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Beyond Kilts: The Best Ways to Use Plaid

Fashion week has wrapped up and one of the trends that took over the runway was plaid.  Plaid is a classic pattern that’s been around for centuries and never really goes out of style.  When used in interiors it may come across as too stuffy, but really plaid can bridge the gap between modern and traditional decor.  Currently plaid is mainly associated with rustic or farmhouse style interiors, but really there’s a place for plaid in any decor.  As one of the most multi-dimensional patterns around, a touch of plaid is one of the easiest ways to add dimension to a room.  Clear out any preconceived notions you may have about plaid and let’s take a look at some of the best ways to use this pattern around the home.

Defining Plaid

Before diving in too deep, we need to make some distinctions between the various types of plaid.  The main confusion comes between the terms tartan and plaid.  All tartans are plaid, but not all plaids are tartan.  There are also checks which often get lumped into the plaid category.  So let’s set these all straight.

Tartan is a pattern consisting of multiple colored intersecting horizontal and vertical bands.  The pattern of the stripes running vertically is exactly duplicated on the horizontal axis and new colors are created where the stripes overlap.

Plaid technically refers to a specific type of garment worn by the Scottish around the waist and then draped over the left shoulder to protect them from cold, harsh winters.  Today the term plaid generally refers to patterns inspired by traditional tartan designs where the pattern of the vertical stripe does not necessarily match the pattern of the horizontal stripe.  Plaids can have many variations of band width, repeat, and color.

Check patterns are simpler than plaids and are made up of symmetrical crossed horizontal and vertical lines that form equal sized squares.  Within the check family there are many different types patterns such as gingham, buffalo and windowpane.

This post will feature all three and mainly use the term “plaid” as a catchall to make things simpler.


As A Small Accent

Since it’s a rather bold pattern, a little can go a long way when it comes to plaid.  Nothing beats a plaid pillow or throw when it comes to adding major cozy vibes to a room.  It’s easy to change pillows and throws with the seasons so you can mix and match what colors you have out when.  Plaid artwork is an unexpected and fun way to include the pattern in your decor.  For the kitchen and dining room you could also look for plaid patterned plates, bowls, and cups.

As Upholstery

If you want to go a bit bigger, plaid upholstery is a safe bet for making a statement with your decor.  A plaid sofa or armchair will add a welcoming warmth to your living room or study.  Dining chairs can be upholstered in matching plaid, or for a more eclectic look, mismatched but complementary plaids.  If you’re worried about plaid furniture looking too traditional, rest assured that it looks just as good on an Eames chair as it does a wing-back.

On the Floor

A plaid rug is another good way to use plaid in the home.  The bold pattern lends itself well to the larger scale of rugs, and since it’s below your sight line there’s less chance of it becoming overwhelming.  For rooms like the kitchen or bathroom you could also create a plaid pattern with tile.  While a tartan would take a lot of work to execute perfectly, a buffalo plaid or simple check can be accomplished without too much effort.

On the Walls

For the real plaid enthusiasts, wallpaper can help you declare your love for the pattern.  While an entire room clad in plaid is a bit overboard, a plaid accent wall is the perfect touch.  You can go bold with a big check or more subtle with a more monochrome plaid, but both will add a wonderful extra dimension to your room.

Plaid can be a bold pattern, so it’s best not to go overboard when using it in the home.  If you want plaid to be the highlight of the room but not overwhelming, choose one of the bright colors from the pattern to use as the dominant color in the space.  This will help the plaid stand out while not taking over.  While plaid is generally associated with fall and winter, with so many varieties of color available there’s a plaid for every season.  It’s time to embrace your inner Scott and add some plaid to your decor.

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