UBIQUITOUS, TIRED, OVER-USED, PASSE’, OVERDONE, SEEN-IT, DONE-IT…BUT STILL LOVE IT….Bet you thought black and white marble checkerboard floors originated in England during the 18th Century, d'int cha?Oh hell no....
17th CENTURY: Johannes Vermeer showed the popular checkerboard floors of Holland in his paintings.
14th CENTURY: Italian painter Giotto used checkerboard floors in his paintings. He was the first painter to use ‘convergent parallels’ (perspective) in his paintings, the checkerboard floors were perfect for the effect.
126 AD: In ancient Rome the Emperor Hadrian (the first totally "out" emperor) rebuilt the Pantheon with its stunning checkerboard patterned floors; a panoply of patterns, colors and types of stone. I guess Hadrian had that decoratin' gene....go figure...
2000 BCE: Egyptians planted different species of pants together in a checkerboard pattern to cross pollinate them
Closer to our time; In the 1920’s people installed them properly in their halls and public rooms. In 1948 the Harry Truman White House went through a major renovation, checkerboard patterned flooring was installed in all public corridors on the first floor. These floors showed up on Hollywood sets. In the late 50’s and 60’s the checkerboard floor came back in style for kitchens; vinyl or ceramic tile were the materials of choice then.
Dude, you just cant stay, aiight?
Now, we've just passed a recent resurgence of black and white floors. It’s always fun to see them done ‘well’ in beautiful marbles, limestone or ceramic. This is a pattern that’s been used for four millennia; it’s not going to go away…ever. Personally, I think its classic and works with all decors, modern through traditional.
There are several theories on how to do it and why it’s done, blah, blah, blah……
Many architects and designers believe a checkerboard floor should be laid on the diagonal within a border. I think it looks great either way, diagonal or perpendicular, bordered, unbordered...
Scale is EVERYTHING when using a pattern. The checkerboard can go anywhere from a tiny small pattern to enormously grand one and work just as well each way, which always depends on the rooms size and what else is going on in there.
A small checkerboard in a huge room will look like an old pharmacy or soda fountain floor from the 1950's. Whereas a huge-ass pattern in a small room will look weird and unreadable as a pattern and cause “visual confusion.” (Which I suffer from wayyy too often…)
Think about why you’ve chosen this pattern; what it can offer your space and what the appropriate scale should be considering all else you intend to include in that room.
As we've discovered, black and white is the oldest checkerboard flooring style. These traditional, contrasting colors make a clean, or contemporary or retro-chic statement. From vinyl and linoleum to limestone and marble, any material can be used to create a chic checkerboard floor. Besides black and white, other colors can be paired with white as well.
If you love hardwood flooring it's possible to have a checkerboard design by choosing light and dark colored hardwoods.
SIZING NOTE:While you’re perusing tiles….Remember 12” square floor tiles are r-e-a-l-l-y pedestrian as that’s the “standard tile size” which can be purchased at any 'big-box' or tile store.
Get whats appropriate for YOUR house! Don't copy that tragic palatial foyer you just saw in the movie and think "I have to have it." It'll look like shit, and its a permanant installation, not easy to correct!
If you have a Colonial home be simple and use matte finished marble. If you have a Deco-style home, look through magazines for alternative ideas as the Deco period was about re-interpreting tradition in a more streamlined way, perhaps using a checkerbord border with plain field.
Be very careful of trends! Tumbled tiles and stones are phasing out now, cleaner lines are back in. Shiny is out - matte is in. And those damn 1'x1' Bizzaza glass tiles are sooo DTD (done-to-death) OMG...
ARCHITECTUREOften a room will have weird angles or a bad shape that can be corrected with a border.
After you diagram the room choose a field area that fits inside all the protruding angles, creating a square or rectangle within all the wacky angles. It will guide your eyes to the field and visually usurp the bad layout or symmetry.
