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6 Ways to Design with Plaid this Fall

SEPTEMBER 21, 2021
Photo credit: Max Humphrey

Fall is just around the corner, and if we’re being honest, we’re looking forward to some cozy nights ahead. It’s also the season to refresh our home in anticipation of the chilly days to come, and one of the best ways to bring in touches of warmth is with plaid home accessories. 

There’s no denying the classic elegance of furnishings in plaid and checks. Whether you’re already a fan of the pattern or looking for ways to work it into your home, there’s no better time than now to add some plaid decor to your rooms. If you’re not sure plaid falls in line with your style, think again. 

Similar to striped designs, plaid decor has innate timeless appeal and it can often easily be styled up or pared down to complement a room’s style and furnishings. For instance, if a traditional tartan armchair feels too 19th-century English library, consider the same piece in a lighter-hued gingham; or if you’re not sure you can commit to a bold plaid look, try adding a few pillows in the motif that are easy to switch out. No matter your approach to plaid decor, they’re certain to infuse your rooms with a luxurious, warm, and welcoming look. 

For some guidance and inspiration, we’ve rounded up a few of our favorite ways to decorate with plaid. From adding tartan touches in the living room to gorgeous plaid bedroom ideas, keep reading for chic ways to play up the pattern for fall. 

Feeling inspired but need a hand mixing plaid in your home? Let our designers help

Photo credit: Rita Konig


First Things First... Get To Know The Pattern

Plaid, in general terms, refers to any pattern with a specific criss-cross design. But within plaid patterns, there is a wide array of checkered motifs that all vary slightly in composition. You’ve likely seen many of these patterns pop up in homes across Instagram and Pinterest, such as gingham and tartan. 

Here’s a quick cheat sheet to some of the most popular plaid patterns you’ll find on home furnishings when shopping. 

Glen Plaid. A classic print commonly found in suits, it’s made up of small and large checks and alternating dark and light stripes. In the home, it’s often used for drapery, pillows, and bedding. 

Tartan. The word is Scottish for plaid and it’s the traditional pattern of kilts. It’s a lavish print with a formal look, and it’s a popular choice in classic interiors—as well as for holiday decor. 

Gingham. Charming and airy, you likely recognize gingham from picnic blankets and tablecloths. However, this small-scale checkered print is a designer favorite for both clothing and upholstery. 

Buffalo Check. Think gingham but enlarged. With the same light and dark checkered design, this large-scale print has come up in recent years as a trendy pick for upholstered furniture. 

Houndstooth. An abstract check pattern that’s often in black and white, houndstooth has a richly textured look that captivates from afar. It’s a popular pattern on rugs, pillows, and bedding. 

Windowpane Check. With simple lines that resemble the open gridlike design of its name, this check pattern has a minimalist look and makes for a crisp look on upholstery and wallcoverings. 



Photo credit: Tata Harper for Lonny

Pull In A Plaid Sofa / Armchair 

If you’re ready to fully embrace plaid in your home, tartan is a pattern that will always make the boldest statement. While people often associate tartan plaid with festive decor and the holiday season, the pattern has much more perennial appeal than most think. 

Among the most stylish tartan living room ideas, a traditional sofa, such as a Chesterfield or English Roll Arm, upholstered in the plaid pattern is the perfect way to anchor a room with a formal and refined look. 

To choose one that works with your furniture and space, first consider the ambiance you are trying to bring to your room. With its bold combination of red and greens, tartan will complement darker woods to set a warm and moody tone, while it will contrast with lighter woods to stand out as a statement piece. Next, consider tartan’s bold pattern and cozy texture. Its sumptuous nature works beautifully alongside other luxurious materials and fabrics, such as leather, wool, and velvet. Finally, be sure to pull in other decor elements that reiterate tartan’s bold colors—which will make it appear more balanced in a room. 



Photo credit: Heidi Caillier

Pile On The Pillows

For a softer approach to a tartan style living room, try adding the plaid pattern with pillows. It’s a great way to experiment with plaid decor if you’re not ready to fully commit to an upholstered sofa or armchair. 

With patterned pillows in bold tartan, always opt for multiples and make sure to spread them out across your space. Think a matching pair on two separate armchairs, a trio placed on different upholstered seats, a mix of tartan pillows in different colorways on two facing sofas. This is the best way to layer in the bold look of tartan in a space.  



Photo credit: Max Humphrey

Hang Some Plaid Drapery

It’s always elegant to have plaid curtains to frame big windows. Large windows are best given the intricate design of plaid, which can appear to overwhelm a smaller window. 

Consider the material and closeness of checks on your plaid drapery. A windowpane check, which has a more open grid pattern, provides an airier look to windows that can brighten up spaces, such as a dining room or kids bedroom. Meanwhile, heavier houndstooth curtains, which have a tighter pattern design, can bring a more sumptuous feeling to rooms. Or if you’re looking to add just a touch of plaid, try a charming gingham valance above a kitchen or bathroom window.



Photo credit: Schoolhouse Electric

Bank It With A Bench

The happy medium between an upholstered sofa and plaid pillows, a bench covered in a stylish check adds just enough oomph to a space. It’s also the most versatile piece of furniture you can pair with the pattern, since you can make a plaid bench work with any setting. 

Try adding a modern bench in big buffalo checks to the foot of your bed or in the living room. It’s a seamless way to bring a touch of Scandinavian style to your decor. Similarly, you can opt for a windowpane check on a bench for a modern minimalist look. If your style leans more formal and traditional, a glen plaid, tartan, or houndstooth upholstered bench will give you the rich texture and colors that mix well with other classic furnishings. 



Photo credit: Heather Taylor Home

Serve It Up On Your Table

You can also play up plaid decor as needed with accents and tableware reserved for special occasions and holidays. Lay down a plaid tablecloth or runner, or simply set out dishware and serving pieces that feature checkered details. How casual or festive you make your table is up to you: A table dressed in gingham with white dishware makes for a pretty breakfast setting, or you can layer on the tartans, glen plaids, and colorful checks for an all-out holiday table a few times a year. 




Photo credit: Decorist

Go For A Plaid Headboard

A checkered headboard is among our favorite plaid bedroom ideas. Designer Heidi Caillier is a fan of the look and uses one to play up a sense of warmth in this earth-toned bedroom. 

With a plaid headboard, the trick is to go big. The larger and bolder the check pattern, the better, so consider any classic plaid, tartan, or buffalo check. They’re the perfect scale for a headboard and will allow it to become a focal point that captivates from afar and feels luxurious up close. On the other hand, smaller-scale plaids, such as houndstooth, can appear more like an intricately woven fabric, and a check that’s too sparse, like windowpane, can come off as loose and ungrounded behind a bed. 

Additionally, if you’re considering a plaid headboard, start with a pattern in cooler tones, like blues and greens. They’ll provide more flexibility and versatility for you to layer on pillows and bedding in a wide range of colors. By contrast, a plaid headboard in warm colors, like red and brown, can be more challenging to mix and match with other furnishings. 



Photo credit: Heather Taylor Home

Experiment With Bedding

Speaking of bedding, it’s the best way to ease into plaid if you’re not big on the pattern and color. Whether it’s a mix of plaid pillows, a coverlet, or a throw blanket, you can easily switch up your bedding and linens whenever you want.

Try going for a pair of patterned shams for a decorative approach, or you can always contrast a white bed with a duvet cover in buffalo check or a colorful plaid throw blanket. You can also experiment with plaid bedding in a guest room, which is another low-commitment way to see how it feels to live with the print in your home. 


Ready to take the plunge with plaid but still not sure where to start? Our Decorist designers are here to help!

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