It's iconic — as in the signature Burberry camel, red, white and black. It's both grungy and sporty (think flannel shirts and pajamas or the seats of lodge-y furniture). It's perky, like a bazooka pink Kate Spade dress. And while it's perhaps not as popular as stripes in home decor, some are mad about plaid.
At its most traditional and cozy, plaid takes shape as classic Scottish tartans, which still have plenty of fans. But lately we've seen an amazing range of plaids in surprising hues: raspberry, tangerine, peacock, teamed in eye-popping patterns, scales and applications, as in porcelain garden stools.
Compartes, a Los Angeles-based chocolatier, does plaid ganache-filled truffles, as in raspberry rose on dark chocolate.
From Derek Lam to Oscar de la Renta frocks and velvet-trimmed flannel Christian Louboutin shoes, plaid has been showing up on couture runways. Menswear designers like Ermenigeldo Zegna and Tom Ford have favored it, and celebs like Justin Timberlake have rocked the look — in full suit.
Washington, D.C. designer Mary Douglas Drysdale is neither shy about color nor shy about using plaid. In the breakfast room of her 1904 brownstone, Drysdale punched up a gray alpaca banquette with a gorgeous apricot plaid alpaca from Sandra Jordan for curtains and pillows.
"I've been a stripe person for a long time," Drysdale says. "But I think they're a little rigid. Plaid is more approachable, not pretentious in any way. It also lends an opportunity for extra colors. I think we're on the verge of a huge plaid trend in fashion and decoration.
"After a long time of plain, people are seeking out pattern. We've done a lot of flowers. Stripes are a little too formal. Plaid is very sophisticated and the new ones are an interpretation of something very comfortable — in fresh colors and scales."
Take the Donegal chair at Crate and Barrel, for example. Its large-scale open retro plaid is graphic and textural, with a nubby boucle fabric. One available color combination — charcoal with a grid of citrine, beige and taupe — is especially fresh.
And totally unexpected on tiles. Sara Baldwin drew from her Scottish heritage for a collection of plaid and gingham tiles in glass and stone mosaic for New Ravenna.
When they're hand-painted, designs are less rigid, as diagonal brush strokes in cool shades with a watercolor effect on a cotton runner at Crate and Barrel.
Plaids are not such an unusual choice for table linens: place mats, napkins, aprons and oven mitts. Some pastel combinations, as in the linens from Libeco Home, are especially pleasing for spring and summer. Pillows are an easy plaid option to add pop to a chair, sofa or bed.
If you dig the pattern, just not the color, consider the elegant plaid votives made out of mercury glass, available for only $12 apiece at Jayson Home.
As for Drysdale, she might be hooked on plaids for a while.
"The other day I was fantasizing about doing a whole house in plaid," she admits.
Well, not likely the facade, as the building is a brownstone. But there's always the front door.