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The Story Of A Classic Design Element That Became Trendy, Then Mainstream…But Is it Classic Again?

My dream in life is to own a home that has original 1950s checkered tile flooring in the kitchen (and obviously this home is located in the South of France or somewhere equally romantic). Also in this fantasy, I have chickens and horses and never ever have to put makeup on but somehow always feel flawless. Hold for applause. But honestly, the real important aspect of this dream is the checkered tiles. I’ve always loved them and have found them inherently charming ever since I became a lover of design.

But when you work or immerse yourself in a creative industry, it’s inevitable that certain trends become oversaturated and a little unstimulating. I was completely on board with the resurgence of the checkered trend over the past couple of years, but lately, I’ve felt myself getting somewhat fatigued by these square decals. I truthfully didn’t want it to be true, so I confronted my recent distaste for checkered decor head-on. I sought out all the checkered interiors as a sort of immersion therapy and then noticed a clear pattern of thinking. The truth when a trend is everywhere it starts to feel basic. It doesn’t help that the checkered pattern is thriving in fashion as well, so this pattern is truly everywhere (I feel like as soon as Urban Outfitters is on the bandwagon, it is astronomically mainstream). But then I realized there will always be applications of this pattern that feels classic, refined, and timeless. And even still, it can be applied in trendy, modern ways. This pattern has been around for so long that it’s gone from classic to trendy, back to classic so many times and at the moment, I believe (and hope) it’s back to being classic. Let’s observe why:

design by montana burnett design | photo tara sgroi | via domino

When we talked about it over zoom, Emily’s take was so simple yet so true: it’s just squares. I had to laugh when she said it because it’s amazing how a simple shape that we learn about as toddlers can be such a hot topic in adult life. But the fact that it is “just squares,” is why it’s so classic? It’s just a bunch of squares, pushed together, switching off between two colors. How fabulously simple yet bold. Is this why they constantly show up in art and design? Because it is so simple yet so visually interesting? Maybe so. In any case, I am getting ready to embrace them once again.

I am happy to say I still love a checkered rug even though I’ve seen it done billions of times. But just because something is uber-trendy, doesn’t mean it is no longer good. When something has such a long history in interior design as the checkered pattern does, it can become versatile enough that it works with endless styles. In this case, the checkered rug remains classic yet cool especially when it falls within the color palette.

design by nina flohr of njf designs | photo by elsa young | via yellowtrace

A checkered rug moment can add a hint of playfulness to a minimal space with ease. The above bedroom is the epitome of a serene, natural oasis. All the textures and colors are calming and neutral and just a pop of checkered is the perfect accent to add a fresh modern flair.

design by susannah holmberg studios | photo by malissa mabey | via domino

Over the past few years, we’ve seen the checkered pattern in every color possible but sometimes, it’s completely refreshing to see it in its original black and white form.

design by kelly wearstler | photo by mark durling

When I chatted with the rest of team EHD about my thoughts, Emily noted that checks are the most classic looking when you leave it at just one per room. I tend to agree, but then a photo like the above stops me in my tracks. But the truth is, one check per room IS the most classic iteration of the trend. If you do mix with other checks, it’s immediately more modern (but still cool). The trick is to vary the scale of the squares and make sure the colors are different enough but still close enough in the color wheel. And adding a dog or two doesn’t hurt.

design by kelly wearstler | via heart for wander

Another modern interpretation of the checkered trend is small-scale patterned upholstery. The shape itself, as I’ve already pointed out ad nauseam, is simple yet interesting enough that it’s easy to mix with other patterns if you are going for a maximalist look.

styling by annie portelli | photo by eve wilson | via the design files

Small hints are always going to catch my eye and remind me of the impact even the tiniest amount of this pattern can make. With small checkered decor, a bright or unexpected color is a great way to add a pop of visual interest.

design and photo by amy convery

It is my humble opinion that a checkered blanket or even scrap of fabric instantly adds an eclectic and collected feeling to a space. In the room above by Amy Convery of Pops and Piaf, the fabric draped over a vintage chair stacked with books is the interior styling version of the effortlessly cool girl.

