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<p>Wood tones, clean white, and black accents unite the floor and other elements in the room.</p>

Wood tones, clean white, and black accents unite the floor and other elements in the room.

Photo by Francis Hammond

Butler's pantries don't get the white-glove treatment as often as they should. In recognition of the hard work this one does for its suburban household, interior designer Penny Drue Baird gave it a decorative-paint flourish underfoot. A grid of 2-foot squares, set at an angle to visually magnify the floor's width, is punctuated at the intersections with black.

"I'm influenced by classicism—in the 1800s this would have been done with stone tile," says the New York City–based designer, who features the project in her newest book, Dreamhouse (The Monacelli Press).

After lightly sanding, sweeping, and staining the floorboards, Baird's crew measured and divided up the space. Painter's tape went down next, and the pattern was completed with two shades of paint, one suggesting black granite and the other pale limestone. "It's always a good idea to choose colors that are natural," says Baird of the timeless look. A stylized leaf motif, achieved with a custom stencil and stain, adds an updated flourish, and a coat of polyurethane provides polish and protection.

Many months later, the pantry is still serving in style.

And check out these great TOH tips on how to cut and wield a stencil