Why the Classic Checkerboard Pattern Is Making a Modern Comeback

This high-contrast look—whether it’s the traditional black and white check or a more daring color pairing—is being used on flooring, accessories, and more.

Checked patterns, including plaid, gingham, and buffalo check, have been a popular feature in home decor for decades. However, the checkerboard motif has recently stepped into the spotlight as the check of the moment. The classic staggered arrangement of black and white squares, reminiscent of a chessboard, is once again popping up across flooring, textiles, wallpaper, and more.

small white breakfast nook with black and white checkered floor
David Tsay

Perhaps the recent craze around checkerboard patterns has something to do with the popular limited Netflix series The Queen's Gambit, watched by more than 62 million households within the first month of its debut in October 2020. According to the online marketplace 1stDibs, sales of chess sets and chess tables jumped 57% in 2020 compared to the previous year.

But playing the game itself isn't the only way people are drawing inspiration from the show.

"The Queen's Gambit had a stunning set design, but the real show-stealer for interiors is the black and white checkered pattern of the chess set," says Barbara Fuller, vice president of marketing at home furnishings brand Arteriors.

Small white kitchen black and white checked floor with rattan rug
David Tsay

The checkerboard pattern trend dates back well before we'd ever heard of Beth Harmon, though. In fact, the simple, two-color checked motif has been used in interior design across the globe for centuries. Checkerboard flooring was particularly popular during the Renaissance period in Europe, with one of the most notable examples being the checked, black-and-white marble floor of the Grand Trianon at the Palace of Versailles in France. Fast forward a few centuries to the 1920s, when black-and-white linoleum or ceramic tile became a favorite flooring choice in kitchens and bathrooms in American homes.

In recent decades, black and white checkered floors—particularly linoleum floors—have fallen out of favor as solid-colored and wood flooring has become more popular, but the return of the checkerboard pattern is reversing that in some spaces.

Today, the high-contrast pattern makes a striking statement on a wide variety of design elements, offering a look that's both retro and traditional. For a high-end effect, Fuller suggests looking for pieces made with black and white marble or lacquer. Black and white checkered floors made of marble, too, give this pattern a luxe upgrade. To try checkered trend in a smaller way, accent solid-colored seating with checkered throw pillows. Take care not to over-distribute this bold pattern, though: Too many checkered surfaces, and your space may take on a fun-house feel, rather than the more classic look you were hoping for.

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