via apartment therapy

If you are wondering when the checkered pattern is at its most classic, it’s via large-scale tile. Full stop. I truly cannot see a checkered tile floor or wall and not stop scrolling. It’s always good and reminds me why this pattern is perhaps the most versatile and timeless of them all.

design by john stefanidis

Case in point, this bathroom has been on one of my various inspiration pinboards for years and years and years. This is my ideal checkered tile scale, and I love it paired with another small scale patterned tile. That is the beauty of the checkered tile–it’s so pleasing to the eye to mix with other tile patterns and scales because it’s (you guessed it) so simple!

design by concepta | via vogue living
design by roman and williams | photo by yoshihiro makino | via architectural digest

Now if you are wondering what tile floors I envision in my dream home, it’s this. Black and white oversized checkered tile is the hill I die on. I just think it always looks good and cool.

design by jeffrey bilhuber, | via frederic 

I had to steal this photo from Caitlin’s chartreuse exploration post because it perfectly portrays how versatile checkered tile flooring can be. With so much good stuff going on here (cowhide rug, zebra print, a chartreuse ceiling to boot) the checkered tiles ground the space (both literally and figuratively).

design by keiko kitamura and terry ellis | photo by owen gale | via house and garden

As much as I covet checkered tiles in a kitchen, I equally adore them in bathrooms. So much so in fact that I am desperately looking for the right scale of checkered vinyl tile so I can make this dream come true in my own tiny rental bathroom.

design by gabriella horn | photo by christian harder | via architectural digest

A modern farmhouse dining room is exactly where large checkered tile flooring belongs. It’s hard to beat because although it catches your eye immediately, it’s never too loud when it’s on its own so it becomes an easy vessel to add intrigue without going full maximalist.

Another note on the checkered tile is how the color choice can inform the style you are going for. Classic green or red will give off a more retro vibe immediately, making it a great jumping-off point if that is the look you are going for.

We often think of this pattern in association with the 50s but its roots go way way wayyyyy back. The actual checkerboard was created in 3000 BC so it should come as no surprise that the pattern in design came around earlier than we think. Possibly earlier than we even know about. So it makes perfect sense that it has an old-world allure to it as well, making it a perfect element in Victorian-style homes.

image source

I leave you with this famous shot of the Questel staircase in the beautiful palace of Versailles as a reminder that the history of this geometrical pattern, if nothing else, transcends its popularity in our modern times. So, will checkers ever cease being classic? I can’t imagine so.

If you are in the market for some hints of this trend in your home, here are some of our picks:

1. Nerikomi Black & White Checkered Ceramic Vase by Fizzy Ceramics | 2. Checkerboard Shaggy Rug | 3. Moroccan Checkered Ottoman Square Sofa Pouf | 4. Large Checkered Area Rug | 5. Checkerboard Throw Pillow | 6. Large Beige and White Checkered Rug | 7. Checkered Panel | 8. Irregular Checkerboard Bolster Pillow | 9. Sanna Room Divider | 10. Dark Brown & White Checkered Moroccan Wool Area Rug | 11. Check VI – Green — Checkerboard Print Bench | 12. Vintage Mid Century Checkered Berber Pouf

Now I would love to know your thoughts so sounds off in the comments below. xx

Opener Image Credit: Design by Gabriella Horn | Photo by Christian Harder | via Architectural Digest

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Katy
1 month ago

Not a single mention of Brady’s apartment kitchen he showcased here?!

