Monday, October 19, 2009

A Celebration of Plaid

Few prints cry autumn quite like the lustrous, linear glamour of plaid. A mix of rusticity and formality, tradition and whimsy, plaid knows no bounds when it comes to making a statement. It is a favourite of fashion designers around the world, from Vivienne Westwood to Ralph Lauren, Jean-Paul Gaultier to Alexander McQueen. With roots dating back to the ancient Celts, tartan has since come to symbolize kinship, family histories, and all things Scottish. And it's no longer simply a fabric one wears under wooly sweaters on cool, damp days. There has been a decided increase in plaid's popularity indoors as well, both to accessorize or define interior spaces in a design-conscious way.

I've gathered some imagery below to illustrate how effective plaid can be as either a base theme or as an accessory in a room. The look of plaid indoors is timeless but can be slanted to be either modern or traditional, given the setting and its placement in the room. Most of the images were taken from the fantastic book by Jeffrey Banks and Doria de la Chapelle called Tartan, Romancing the Plaid. I strongly suggest anyone with an interest in the use of tartan in fashion and interior design to pick up a copy of this fine book.

In this living room, the same tartan is repeated throughout its corners: to accent the architecture of the archways, to upholster the sofas, to define the lampshade and to create the drapery. To enliven the space, and break up the potential blandness of the plaid's monochrome pallette, the room is puctuated with bright red chairs and a whimsical display of wooden top-hats hung on a wall painted a solid tone of gray, similar to the gray of the plaid.

This restroom looks ultra-luxe lined in heavy Ralph Lauren wallpaper. Notice the framed tartan prints surrounding the etching on the wall.

In this formal dining room, plaid is used sparingly and quietly to upholster the backs of the dining room chairs. Its subtle shades of beige, burgundy, cream and sage green lend themselves beautifully to the room. Only one chair, at the head of the table, is used as a pop, upholstered in a bold red and green tartan, which catches the arrangement of roses on the table.
Here, too, plaid takes on a quiet accent. Multiple tartans and patterns (on the cushions, throws and lampshade) seem to work effortlessly together because they are kept in line with the room's base shades and colours.

These antique plaid accent pieces would bring charm to just about any room. Metallic tins could hold any number of household items, including sewing supplies, pens and markers, stationery or coasters. Also shown is an old book on Scottish tartans and a pair of ivory bangles decorated in plaid motifs.

These next two photographs show how plaid can be used on a large scale and with unabashed abundance. The room above feels deep, rich and textured with its assortment of dark tartan patterns, layered one on top of the other. The unifying tones are deep green and vibrant red, which is echoed in the painting. Clean white mattes on the frames and the white lampshade bring focus to the room, like pearlescent buttons on a crisp plaid shirt.

This upstairs hallway, filled with light, is given added brightness with its swath of yellow and red plaid. The pattern nicely catches the shimmering brown of the hardwood flooring and works to accentuate the hallway's linear flow.

This image from Martha Stewart Living magazine again demonstrates the use of subtle plaid patterns in a room with muted tones. I love the blue wall, which perfectly gives the room its burst of breath.
In this other image from Martha Stewart Living, classic chair covers are given personality with a fringe of Burberry-like plaid, elevating the practical to the fashionable. The covers look lovely and rich in this brown room.
Here's one way to take a trek through the Scottish Highlands! This vintage Airstream trailor is bedecked with plaid fabric lining and flooring, creating a 'bubble of tartan' in which to camp. I love the Scotch pies on the plate by the toaster-oven, the multitude of canned Heinz beans and I can just imagine opening the door to the view of some foggy loch at the base of a heather-filled mountain.

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