How to Paint Sisal Matting

Many of the decorative paint techniques used on floors and floor coverings in the past are still used today, adapted to make the most of modern materials. One of the simplest and most traditional ways of decorating a floor is to paint the floorboards, using either a plain colour on its own or with the addition of a stencilled design.

In the nineteenth century, it was usual to give a paint treatment only to the parts of floorboard that were not covered by carpet. A much more common sight, however, were decorative floorcloths made of canvas and painted with oil paints. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries they provided a cheap and colourful alternative to carpeting, and were particularly useful in areas of a house where valuable carpets would have been worn down too quickly. At first, floorcloths were hand-painted to imitate marbling, parquet and tiling; later, manufactured floorcloths became fashion­able, until linoleum replaced them.

Painted mats

Today, when most furniture and household items are ready-made, anything individually crafted has a very special appeal. As an alternative to expensive, hand-painted floorcloths, you can paint your own sisal mat­ting. Sisal is a modern product made from the leaves of the Agave sisalana plant. There is nothing new about using plant fibres for flooring – in early medieval times, rushes and straw were strewn on the floor, and, in sum­mer, sweet-smelling herbs and flowers were added to give off a delicious scent as they were trodden down. Gradually, the rush or straw was woven into matting. Various types of matting continued to be used over the centuries, but in recent years it has become really fash­ionable. The superior quality of modern matting, and its lower cost compared to the equivalent in carpets, makes it very attractive. You can buy sisal matting in a wide variety of natural and dyed colours, and a range of hard-wearing weaves. As sisal matting takes oil paints particularly well, it offers considerable scope for the home decorator.

Decorating sisal matting is very simple – it can be stencilled or painted. For the beginner, bold geometric shapes are the easiest to attempt. Designs based on nat­ural forms such as flowers and leaves are usually more difficult to apply, as curves are more complicated to produce than straight lines. Sisal floor covering can be used throughout the house, and it provides an excellent base for decorative rugs. Loose sisal mats are also avail­able, and look best finished with a bound edge of jute border. In this project, a single sisal mat is stencilled with simple, but very effective, geometric shapes.

You will need:

  • Sisal matting cut to the required size.
  • We used a piece of sisal matting 1×1.2 metres (3×4 ft).
  • Card Pencil
  • Scissors
  • Masking tape
  • Stencil brush
  • Red eggshell paint
  • Green eggshell


  1. Work out the inner and outer border. According to the mat’s dimension, cut four strips of masking tape for the outer border and stick them 4cm in from the edge of them mat. Then measure your inside border. In this example, it is 20cm in from the outer border. Stick a rectangle of masking tape 20 cm from the outer broder, then leave a gap of 2.5cm and stick another rectangle 23 cm in from the outer border.
  2. You can make the four-sided stars as large or small as you like. To draw a perfect four-sided star, draw a vertical line and cross it with a horizontal line of equal length. Join up the four points of the cross to make a diamond shape. Measure the halfway point of each side of the diamond and draw a diagonal line through them. Mark the middle point of each of these four diagonal lines and draw lines from the halfway points to the tips of the original diamond shape. You will now have made a perfect four-sided star. Using this method, make one large star and six small stars.
  3. Cut out the large star and place it in the middle of the inner rectangle. Outline the border of the star with masking tape. Place one small star in each of the four corners and one in the middle of the two long sides of the rectangle. Outline these in masking tape.
  4. With a stencil brush, paint on the borders in red eggshell. Then paint the stars in green eggshell. Leave to dry for 4 to 6 hours and, when the paint is dry, peel off the masking tape.
  5. To make the additional star points, measure halfway down the points of the cut-out stars you have already made and cut off the tips. Stick these tips between the green star points and outline them with masking tape. Stencil in with the red eggshell. Leave to dry for 4 to 6 hours.

Filed Under: Home & Maintenance


About the Author: Jason Prickett loves to write about home maintenance and stuff you can do yourself instead of hiring any professional. His step by step guides will assist you in completing your home maintenance tasks.

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