The Classic Checkerboard Pattern Is Making a Modern Comeback


Checkerboard is a timeless pattern with a long history in design. The motif transcends trends as an enduring design element. Recently, the high-contrast grid, reminiscent of a chessboard, is once again in the spotlight—this time in the form of paint, textiles, wallpaper, and ceramics. We chatted with design experts to discover why the checkerboard pattern is so popular right now and learn how to incorporate it into our homes.

Courtesy of Spoonflower

The History of the Checkerboard Pattern

Checked patterns, including plaid, gingham, and buffalo check, have been a popular feature in home decor for decades. 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.

Courtesy of Arizona Tile / Meghan Bob Photography

Why Is Checkerboard Trending Right Now?

“The current resurgence of the checkerboard motif is another great example of how fashion trends trickle down into interiors,” says Emerson Jones, senior manager of merchandising at Spoonflower. “Over the past several years, we have seen Gen Z reviving fashions of the late-90s and early-00s. This includes checkerboard, a motif commonly associated with skate sneakers and studded belts. However, this time, the checkerboard has been reimagined in fresh new colorways and warped or twisted into a more psychedelic take on the classic square grid,” she says.

The checkerboard pattern is a timeless motif used in decor and design for centuries. “It feels like a safe and nostalgic choice at a time when there is so much uncertainty in the world,” Jones says. Patterns like plaids and stripes are also timeless classics, but to a point where they often serve the role of a solid color in a space. “Checkerboards, like polka dots, feel more whimsical and less expected. They introduce a sense of fun, whimsy, and visual interest without being overwhelming or overly complicated,” she says.

How to Decorate with Checkerboard

Compared to other patterns, checks are a reasonably simple motif to execute—making them even more popular, considering the current surge in novice DIY home decor projects. “It’s an easy motif for beginners to take on and execute well,” Jones says. The timeless and versatile pattern pairs well with most aesthetics, from paired-back modern decor to bold maximalism, meaning it’s hard for new DIYers to go far wrong.

David Tsay

Checkered Tiles

“Checks are a timeless and classic pattern, and “timeless” and “classic” are the two most requested looks clients ask for when designing their space,” says Melissa Charlillo, Arizona Tile showroom assistant manager. “Checkerboard tiles elevate a space, adding interest, depth, and dimension without making it feel busy like a printed tile pattern can.” Plus, their timeless quality means they will likely adapt to changing decor over time, making them an excellent long-term investment. 

According to Charlillo, the most popular use of checkerboard tiles is on the pantry and laundry room floors. “They make a drab space feel fun,” particularly when playing with different colors beyond the classic black-and-white combination. Another common use of the checkerboard tile is in the main entryway with black granite and white marble tiles. “We also like to encourage the use of the checkerboard pattern on the patio to make a statement on an outdoor living area, such as a terrazzo textured white with a terrazzo textured black tile,” Charlillo says.

But don’t limit your checkers to the floor. “Checkerboard looks great as a backsplash in the kitchen with a smaller square format and lighter tones, like white with a light gray, for example.” If you don’t have the budget for new tiles and want a quick and cost-effective way to spruce up the kitchen, Jones suggests opting for a peel-and-stick wallpaper alternative to cover your current backsplash and add personality to the space.

Courtesy of Alison Kandler Interior Design / Mark Lohman

Painted Checkered Floors

“Checks are a happy, familiar pattern that works everywhere from tiny cottages to mansions,” says Alison Kandler, interior designer, decorator, and founder of Alison Kandler Interior Design. “Checks visually expand a small space and add instant charm to a large space.”

One of Kandler’s favorite uses of the pattern is painted check flooring, which is part of her signature style and something she often adds to kids’ rooms and large family rooms or kitchens. Unlike tiles, painting hardwood means the color options are endless, and she can scale it however she likes. “It also instantly takes on a beachy, causal feel, which I love,” she says. “You want to walk barefoot on them, unlike with tile, which is cold and hard.”

David Tsay

Checkered Soft Furnishings

While checkerboard flooring is arguably the most iconic use of the pattern, it is also gaining momentum in soft furnishings, like curtains, upholstered furniture, rugs, towels, and bed linens. The trend started with plush checkerboard rugs, providing a nod to the iconic checkered floor look without investing time, money, and energy into laying tiles.

Jones suggests moving away from tradition and choosing a checkerboard pattern to upholster an accent chair in a living room or bedroom. “A neutral, deconstructed check is perfect if your style is modern or minimalist, while a bolder checkerboard collage pattern is a great fit for eclectic styles and more whimsical spaces,” she says. 

Courtesy of Spoonflower

Pair Checkerboard with Other Prints

“Pair an oversized checkerboard print with other simple motifs, such as statement stripes in bold hues, to create a color-blocked look,” Jones suggests. “You could even layer a more traditional checkerboard with a retro floral check. We particularly love a checks-on-checks approach for an energizing bedding set, but the concept also works for other soft furnishings like throws, pillows, and curtains.”

Courtesy of Spoonflower

Monochrome Color Palette

Checkerboard prints often come in a two-tone or monochromatic color palette, which makes it an easy pattern for mixing and layering in a bedroom or living room, for example. But don’t limit yourself to the traditional black and white checked pattern. Using the motif in a bright hue is an easy way to incorporate color into a space without it feeling overwhelming.


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