Christopher Dibble
Designer Max Humphrey put a twist on a classic by mixing a Shibori print pillow with preppy plaid on an upholstered bench in his book, Modern Americana (Gibbs Smith)

In Tartan, Tattersall, Madras, Wallace, or Glen, plaid has broken free of its musty, preppy past and emerged as a fresh take for upholstery and textiles.

Christine Lennon  – October 13, 2021

There are some homes in which beachy-casual furniture, or that bright and bold modern look, just doesn’t work. A mountain cabin with hunting lodge vibes; a formal, old Tudor in a historic neighborhood; or even a detail-rich craftsman, begs for decor that’s a little more grounded in the past.

Whatever you call that style—classic lodge or modern traditional—the look pushes back on the culture of disposable design, drawing from ideas that are rooted in the earliest American homes of the 18th and 19th century. Think unfinished brass bath and kitchen fixtures, gathered skirts under proper sinks, and hand-painted ceramic plates hung on the wall. It projects the idea that it’s built to last, and here to stay. And it begs for a classic pattern to tie it all together, like plaid.

“I am seeing a return to things that feel nostalgic, and I think plaid does that for people. There is something deeply comforting about it,” says Seattle-based interior designer Heidi Caillier, whose aesthetic is rooted in traditional American design updated with modern textures and unexpected color. Caillier’s work is long on deep color, like plum and navy, and a fair amount of hand-painted floral patterns. To keep it all from looking too grandma (not that there’s anything wrong with grandma), she layers in some solids and linear pattern, such as plaids woven in autumnal shades like umber and slate blue.

More Videos From Sunset

“Plaid can be a nice foil to other, more feminine patterns like florals,” she says. “It’s great in small doses to complement other textiles, but I do think you have to be careful not to go overboard, or it can feel a bit kitschy.”

Interior designer Max Humphrey also uses plaid generously. The Portland-based designer grew up in New England, and his vintage-preppy-woodsy aesthetic, which he calls modern Americana, reflects that regional mash-up well.

And while we would never suggest redecorating seasonally, throwing a few plaid pillows, or a new throw blanket, onto the sofa is the home decor equivalent of hearty fall comfort food.

Table of Contents

West Elm Collab
A kitchen corner gets super cozy with mix-and-match plaid textiles from Heather Taylor Home for West Elm.

Courtesy of West Elm

Heather Taylor’s line of home textiles leans heavily on woven, linear patterns, like windowpane and glen plaid, with a natural cotton base. Her signature line is woven in Chiapas, Mexico and priced as affordable heirlooms, but her West Elm collection (there are a few pieces left online) was a more affordable interpretation of the look.

Sofa, So Good

Chances are, you encountered a scratchy plaid sofa at some point in your childhood, likely in a “rec room” or a rented ski house. Heidi Caillier’s take on the traditional home staple uses a woven fabric that’s soft to the touch in muted blue.

Good Chair Day

plaid-upholstered-chairs-Browne-family-tasting-room
Seattle-based interior designer Heidi Caillier combined warm umber window pane plaid chairs and a mauve tufted banquette for the Browne Family Vineyards tasting room.

Haris Kenjar

Another space designed by Caillier, the Browne Family Vineyard tasting room in Seattle includes plaid upholstered bars stool and chairs. The umber color, set against a wood paneled wall and offset by a purply mauve banquette and teal paint, means the windowpane pattern looks just right for right now.

Add Some Plaid With These Products

We only recommend things we love. If you buy something through our site, we might earn a commission.


Our 2021 Harvest Issue Is Out—Read It Here!

Get one year of Sunset—and all kinds of bonuses—for just $24.95. Subscribe now!