Get in with Gingham!

Posted 24th April 2021

Gingham has suddenly got stylish! For years this pretty miniature check pattern has been associated with picnic napkins, tablecloths and girls’ school uniforms, but recently designers have started incorporating gingham checks into contemporary schemes to dramatic effect. In strong vibrant colours, gingham is being used to add impact and playfulness to interiors.

Popular as a clothing fabric in post-war Britain, possibly as a result of Judy Garland’s dress in the Wizard of Oz1, it was the affordability of the fabric that caused it to make the leap into interiors, facilitating the decoration of homes in a fresh and interesting way but without the high spend.

Pale, pastel, gingham fabrics have always been popular in period cottages and classically styled homes. This is because the tiny check is easy to use in small cosy spaces as the delicate nature of the pattern doesn’t dominate. It’s perfect for nurseries where a unisex design is preferred – especially in neutral, yellow or orange tones where it’s interesting but not gender-specific. Gingham also features in coastal cottage interiors, where blue and white checks and stripes have become synonymous with seaside décor and nautical themes. 

But it was the collaboration of Henry Holland (under the House of Holland brand) with interiors store, Habitat in 2016, that catapulted gingham into the modern interiors’ world. House of Holland’s brave mix of floral patterns with gingham check, caused a clash of bold patterns and colours that served to neutralise each other, creating a cleverly balanced combination that was still full of fiery, vibrant interest. Overnight, gingham became cool! This new, exciting, contemporary twist led to statement walls, furniture, floors, lampshades, room dividers, cushions, curtains, headboards and bedding, all being over-hauled and re-launched in strong checked patterns. This had the effect of bringing spaces to life and gained popularity as the contrasting colours and patterns created punchy statements ideal for use in magazine shoots and for sharing across social media platforms.

If you’re uncertain as to whether gingham can work in your setting, then start with paler versions. Experiment in a bedroom, pairing them with soft tonal neutrals and white bed linen. If you find the resulting scheme is too safe, then add an injection of colour – a bright accessory – such as a colourful vase or bedside lamp. For the braver amongst you, consider trying a larger pattern in a bold colour and use it in a dominant position. Gingham has a bigger brother – the buffalo check – this is a much larger check which is very effective in bright primary colours or in black and white. For a calmer version of this bold choice, use in smaller amounts, on accent cushions, as a bed runner or as a contrasting leading edge on curtains.

If you’re watching the pennies, then seek out vintage bedding or tablecloths from online auction houses or car boot sales and flea markets (once they re-open). If you purchase a traditional gingham check then combine it with contrasting contemporary patterns and prints but keep to the same tonal palette. Pale vintage gingham needn’t be twee when layered with similar light colours and airy prints.

Gingham is so versatile. It can sit comfortably in almost any interior – ramped up in vibrant tones for maximalist schemes or paired back to offer elegant simplicity and a more tailored look in minimalist interiors. The pattern really can be scaled up or down according to what it’s complimenting, so despite being a heritage design, its ability to reinvent itself should ensure its place in the history books as an ever-changing modern classic.

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Rosie Kinsella 

Interior Designer

01604 751262