry. Looks like leather so far…These ideas I have had for 40 years when we did decoupage. have a great day

    1. Domestik Goddess

      You want to let it dry a good 4 or 6 hours between coats, Emma, and then at least (at least!) overnight when you’re done the whole surface. In a humid climate and/or summertime, your might find it takes a bit longer to dry than it would in cooler air-conditioned air.

  2. Dalia

    I’m wondering if this can be done on a kitchen countertop?

  3. Danyelle

    Can I do the paper bag floor over vinyl with elmers glue solution, then stain, then use the poly to seal?

    1. Domestik Goddess

      I’m not sure , haven’t tried Elmer’s Glue – I’d be a bit worried about the water content in the glue, but you could try a sample patch and let us know how it goes?

  4. jo

    I had read that you could use this on ceramic tile. Can’t seem to find that again. I tried putting the poly down and putting the paper over it. Is there a step that allows this to stick to glazed ceramic tiles. I am trying to put this over the tiles because a lot of them are cracked. Do you have any suggestions.

  5. Tamra

    I am going to try this on my walls. Thank you for posting!

  6. keisha holloway

    I am having a hard time keeping the paper bags sticking to the floor? I have plywood and My husband and myself cleaned off the floors, used ply then paper and then re coated with poly. He’s getting frustrated and he’s wanting to give up HELP!!!!I’m not sure what we are doping wrong, but would have to agree its not as easy as it looks. If I’m reading these posts right, its gonna take 5-6 coats before its hard and looks like the bar tops of tables?

  7. Stefanie

    We finished one room and top coated it with 8 coats of Poly Urethane. And It seems to be holding up fine, except fo a few spots where the paper rolled at the edges. I just went back over them with more paper and poly. The lady who I saw do this, said she only changed it about 5 yrs ago. And it held up pretty well w/ children and pets. She would just add a coat for good measeure every year or so.

    1. Domestik Goddess

      Good tip, thanks, Stefanie!

  8. Jake

    How durable is the finished floor? I do not want something that will only last a short time and cause me more labor, time, and money to fix in a year.

    1. Domestik Goddess

      It’s as durable as the polyeuthane you put on it, basically. Key is to add plenty of thin coats and let it dry well. And, of course, same with any water-based poly-coated floor, you want to be sure to wipe up any spills in good time, not let water sit on the floor for a time.

  9. Stefanie

    WE are using this on our basement floor. I saw it done 16 yrs ago and have loved it since. What’s got me stumped, is that we have seams in the concrete. I’m not sure if the floor underneath will be smooth if we fill these in with a thin-sulate mortar? Any suggestions?

    1. Domestik Goddess

      Can you work around the seams to make them a “feature” in the floor, maybe? It seems to me that concrete floor have to have those seams for expansion joints, to expand and contract with different temperatures and degrees of moisture, so I’d be really really hesitant to mess with them!

  10. Carson

    Can you apply the paper flooring over laminate flooring? If so, would you still use polycrylic? I was concerned if it would stick to the laminate.

    1. Domestik Goddess

      If you’re concerned about it sticking to the laminate, if especially if the laminate is very shiny, you could lightly sand the floor before applying the paper. But I would probably test a small piece of laminate first to see if the poly would adhere without sanding, as it very well might.

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