Since the British arrived in Australia many different floor coverings have been used in homes, ranging from earthen floors and matting to luxury carpets. Oil cloths were widely used in the nineteenth century, however they were superseded by the more durable linoleum by the start of the twentieth century.
Linoleum was invented by Frederick Walton in 1860 in England. Linoleum was made from linseed oil, cork dust, tree resin, wood flour, ground limestone and pigments. This mixture of materials was then applied to a linen or jute backing.
Linoleum became a popular material used for floor covering because it was water-resistant, durable and easy to maintain. It came in a variety of colours and patterns and could imitate other more expensive floor coverings such as exotic carpets and marble. It declined in popularity during the 1950s due to the introduction of vinyl flooring that was cheaper.
Linoleum is a natural product and causes less environmental damage to produce than vinyl, which is made of chlorinated petrochemicals. In recent times linoleum has made a comeback as a popular material for flooring. Its resurgence has been bought about by consumers' increased awareness of the environment and the negative impact of using non-renewable resources.
These linoleum design samples are significant as they document the popularity of linoleum as a floor covering in Australian homes from the late nineteenth century to the 1950s. In addition, these design samples represent a link from earlier linoleum floor coverings to the new styles of today.