Kj
1 month ago
Reply to  Katy
Kj
1 month ago
Reply to  Kj
Michelle
1 month ago
Reply to  Katy

That was first on my mind and then Jordan Ferney’s entryway and then CLJ’s old (and GIANT) dining room!

love the eye candy in this post. i never really liked checkered floors before this past year. before that i always associated them with gross old fashioned diners, so i’ve never liked them. but since they’ve been so in style right now, i’ve seen so many really great examples of them in beautiful shots, so now i can really appreciate it. i remember the first time i saw it done well where i actually liked it was in brady’s dining room/kitchen. i couldn’t believe i liked it. now i LOVE checkered floors. that kelly wearstler room is AMAZING! looks like a hotel lobby. that couch. that gallery wall. the amy convery room is beautiful. that gallery wall is so good. the architectural digest entryway with the big black and white checkered floor is STUNNING. STU.NNING. the other two architectural digest shots with the marble white and gray checkered floor is soooo good. i love love love marble gray and white checkered floors. it’s nice to see checkers in a less graphic color pattern. everything in that room is gorgeous. that shot of the floors in the stairway in the Versailles picture is amazing and i’ve never seen that before and… Read more »

Ella
1 month ago

Love all of this EXCEPT those checkers on the staircase runner looks like a totally trippy psychedelic trip hazard.

SARAH
1 month ago
Reply to  Ella

oh really? I thought that was so creative and cool!

Karen
1 month ago

LOVE THIS LOOK! And it’s a very timely post, as I currently scour the internet and local tile stores for square black, gray, and white tile options; really trying to stay with marble/stone, I think? We’re going to renovate our middle bath (for my daughters), and my heart is set on checkerboard – I definitely want 18″squares (larger format), and not a super plain white for the lighter tile, because – you know, they’re floors and they’ll get dirty. When I was about 30 I renovated a tiny kitchen, and chose an “industrial grade” black and white checkerboard that had to be some sort of laminate material. OMG, memories of me on hands and knees, scrubbing those white tiles that would get dirty so quickly…….. I also not too long ago painted the laminate floors in my laundry room a white and gray checkerboard, and they look fantastic. It’s held up really well (I used a special paint), and was a great cost-effective way to change dingy yellowish 80s laminate into something fun. https://www.instagram.com/p/CCgaVtdjYFd/

Elaine
1 month ago
Reply to  Karen

If I could give your laundry makeover two thumbs up I would!

CS in DC
1 month ago
Reply to  Elaine

Yes, it so pretty! Well done and very nice use of checkerboard!

Emma
1 month ago

For me, the 9×9 checkered floor tile will ALWAYS read asbestos.

Rachel S
1 month ago

When something becomes “trendy” it can be very clarifying. I’ve never liked check patterns (and I’m old enough to remember when they were very big in the 1980s) and (other than the original floors in the above pictures) I still don’t like them which is completely ok!

Sometimes when you see a lot of something you can be like, mmmmm yes coming round to this and other times makes it easy to go no thank you! But that’s the great thing about design – you can do what YOU like!

1 month ago

Wow! I really enjoyed this blog but if you’re looking to learn more about interior designing then you should check out Creative Shelf. Creative Shelf is the largest interior designing company in all of UAE

Des
1 month ago

Oh checkered floors can absolutely be done well. I think people have “traumatic” memories of them because they’ve seen them done very poorly.

Ryan
1 month ago
Reply to  Des

Yes! With the black and white, I see a 50’s themed restaurant or the Daytona 500.

Allana
1 month ago

I’m putting a marble checkerboard floor, angled 45 degrees, in my kitchen reno this year. I had a black and white vinyl tile floor in a previous home and it was a nightmare to keep clean, so I went with a honed marble with some movement and veining and I’m so excited about it!
Of course the marble is back ordered but it’ll be worth the wait!
Having a tiny city kitchen makes a marble floor possible!

DeniseGK
1 month ago
Reply to  Allana

Yours is my absolute favorite kind of checkered floor, nothing else comes close

🥰 Rusty
1 month ago

I don’t m8nd diagonally laid checkered floors, but the straight laid squares don’t do it for me, it’s a mix of ‘wh?’ and ‘meh’.

My favourite images are the checkered carpeted stairs … and that Albert Einstein, crazy-looking dog!!!!💓

Basically, I’m more inspired by ‘true’ patterns ⚜✴🔆☯️🌈🎏🎨♥️🦄 , rather than just squares. ⬜⬛⬜⬛⬜⬛

1 month ago

So. Many. Fabulous. Examples!!! The checkered stair runner with the herringbone flooring and stair rails, so many wonderful graphic choices. And, I’d like to live in the space with the checkered club chairs–Swoon!

