Mad for Plaid

Mad for Plaidfeatured

Nothing says “autumn in New England” quite like a room clad in plaid. Before we moved to our new home, when I was still scheming and planning and imagining, I envisioned a proper playroom for our two boys anchored by a massive sectional bedecked in Blackwatch and slung with vintage wool picnic blankets and soft velvet pillows…layers of rugs and leather chairs worn down to just the right patina. Most of that came true, and as it turns out, plaid is an excellent concealer of little kid stains like runny noses, magic markers and fossilized playdoh.

Lorenzo Castillo's Beach House in Northern Spain, via Architectural Digest

Lorenzo Castillo’s Beach House in Northern Spain, via Architectural Digest

To me, tartan plaids are the ultimate traditional trimming and far more versatile than you might imagine. They pair as easily with Chinoiserie ginger jars as they do with rustic sweater-weave baskets. They’re equally at home in the city or by the sea. Just look at Lorenzo Castillo’s seaside escape in Spain, pictured above.

Scot Meacham Wood via Decorist

Scot Meacham Wood via Decorist

I love that plaids are making a comeback, in large part thanks to star designers like Scot Meacham Wood, who cultivated his look at – where else? – Ralph Lauren, before launching his eponymous firm. A veritable Titan of Tartan, he’s an expert on this time-honored pattern and has an entire shop devoted to plaid-clad wares. Check it out here.

robert-allen-helios-plaid-brass-hill-designAlthough it hasn’t been the coldest fall here in the Northeast, the approach of the holiday season has me craving a cozier vibe. And what better way to add a little lived-in softness than with a preppy plaid. On my desk at the moment I have a trio of Robert Allen’s new wool-blend Helios Plaids perched atop a pile of line sheets. As usual, I’m drawn to the blue-gray “Mussel Shell” colorway and I’d finish it with a fun tangerine orange brush fringe. I’d pair a simple plaid like this with Hunt Slonem’s Bunnies or something equally preppy. Might as well go for it, right?

Here are a few other plaid wares that have caught my eye:

mayfair_setteeHow about the lucite legs on this Campell Tartan Mayfair Settee, $6,950…

annie-selke-cooper-jute-rugLove this Annie Selke jute rug ($494 for an 8×10)…and l’m coveting those ponies in the background


Ralph Lauren’s Drummond Houndstooth Wallpaper: Like wrapping your walls in a cashmere sweater.

ralph-lauren-clifton-tattersalRalph’s Clifton Tattersal would make such a great statement on chair-rail height walls in a room with lofty, beam-clad vaulted ceilings. Pictured here in one of Seth Meyer’s backstage spaces, courtesy of Architectural Digest.

ballard-buffalo-check-drapes-ry015_alt2Ballard’s not-too-busy Buffalo Check drapes are soft and neutral in Natural, $99-119




Bristol Dinner & Salad Plates from Fitz & Floyd, $33 for a set of four

dixon-daybed-one-kings-laneThe Dixon Daybed from One Kings Lane, $2,595

Scottish Tartan Pillows via Mike Seratt

Scottish Tartan Pillows via Mike Seratt of The Prized Pig, $299/S2

Blackwatch Pillows via Treasure Trove, $325

Blackwatch Pillows via Treasure Trove, $325/S2

Ralph Lauren Windowpane Pillows via Treasure Trove, $495

Ralph Lauren Windowpane Pillows via Treasure Trove, $495/S2

Side note: Ever wonder what the difference is between tartan and plaid? Meacham Wood is the man to ask: (via House Beautiful): “All plaids and tartans are comprised of stripes (in varying sizes and colors) that meet at a 90-degree angle. We start heading into ‘tartan’ territory by looking at the geometry on the pattern. With most every tartan, the pattern on the stripes running vertically is exactly duplicated on the horizontal axis too. Basically, this matching pattern in both directions will create a grid. The warp and weft threads are then woven in a two-over-two “twill” pattern. When looking at a simple plaid, you’ll notice that the stripes — either in color, size, or pattern — are not the same in both directions.”

Opening photograph by Thayer Allyson Gowdy for House Beautiful

About the author


A lifestyle magazine writer by trade, Mariel swapped her laptop for a hardhat after spending four years (and counting) renovating turn-of-the-century homes in Westchester, NY.

Add comment