Checkerboard craze: why this retro pattern has made a comeback

From Victorian houses to the ‘00s skate craze, the checkerboard has been around for centuries – in both interiors and fashion. Now, it is this year’s standout pattern, covering everything from shower walls to kitchen floors.

Few decorating ideas feel as timeless and universal as the checkerboard. In the 19th century, this pattern would elegantly grace the hallways of Victorian homes, while over in France, it became the pièce de resistance of the iconic Grand Trianon at the Palace of Versailles, dating back to 1687. Meanwhile, across the pond, chessboard-like flooring defined the charming aesthetic of the 1950s American diner, turning it into a retro classic.

But what makes this style so special and how did it make its way into our homes again? Grazzie Wilson, head of creative at Ca’ Pietra, says the resurgence of checkerboard flooring has largely to do with the geometric shapes that are easy to create, using tiles or paint. “Usually in black and white, the versatility of this kind of floor means it can work well in almost any kind of space,” she adds.

If you’re keen to embrace the look, here’s what you need to know…

Velvet green corner banquette, wooden dining table and light blue-and-white checkerboard floor.
Add a splash of colour to your dining area with a striking checkerboard floor. Squares in Linen White and Bay Blue tiles, £48.99 per sq m each, Harvey Maria.

Go big or zone in

So, how can you include checkerboard flooring in your home? If you’re not afraid to go all out, why not cover your entire floor in checkered tiles? Liam Cleverdon, flooring trends expert at Flooring King, says this type of flooring works particularly well in kitchens, as well as bathrooms, as it adds another dimension to the space, making the room pop.

“Starting with spaces such as the kitchen or entryway is also a great way to make a striking first impression,” agrees Rudolph Diesel, interior designer at Rudolph Diesel London.

Yellow kitchen design with checkered floor in black and white with a rustic effect, metro tiles on the wall and open shelving.
Design by Kitchens by Holloways, price on application.

But if you’re not feeling brave enough to cover the whole of the floor, you could mix it up with an eye-catching checkered zone within an otherwise-minimalist space.

You can use checkerboard flooring to designate different cooking, dining and social areas within a kitchen, for example. And, you can even choose alternating colours to define distinct zones. “Transitioning from one colour to another can visually separate spaces while maintaining an elegant, cohesive design,” says Rudolph.

Or, for a more subtle effect, try painting or tiling just little patches of your floor in checkerboard – like the section by the shower or underneath your vanity unit or bath, or even a strip around your bed that creates an interesting border around it.

Bathroom with monochromatic checkered floor, black and white bath and pink patterned wallpaper.
The classic monochromatic checkered floor can be the perfect addition to your bathroom. For an interesting contrast, pair it with a colourful wall. Butler porcelain tiles in Calacatta and Marquina, £59.40 per sq m each, Ca’ Pietra.

Complementing palettes

Of course, the colour combinations you opt for, are equally important. While the traditional black-and-white combo is a classic choice for a timeless, sleek look, you can go over the top with jewel colours, or more pared-back with pastel hues.

Bathroom with marble checkered terracotta-and-cream floor tiles, white bath and shower in cream tones.
Aurelius bath, BC Designs. Photography: Darren Chung | @mouse_interiors.

“Contrasting or similar shades can be used to soften and warm the space,” says Barrie Cutchie, design director at BC Designs. “We’re seeing more of softer variations of the light and dark elements. Neutral shades tone down the stark lines that can come with a checkerboard pattern, while rich and warm shades add an opulence and moody feel to a room.”

Bathroom in white and light green checkerboard flooring and wall, and blue open cabinetry with cream cloth curtain.
Vaporetto Grass and Cloud floor tiles, £44.96 per sq m each, Claybrook.

However, make sure the shades match your space’s existing design and decor. “To complement a chequerboard floor, opt for more saturated colours for your cabinetry, such as blacks and charcoals, dark forest greens, or even sweet pinks, depending on the tone of the flooring you choose,” advises Molly Chandler, designer at Willis & Stone.

