How To Make Tartan Work In A Living Room

Made up from criss-crossed horizontal and vertical stripes in different colors, tartan is probably one of the most easily recognisable designs around. Of course, for many people tartan is mostly strongly associated with the Scottish Highlands, kilts and bagpipes. Nevertheless, tartan is found extensively in other areas, too.

Tartan dress is to be found in Western France, Northern Spain and Ireland. In North America you’ll probably hear the term plaid as often as tartan, depending on the heritage of the area. Highland tartans were associated with either regions or districts until the middle of the nineteenth century, rather than representing a certain clan or kin.

Warm and hard wearing, the use of tartan in interior design became the norm for baronial estates in Scotland. Nowadays, tartan is still used extensively in textiles, for clothing and upholstery, but is also a design used with other materials, such as wall coverings, paper and plastics. If you use tartan in your home it can instantly add to a sense of cosiness. Give your living room a traditional feel by an element or two that uses this design classic.

Mixed Tartans.

Tartans come in such a wide variety that you may not know where to start. A good approach to take is to use tartans that have some family connection, if your heritage can be traced back. Even if not, one of the great things about tartan is that it mixes well with others. It is very hard to find a tartan that will clash with another, so there is rarely an issue if you choose to mix them up together in your room.

Cushions And Throws.

Update your living room’s furniture with a splash or two of tartan. There’s no need to go overboard and cover everything with the material in order to achieve the effect. Recover some cushions and a foot rest in the same tartan material to give a little Scottish feel to your room. Tartan cushions work well in an eclectic room, especially if it has other design elements that have been gathered from elsewhere in the world. They also work excellently in a traditionally styled living room that has leather upholstery.


A few soft furnishings are one thing, but to really turn your living space over to a tartan theme you will have to consider your surfaces, walls and ceiling. If you are going to decorate the entire room with tartan it is probably best to restrict yourself to the number you will use. Ceiling coverings will work, so long as you have some exposed beams that break up the look.

Panels of tartan, hung from the walls, create the right effect without becoming too busy on the eye. There are plenty of choices for tartan designs with wallpaper. On trend are tartan patterns that have been designed with a limited, but coordinated, color palette. You can use these as you would with a bold and repetitive wall paper design. They are perfect as an accent wall, for instance.

Occasional Furniture.

If you want to include tartan in your living room, but want to coordinate it with a look that you have already established, then the best approach to take it with an item or two of occasional furniture. A pair of occasional chairs, for example, set by the fireplace is often enough to get the cosy feel you want from tartan. There’s no need to go overdo the use of tartan when it comes to interiors. And remember, you don’t need to have Scottish heritage to enjoy it.

Picture sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11.

Published by in How To, Tips, and Advice, on March 2nd, 2013


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