Katie
1 month ago

In my opinion checkered floors are classic and have been for centuries, just because something is currently trending doesn’t stop that from being true. I have always loved them, trending or not.

Karen
1 month ago
Reply to  Katie

I agree. I think sometimes the trendy aspect is the color palette. Like my elementary school bathrooms had avocado, Kelly green checkered floors. Classic design, color dated it.

Juliet
1 month ago

Lovely and timely post! Not saying this in reference to this article specifically, but in general. I think there is a widespread overall confusion between a trend and a fad. A trend is something that is currently being showcased and discussed on a mass scale. Trends can be very classic things that are currently in preference by many. A fad is an intense enthusiasm for something short-lived and typically without sound quality. When a fad is done, it’s reallyyyy done. No classic qualities. Checkered tiling is a classic design that is currently trending. It was a trend in the 50s (aka diners) and now in the 2020s for home interiors. My main point is that trends are not always negative. So if anyone reading this love classic checkers and some nay sayer says it’s a trend, you’ll have a good response and should go for it! It will eventually fade from the current spotlight, but they’ll still always be stylish. And if you love it, it’s always in style and always trending! Would love to hear others thoughts!

🥰 Rusty
1 month ago
Reply to  Juliet

Juliet, I think you explained that well.

kt
1 month ago
Reply to  Juliet

YES! to this! the use of the word “trend” has gained a derogatory tinge to it… when really this is a centuries old classic look that is having a moment again! #teamcheckers

Shannon
1 month ago
Reply to  Juliet

I always understood a trend to be something that builds slowly while a fad comes on quickly and burns out just as fast. Though a trend stays around longer, it does have a peak and then dissipates. Wether or not what’s trending is, or has ever been classic is a separate issue. That said, I agree completely that if something has been around forever, and come in and out, it can be deemed classic and is probably a safer choice for anyone wanting to avoid decor that dates easily. Unfortunately, timelessness is somewhat of a myth because “classic” is interpreted differently during different decades. I think you should do what you love and accept that total timelessness is probably not possible. The closest we can come imo is a mix of “classic” influences from different periods, with a focus on quality.

Rebecca
1 month ago

I recently put in tile into my dining room and did a checkered pattern (for all the reasons listed above – so classic in a 1914 home). I think the scale of the tile is really important as well – I hated a 12×12″ pattern, but we settled on a 8×8″ pattern and I love it so much. Also – it was almost impossible for us to find reasonably priced 4×4″ black and white matte tile, which was the worst, but we are all good with what we ended up with so it’s fine haha.

Karen
1 month ago

Any old home.not limited to europe. Love them. Wont quit. Timelesss. Never have gone out of style for those who love them.

Kate
1 month ago

That bathroom with the green on the floor where they changed the scale inside and outside the shower is driving me crazy.

Julie S
1 month ago

I’m one of those who hasn’t loved checkers in the past and still doesn’t. They are just not for me I guess! High contrast/busyness makes it worse. I am OK with diamond laid orientation, the bigger the better… the only one of these photos where I could give a grudging nod to the checkers was the AD entrance hall near the end of the post. Good to know it’s a classic pass for me for sure 🙂

Jessie
1 month ago
Reply to  Julie S

I agree. I’ve never been a fan. I think the busy pattern actually messes with my eyes/equilibrium, so I have a real aversion. To each their own 😊

Adriana
1 month ago

I think black and white checkerboard will always look fantastic in period homes where checkerboard would have originally been in fashion. You can put in marble checkers and feel good that they’ll last many years. But if you put checkerboard in your Tudor, Craftsman, or new build, I personally think it’ll look like a 2022 trend in ten years.

Shannon
1 month ago
Reply to  Adriana

As will most other design choices made this year

1 month ago

I love chekered tiled floors, they remind me of my grand mother house, but i think they are easier to accomodate any style in black and white.

