Tartan decorating ideas – smart ways to introduce checks for Highland style at homes north and south of the border

It is time to embrace the Scottish tartan trend

If there’s one print that’s dominating this winter, it’s checks. Modern tartan and pretty plaids have descended from the Highlands to bring some modern Scottish style to those of us south of the border.

1. Make a tartan focal point with upholstery

red tartan and check armchair

(Image credit: Future PLC/Tim Young)

In a living room start with a hero chair in a classic tartan fabric and add curtains, cushions and a footstool in a variety of other checks to keep co-ordinated, but not overly matchy. Simple chunky knits are the perfect companion textures to this look and pops of solid red (and a glass of Scottish whisky) add sophistication.

2. Mix small scale checks with stripes

room with blue and white check flooring

(Image credit: Future PLC/Simon Whitmore)

Checks are great way to add colour and pattern to a room. Treat small-scale checks and tartans almost as you might use a solid colour and mix freely with stripes and other patterns. While this may not seem conventional, it is certainly fun and, when done in the same colour palette, it can deliver a visually striking boost to a neutral space. Round the look out with a graphic floor in the same tone and the look says bold sophistication.

3. Layer up tartan bedding

bedroom with wooden wall and wooden flooring with bed

(Image credit: Future PLC/Jon Day)

Linens, wool plaids and faux furs are layered up for a Highland-inspired country bedroom. Like cushions, you can never have too many throws. For extra winter cosiness, layer them up on the bed. A great sleep-time option, wool is naturally breathable, hypoallergenic and resistant to dust mites; it is also entirely sustainable and very durable and works to regulate the body's temperature. Even the headboard here gets in on the wool-blanket act, but in a shade that will look timely all year round.

4. Make it modern

modern living room with tartan wallpaper

(Image credit: Future PLC/Polly Wreford)

This look challenges the common perception of tartan. Rather than just country and cosy, tartan can also be urban and contemporary - without losing any of its warmth. Here, a combination of sleek lines with bold colours fuses modern and traditional design seamlessly. Blend together pieces from different eras to create an eclectic look that's unique to you. The visual switch between old and new make a space feel interesting and will also highlight the differences between individual pieces.

5. Clash styles

living room with check carpet

(Image credit: Future PLC/Dan Duchars)

Create a living room with some unexpected twists like this one - the sideboard and curvaceous sofa are a nod to mid-century style, yet the tartan carpet simply amplifies the smashing non-conformist effect. The modern country trend is all about comfort and style, mixing a cosy, lived-in feel with contemporary design. The result is a sophisticated look that is welcoming and homely - perfect for creating an elegant, relaxed living room. Modern and country pieces bring out the best in each other in this look.

6. Think in monochrome

dining area with dining table set

(Image credit: Future PLC/Jan Baldwin)

Introduce black and white for impact. Here checked fabric on bolster and scatter cushions and the café curtain add a Parisian bistro feel to this dining area. Unify with colour and make sure that all the patterns you're using are made up of complementary colours so that they work together successfully. The monochrome palette of the curtain and decor keeps the look clean and sharp, while just the right amount of pattern and texture adds just the right amount of vibrancy.

7. Pile it on

bedroom with red tartan wallpaper on wall

(Image credit: Future PLC/Tim Young)

When it comes to tartan, more is definitely, well, more! So go ahead and pile it on, but be strict with keeping to a tight palette. This country bedroom has a striking feature wall in reds and taupes behind a statement leather bridle-look headboard. Wallpaper is great for adding instant personality to a space, so if you really love tartan, this is the way to go. Checked bedding and a patchwork quilt complete the cosy Highland look, but be sure to balance the bold with some area of solid colour to give the eye somewhere to rest.

Will you be giving tartan a turn in your home?

Deputy Editor

Jennifer is the Deputy Editor (Digital) for Homes & Gardens online. Prior to her current position, she completed various short courses a KLC Design School, and wrote across sister brands Ideal Home, LivingEtc, 25 Beautiful Homes, Country Homes & Interiors, and Style at Home.