Interiors: Tartan Walls

Many years ago I saw an image of a house decorated entirely in tartan, and it stayed with me in the best possible sense. I’ve been determined to pay homage by recreating the look in our upstairs landing, a tiny space that provides just enough room to make a decision about which of the three directions you’ll take at the top of the stairs. So by creating such a high-volume look in this area, I could get maximum impact for minimum input, decoratively-speaking.

Since nearly all the other walls in our house are still awash in Builder’s Special white, I’m a little worried about the overwhelming experience of suddenly being confronted by a plaid wall, but, as I mentioned, I am determined to make this happen, regardless of the consequences. Sometimes you need to take the plunge, be bold, etc. etc. (By the way this is not universally-appropriate advice, no matter what Oprah says. It’s advice best applied to relatively harmless activities such as riding a single-gear bike or eating tripe).

The walls that I remember from the article were papered in a dark blue plaid. I thought – briefly – about attempting to paint the walls myself. But when I looked online for plaid walls of the handpainted variety, this is what I found:

Caravene Showroom from 2008

And this:

There’s a lot of all-day simmering that goes on in this kitchen. (Click photo for source.)

This sort of thing is enough to make you reconsider the role of decorative painting in interiors.

Another, happier discovery came about when I found a site that allows you to design your own tartan. Ideal for fans of Braveheart (freedom!), or folks hoping to reconnect with their Scottish heritage — real or imagined — but without guidance when it comes to tracking down the clan tartan (for decorative purposes only, hopefully). Designing a tartan, like wearing a kilt, is best left to people who know what they’re doing, but if you’d like to have a go, here’s the resource, called Scotweb (of course).

I also found an image of a plaid wall — this one much more to my liking — of one of the rooms at Arte Luise Kunsthotel, a fascinating hotel in Berlin where each room is decorated by a different artist in, as you would expect, a wildly different manner, and where “the sculptures in the lobby and the philosophy in the stairwell accompany guests en route to their rooms,” as stated on the hotel website. This alone should prove a compelling, if unwieldy, reason to check out the hotel the next time you’re in Berlin.

A room at the Art Hotel in Berlin, with pillows karate-chopped in subtle German fashion.

Unable to find the images online from the magazine article that had originally inspired me — which is what I initially set out to do in my internet search —  I reluctantly turned to the physical world, opening up my overflowing file folders stuffed with tear sheets from the print magazines of yore.  And lo and behold, I found a single, grubby page of the original article, like a fragment of parchment from an archaeological dig. After marveling for a while, I realized that the tartan house was featured in House & Garden (RIP), the arbiter of all good things — long before Our Dear Martha claimed that phrase. The house belonged to Barbara Sgroi, fashion editor, island dweller and all around woman of taste.

Truly a tear sheet, as you can see from all the missing chunks.

The shining star in her tartan firmament was, of course, that fuschia-colored chandelier. Now that’s a sense of color. I’m not sure that my homage will extend to the chandelier but I do plan on introducing red into the mix. My Plaid Wall Project commences next week; I hope to do Barbara Sgroi’s interiors proud. And for that matter, House & Garden, the pages of which are emissaries from another, gentler time.

And as a final plaid thought for this Friday’s Interiors post, below you can see the room I’d put together if I had any real nerve.  A look I call neo-Colonialism, with the houndstooth, plaid, and traditional couch shape courtesy of the United Kingdom, while the fabrics and fuschia come courtesy of India. The raw wood floors (the fake inhabitant of this room is too genteel-poor to get them refinished) come courtesy of a bad economy – the thing that ties the New Superpowers and the Old Superpowers together in one twisted bundle of hemp.

Houndstooth, Plaid and Fuschia? Yes, I say!

4 thoughts on “Interiors: Tartan Walls

  1. GO For it Sarah!
    I think 90% of my childhood wardrobe was plaid.
    I have the same upstairs landing bare-wall problem too….
    I wish my imagination would make up its’ mind……..

    • i can paint any tartan on choose the colours. i currently have commissions in australia and france. i can send you some pictures?
      kind regards

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