1 month ago

All of the pictures are brilliant, specially the bedroom! In 2022 we really do have some great designers out there. Home is where the heart is as they say… I love spending my time making my home as cosy and modern as possible!

Barbara
1 month ago

I like a checkerboard pattern but prefer less contrast such as white and light gray or two tones of the same color. It just feels softer to me. https://pin.it/2esv9S1

Sandberg
1 month ago

Checks are great, but when used on the floor be sure that the checks aren’t totally solid colors. There should be some marbling or texture or something. Otherwise you will see every speck of dust or mud. Floors should be able to hide a little dirt and solid checks do not.

Michelle
1 month ago

I have ALWAYS loved a black and white checkered floor. I’ll die on that hill with you!

Lane
1 month ago

The bigger the pattern and the higher the contrast the more overwhelming it is for my senses. It does impact the space more as it is bolder and more visible than other things in the room. I prefer other things to play a bigger role in the space than the floor itself. Smaller squares and/or lower contrast work so much better for me. Design is highly personal and everybody should feel comfortable in their home. It is a definite no from me when it comes to tile, but I did like many of the textiles in small doses.

SARAH
1 month ago

girlfriend you are beautiful with no effort!
i believe there is another moto with a checkered blanket 😏

Kara
1 month ago

I know this isn’t the topic of this post, but I have always loved a striped sofa, and somehow it never occurred to me that you could have a sofa with DIAGONAL STRIPES on it, and I’m stashing that photo for project inspiration immediately.

designpo
1 month ago

The checkerboard trend that’s happening in fashion and home accessories it not the same as a checkerboard floor, which is classic and will always be appropriate in certain homes, like a 1950s kitchen.

Anne K
1 month ago

I just ordered checkered floors for my hall, laundry room and bathroom and I am loving them so much already. But instead of the high contrast black and white, I went for two different greys and a cream with ochre. The pattern always felt classic for me and I cannot wait to see the finished tiles.

1 month ago

I really appreciate your efforts. Thanks for sharing.

priscilla
1 month ago

I love a checkerboard, my grandmother had one in her kitchen in LA a very long time ago. I have found that a checkerboard works best, for me, as not white-white and black-black as both black and white are hell to keep looking clean. Ivory and dark grey at least give you a fighting chance of not having to wash the floor every day. My two cents.
Here’s another penny: didn’t Missoni do last fall’s collection using their trademark zigzag patterns mixed with black and white checked pieces? Last year or the year before (cuz pandemic has blended all the years for me)?

Michelle
1 month ago
Reply to  priscilla

Agreed. This was a great post with lots to react to. I’m extremely particular about what checkerboard patterns I like. Over time I’ve found it’s all to do with the depth of color. It’s such a sharp pattern that, to me, that black or white better have some substance. But living with it in the entry way? Good grief, no. Lol. Unless I had a show house where no one actually walked around every day, which is so how AD houses seem to me. Randomly, is a return of houndstooth next?

Tara
1 month ago

Meh, I associate these with 80s vinyl but I appreciate the classic marble examples.

Katie
1 month ago

Unpopular opinion…I want to like checkerboard but I just don’t. At least generally speaking. The only examples I can get behind are the throw blanket in the muted red tones (maybe I’m liking that it’s not high contrast?) and the grand entrance hall towards the end of the post (looks so historic in that setting). There’s just something about it that is unsettling to my eyes in most uses.

Lindsay
1 month ago

I’m chuckling and trying to analyze myself right now–why am I having an outrageously negative reaction to the checkers? It is clearly me, because I have always recoiled from that pattern–whether it be in clothes, a handkerchief, a rug, a floor, or a dishrag.
After a bit of thought, I think I’ve got it–it feels so cold and technical to me, so predictable and nonorganic, and somehow unyielding. It hems you in. No romance. No life.
Clearly I need psychoanalysis over my checker phobia, but there it is.
You all do you–it is a classic, but since this is a community, just had to share my reaction–give me some Ikat, Shibori, tie-dye, rice paper, hand carved block prints, anything with some waver to the pattern, some human touch– but, clearly, for whatever reason, hold the checkers!
xo, Lindsay

Judy
1 month ago

I wonder if your dream of something from 70 years ago will exist in years to come. It seems we can’t let something age even 10 or 20 years anymore without calling it dated, ripping it out, putting it in landfill and installing the new trend.