Whites, creams and beiges have the potential to look washed out next to a chequered pattern. So, Molly suggests choosing something a little stronger to balance the overall effect of your space.

Hallway with burgundy-and-beige checkered floor and steps, and cream-and-blue chair.
Mandarin Stone’s Fitz Claret Honed Marble, £118.80 per sq m, and Fitz White Honed Marble, £90 per sq m, floor tiles in checkered pattern bring depth and flair into this hallway.

What is the best material for your checkerboard floor?

When it comes to choosing the right tiling, experts agree that the material can make a big difference in your checkered floor’s appearance. Luckily, there are many options to choose from. You can use limestone or marble for an authentic look and textured surface, or softer materials like laminate or hardwood to add warmth to spaces that need it, such as the bedroom.

Kitchen island and cabinetry in beige tones, with monochromatic checkerboard floor.
Amtico Designers’ Choice Check DC596, from £75.99, Amtico.

“In bathrooms, you should use moisture-resistant materials such as porcelain or luxury vinyl tiles in calming hues,” advises Rudolph. “These are ideal for creating a spa-like feel.”

For a different, bolder approach, Liam suggests the extra-durable linoleum, in a coloured checkerboard pattern. “A blue-and-white checkered flooring works great with this material as it brightens up a room with a fresh tone influenced by the pop of colour,” he says. “It’s also a warmer alternative to the cool tones of a traditional monochrome checkerboard.”

Utility room with white cabinetry, square tiles, white appliances, brass metal rod and open shelving for storage, and colourful patterned flooring.
The utility room in this new build in Harpenden features colourful patterned flooring. “As there was no natural light in this upstairs laundry room, we needed to keep the colour palette quite light but the materials needed to be as practical as possible,” explains Holly Vaughan, director at Vaughan Design & Development. “Linoleum flooring is a great cost-effective and hardy solution for an area like this. Plus, it also comes in such great colours.”

For a polished finish, Rudolph advises to opt for matt tiles to reduce glare and create an evergreen look. You can even consider adding rugs or runners to soften the visual impact.

Alternatively, if you don’t want to paint or tile your floor but still want to achieve a less-permanent checkerboard effect, patterned carpets and rugs will do the trick, allowing you to experiment while adding character to a neutral floor. This comes in especially handy in the bedroom, where checkerboard tiling might feel a little overwhelming.

Bedroom in blue and white shades, with light blue-and-beige checkered carpet.
Cover your bedroom floor with a checkerboard carpet such as this flatweave rug, £3200, by Jonathan Adler.

What is the right checkerboard tile size for your room?

As far as tiling is concerned, try playing around with different sizes and scales. Paul Hambidge, managing director of flooring retailer Factory Direct Flooring, recommends following this simple rule of thumb: the larger your room is, the larger the scale of your checkerboard pattern should be.

“If you choose a scale that is too small and repeats too much, it will look overwhelming in a large room. Similarly, if your room is small and you choose a large-scale pattern, it won’t repeat enough,” says Paul.

But how much flooring will you actually need? Start by measuring your room – or hire a professional to do it. Then, buy 10% more flooring than you need, to account for any wastage.

Bathroom design with checkerboard flooring in black and white, blue wall panelling on half the wall and white tiles on the other half, a marble vanity unit with a circular basin and brass accessories.
Ca’ Pietra Butler Porcelain tiles in Calacatta and Marquina, £59 per sq m each, available at Hyperion Tiles.

“Measure the longest and widest parts of the room, then multiply them to work out its square metreage,” says Paul. “It’s important to consider the shape of your room – a simple square or rectangular room will have a different measuring process than an L-shaped room, or a room with alcoves or bay windows.” Roughly sketch the outline of the room and measure each length at least twice before noting it down.

Whether you choose to paint or tile your floors in this timeless style, or opt for a less permanent solution, one thing is certain: the checkered pattern is bound to add a dramatic or whimsical touch to your space, depending on the colours you choose, and the way you decide to incorporate it.

Ready to check it out?

More ideas to get your moodboard going

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