An ode to decorating with plaid

Katie Laughridge Tribune News Service

From buffalo plaid decorating to classic tartan styling, plaid is an incredibly versatile pattern steeped in history. While plaid is often associated with fall and winter, you know I believe this pattern looks great all year round.

I’ve written before about my love of plaid, from Scottish tartans to the bold and beautiful check pattern. While we certainly don’t have the time to wax poetic about every type of plaid out there, I just wanted to highlight the variety of ways you can decorate with your favorite plaid pattern this season and beyond.

Suffice it to say, this is perhaps one of the Scotsman’s greatest legacies in the fashion world to date. Although the history of tartan dates back to 3000 BC, and although ancient pieces of cloth have been found in more parts of the world than just Scotland, the Scots have become known for their ties to the textile. Dating back to the 1600s, the tartan pattern is a hallmark of a Scottish man. Different patterns and colors served as clan or family identification, and they wore kilts that proudly displayed their family’s large plaid. Scottish families carry on the tartan tradition and in the textile world the timeless patterns will never go out of style.

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When you ask someone to close their eyes and imagine a plaid, you probably immediately think of a tartan. Tartan (or tartan) is the checkered pattern best characterized by horizontal and vertical lines that intersect to form different sized squares or diamonds throughout the fabric. Among the most popular patterns are the Royal Stewart, Clan Wallace, and Black Watch.

Decorate with tartan plaid

Go bold if your love of plaid is insurmountable. Decorate with this pattern in larger pieces such as a sofa, rug or floor-to-ceiling window treatments. If you’re not quite on board with the plaid look, try using it as an accent in throw pillows or a blanket. While commonly used around this time of year, plaid can be used year-round to add dimension to your design. I often think of plaid as neutral in this way.

People often confuse gingham and buffalo check patterns for each other, but they are not the same thing. The two main differences are scale and color. Buffalo check usually has a large shell and is traditionally found in red and black and white and black colorways. Gingham, on the other hand, is typically a small-scale pattern and is traditionally found in red and white and blue and white colorways. Both have uniform squares made of intersecting vertical and horizontal lines that, when overlapped, create dark squares. Both differ from a “checkered” pattern, which, like a checkerboard, consists of squares in two alternating colors where the same color shares no side with a square of the same color. All of these patterns are part of the diamond family.

Decorate with gingham and buffalo plaid

Wander off-grid to a playful cottage aesthetic by decorating with gingham. While this pattern has been thrust into the spotlight with the rise of cottagecore, its popularity as a pattern is not new.

While decorating with gingham can evoke a quaint country feel, it’s actually a very versatile pattern. With the simple use of scale and color, this pattern can transition from a French country table to a stately dining room wall. Larger prints work well on curtains, walls and bold, vibrant colors. In a small-scale pattern or natural or toned-down color scheme, the fabric has a beautiful aged finish – perfect for a historic home. Pair your gingham with florals for a classic look that works in any room.

Decorate with checkered plaid

The checkerboard motif has recently been in the spotlight as the check of the moment. The classic staggered arrangement of (traditional) black and white squares, reminiscent of a chessboard, resurfaces across floors, textiles, wallpaper and more. When used lightly, these checks can add a touch of print and eclecticism to a room. While black and white checks go through periods of peak popularity (as they do now), they never completely go out of style and complement many other patterns and styles. Apply a plaid fabric to make a traditional armchair pop; choosing a more neutral pattern (white on gray) gives it a modern look, while a more pronounced pattern (blue and white) looks more traditional.

The rhombus, as the name implies, is a variation of the diamond pattern, which is reminiscent of diamonds. Think of this fabric as the bigger brother of the graphic check that is somehow in a league of its own thanks to its popularity in menswear.

Decorate with plaid

In the living room, plaid throw pillows, blankets, window panels, rugs and soft furnishings add subtle visual interest without the fuss of a more complex pattern. In the kitchen and dining room, coasters, napkins, placemats, tea towels and tablecloths or runners add a touch of style. And in the bedroom, fresh checked bedding elements are so much more exciting than solid alternatives.

While houndstooth is often associated with fabrics for men’s suits, chef’s trousers and Sherlock Holmes hats, it has gained a foothold in interior design. More dynamic than idle squares, houndstooth looks like it’s in motion. It is a kind of twill made by alternating bands of four dark and four light threads in both vertical and horizontal direction. With each pass, one thread is advanced to give it its characteristic slope. Small-scale houndstooth is casually referred to as puppy tooth. While there’s no dimensional threshold separating the two, on this more reserved scale, houndstooth is undeniably classic.

Decorate with pied-de-poule

While houndstooth traditionally has a club-like, elitist tone, used properly can also feel fresh, bright, and youthful. Checkered Plaid isn’t the only one benefiting from its relationship with menswear. To add a tailored, clean, and classic look associated with menswear, use houndstooth in one of many scales and colors. Although considered a traditional pattern, large-scale houndstooth has a more contemporary aesthetic. But it’s also important to consider the size of the houndstooth pattern in relation to the components of your piece of furniture. A larger pattern that “falls” off the side of a thin, swinging arm of a chair would lose its sophistication. Elegance is in the details.

(Adapted from Katie Laughridge is the owner of Nell Hill’s, the interior design destination in Kansas City. For more information, contact Katie at [email protected])

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