CHRISTA
1 month ago
Reply to  Judy

This happens when people jump in with both feet for the latest showroom designs. Also builders build houses that are trendy (currently Farmhouse; previously Craftsman, Tuscan/Mediterranean, Post-Modern, Traditional, etc). The materials should match the architecture, but builders do a cheaper version and hype it as the latest cool thing. Guess what happens when the ‘Tuscan’ house you bought in 2004 is out of style? It’s a consumer cycle.

Shannon
1 month ago
Reply to  CHRISTA

Great points

Holly
1 month ago

I was bothered by the checkered look being so popular too but made myself get over it because of the look of the rug I wanted. I’m happy with it. https://www.instagram.com/p/CZuaE77leaA/?utm_medium=copy_link

KELLY HOOVER
1 month ago

WE BUILT OUR HOME 1995, WHEN IT CAME TIME TO PICK FLOORING, IT WAS A NO BRAINER FOR ME, I CHOOSE BLACK & WHITE BECAUSE EVERYTHING GOES WITH IT, & BY THAT I MEAN COLOR WISE OR THE PERIOD YOU’RE GOING FOR… WE PURCHASED “MANNINGTON” VINYL, IT HAD A 25yr. WARRANTY, & IT HAS LIVED UP TO IT’S NAME, WE HAVEN’T HELD BACK EITHER, SEVERAL DOGS, CATS, CHILDREN, MANY PARTIES, HIGH HEELS, TAP SHOES, & A GOAT! YES A GOAT, WE HAD HIM FOR 7 YEARS, HE WAS BORN WITH A BLOOD DISEASE & COULDN’T SURVIVE OUT SIDE & COULDN’T BE AROUND HORSES OR OTHER GOATS, HE WAS HOUSEBROKEN TOO! HE LOVED TO RUN & JUMP & CLICK HIS HOVES ON THE FLOOR! OUR FLOOR IS NEARING THE END OF IT’S LIFE, A LIFE WELL LIVED IT’S TIME TO BE REPLACED, & I WILL BE GETTING THE SAME FLOOR! BLACK & WHITE WILL NEVER DIE, IT’S SUCH A CLASSIC, ITS HERE TO STAY…

CHRISTA
1 month ago

You have found the great examples of this look, but I’m sure there are 5 times as many photos out there of this look done badly. When a classic style becomes trendy, it tends to get taken out of context. I’m no expert but from what I’ve seen, classic black and white marble floors existed in palaces and estates. And I’ve seen small-scale, lower-contrast checkerboard working in vintage rooms that have the architecture to stand up to the pattern. Most of the examples shown are not new build homes, and they are scaled correctly for their space. What I don’t think works so well is to go for that black and white in a typical home that doesn’t have that sense of scale and the contrast can overwhelm the space.

Brit Gagne
1 month ago

The only one I’ve ever truly liked was Nate & Jeremiah’s on Rock the Block. A couple of these examples are okay, but it’s just so busy and loud.

Anna
1 month ago

Completely floored (lol) that there are no comments referencing Emily’s new mosaic tile floor plan for the farmhouse sunroom! This post felt a little like a “but look how cool/great a classic checker pattern can be” response to that reveal and honestly, it works for me and got me more excited to see that floor come to life 🙂

1 month ago

Long time reader first (maybe second time) commenter. The checkerboard conversation woke me up from my non-commenting slumber! Checkerboard tiles and gingham linens have become my signature. Last year we moved down to Mexico to raise our kids and renovate a home. Our first priority was building a pool. Once we got to the design phase and choosing tiles we were faced with so many decorative and fun options. But ultimately opted for checkerboard (referred to as aljedrez which translates to ‘chess’)because of it was equal parts classic and playful. We have since brought in other hints of the pattern to other parts of our property and we adore it. Find us @casamadre.sp xx

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