Hear ‘tartan’ and do you find yourself going straight to the stereotype of the bright red variety with an animal bust or antlers affixed to the wall?
While this iconic pattern does have Scottish roots, and therefore was historically paired with archetypal Scottish motifs and emblems, it is a pattern that comes in an array of colours, adopted by designers of all types across the globe.
From Burberry’s defining camel-hued tartan to Ralph Lauren’s tartan-clad interiors, tartan is a major player in print history, but how to use it tastefully and avoid any clichés? Here are five ideas to mull over for your own seasonal sitting room scheme.
1. Tartan wallpaper
Dive in at the deep end by taking tartan to your walls. This is a look that’s not for the faint-hearted, because no matter what tone of tartan you choose, the impact is strong. You can lessen that though by having it as a feature wall with a large piece of furniture backed against it. This way, only a section of the tartan will be on display. Try a full-wall bookcase or even a large sofa with a mirror hung above it as your tone-down tools.
Image Credit: Greg Natale/Bronte
2. Tartan carpets
Similarly, a patterned carpet is a large-scale way to introduce tartan to a living room.
Busy as it may be, with a colourway like the Black Watch tartan where tones of deep navy and forest green come together, it becomes that bit more low-key.
Because tartan has an inherently cosy connotation, a Black Watch carpet may appear out of touch in a sitting room come summertime. Instead, keep it to a snug where you’ll always want to encourage a hunker-down ambiance, and for a sitting room, consider navy and cream tartan, which is far more sophisticated and suited to all of the seasons.
3. Tartan upholstery
A tartan armchair or footstool is remarkably easy to pair with the principal sofa in a living room. Be sure to pick out the main shade seen on the sofa and feature it on the selected tartan in either the warp or the weft. To help further link the two pieces of upholstered furniture, a single cushion on the tartan armchair that’s in the sofa’s fabric will achieve this.
The prospect of a single seat in a tartan textile is a tempting one, because it is a small promise of pattern and causes a comforting armchair to appear all the more inviting. Try not to be deterred from a tartan-upholstered sofa though. By choosing a more modern tartan and styling it with cushions in unexpected fabrics, the end result will be anything but traditional. Block-coloured wool with playful piping and contrasting cushion patterns, from animal print to another tartan in a different set of hues, are a good place to begin.
Image Credit: Greg Natale
4. Tartan cushions
The failsafe accessory for embracing colour, pattern and texture in a room, a tartan cushion. What is particularly helpful with a tartan cushion is that it can be swapped out when winter has been and gone, allowing you to forget all about finding a plaid that is relevant all year long.
Use cushions also to explore interpretations of tartan. Look out for those that use classic tartan tones of red, yellow and green—known as Royal Stewart tartan—but position them in a new light with geometric shapes, tribal print or more contemporary lines than the customary criss-cross.
5. Tartan throws
A cushion’s closest companion is a throw or blanket—an accessory duo that unite to provide a sitting room with layers of texture, helping it to feel as welcoming as possible.
Opt for a throw in genuine Highland wool for an authentic tartan experience and look for a check in neutral tones that will blend with any colour scheme and any style of decor. Remember that camel, ochre and cream are very much part of the tartan universe too. Choose a few and display them folded so the tartan’s calming side gets to shine—just not quite so brightly as you might have once expected.