SMALL BATHS & KITCHENS
FIELD: It's OK to use 1” x 1” (but don’t use a 2 x 2, or 4 x 4 black and white checkerboard, it will “strobe” on you (big time!) especially if you have an
BORDER: Remember, a border makes a small room look smaller. My thoughts are use less disparate colors, colors that are closer in tone are best in smaller rooms.
MEDIUM BATHS AND KITCHENS
BORDER: A small border of one color in this space would be fine, 3” to 6” wide.
FIELD: Tiles can be 3” to 12”
Rooms this size can be installed diagonally or parallel.
Inserts should be no larger than 2"- 4” square; used at each intersection or every other.
The one above is perfect! The one below shows tiles wayyy too big for the room (that's the least of that room's problems!.. What's with the columns and milking stool?)
LARGE BATHS AND KITCHENSBORDER: One or two colors; scale depends on many factors, field area, tile size.
FIELD: Tiles can be just about any size.
This lovely tone-on-tone floor above is so chic and timeless
Personally, I think the pattern below is too bold in this kitchen, the tiles are too big. It's fun, but in 4-6 years I think one would tire of it. BUT, I do love the black and white with the pastel mushroom-colored cabinets!
The bath below uses small 4" x 4" tumbled Carrera and Jade marble tiles. They look wonderful and are perfectly scaled. Large tiles would've been too busy with the walls and other thingsin the room. This way, they create a lovely background pattern.
I love this smaller bath with the large scaled tiles, but using subtler colors and a border.
BORDER: A border is a lovely touch in a foyer, its adds a fine detail.
As you can see, some of the spaces below don't have borders and don't appear to be missing them either. Remember, a border makes a small space look smaller as it “defines” the space.
FIELD: This is where the classic black and white checkerboard reigns supreme!
These foyers below both have painted wooden floors, humble yet smart looking. The one on the right is a bit shiny for my discerning taste..
DINING ROOMSBORDER: A border in a dining room is great! In a large room, even one as much as two foot wide will be great with a small pencil border at the edge of the border - very English! This size room also doesn’t need a border, it looks more Continental without one.
FIELD: The field can be diagonal or parallel, the scale depends on the colors and tones of checkerboard. If there are lots of chair legs and table legs, I wouldn’t have a busy or large pattern with disparate colors, it’ll look very cluttered.
(What, youre dining room isnt like this one above?)
Above: An example of "visual clutter" with table and chair legs combined with the checkerboard floor pattern.
LIVING ROOMSBORDER: Any size border is fine in here, from 2 inch, to 2 feet. It’s not necessary at all. (See dining room)
FIELD: Personally, I think the pattern should be simpler. Perhaps all one color with smaller contrasting inserts at the intersections. The reason I suggest this is usually a living room has a lot of furniture around. If the floor has a strong pattern with all the other stuff on top of it, it will be very busy looking.
NOTE: If youre planning on putting a carpet over the checkerboard, then you'll want a smaller scale checkerboard, otherwise it'll look like shit with bits and pieces of the colors and angles sticking out from under the carpet.
Also, if using a carpet, don't have a border on the floor itself.
CONSERVATORIESBORDER: Either is fine...yes or no.
FIELD: Traditionally, a conservatory would have a more durable stone floor (limestone, granite, slate, etc.) as polished marble is always thin and less durable. Heavy, thick, hard stones are much more durable and hold the heat better which would've been preferred for the plants. We used two muted, but different shades of limestone in this conservatory because the flooring runs into the kitchen, flower arranging room and an outdoor screen porch, so the subtle tones are easy on the eye. The inserts are black which pick up on other black accents in the kitchen.
TERRACES, WALKS AND PATIOSBORDER: Yes, it’s a nice detail, but not important.
FIELD: Go for a traditonal pattern or be natural, whether in brick, stone, tiles, grass, cement, etc. Have fun with it!
OUTDOOR COVERED PORCHESBORDER: Nah…if you want it, do it in the same material.
FIELD: You can either do something tone on tone, or something with disparate colors. Live it up, its just paint!
Dont lose your marbles over this...
You can do it, I'm here to help!