Look We Love: Checkerboard Floors

Words by Sacha Strebe.

Athena Calderone Design
Athena Calderone Design

It’s not often that a room will draw your eyes down to the ground but such is the commanding power of checkerboard floors. From the timeworn black and white tiles at the Palace of Versailles to the modern harlequin effect at the Shinola Hotel in Detroit, the classic checked style has been a beloved look for centuries but today, it’s definitely having a moment (no doubt due in part to Athena’s striking checkered entryway and marble tile terrace in her Brooklyn townhouse.)

And we’re seeing more designers tap into the timeless trend, too. Shannon Wollack and Brittany Zwickl of Studio Life/Style were vastly inspired by the European design and craftsmanship when they created a limestone and travertine checkerboard hallway in Facile’s new boutique. “Pairing this floor with the modern accents throughout felt like a nice juxtaposition,” they explained.

So, what exactly makes checkerboard so eternal? Zwickl attributes the flooring’s timeless appeal to its versatility. “It can be integrated into any type of décor or room in the house,” notes Zwickl. “Trends come and go, but this is something that has roots and history.” Montana Labelle of Montana Labelle Design agrees, adding: “The simplicity of checkerboard is what makes it something that will last forever.”

But that doesn’t mean we can’t distort the past and play around with the classic concept. In a recent project, Labelle put an unexpected twist on the time-honored look when she combined the striking pattern of Calacatta viola marble with the neutral tone of travertine. “While an unlikely duo, when you put them side by side, you create something beautiful to welcome you home,” she declares. We couldn’t agree more.

“Trends come and go,

but this is something that

has roots and history.”

— Shannon Wollack & Brittany Zwickl,
Co-Founders, Studio Life/Style

So what’s prompted the checkerboard comeback? Labelle believes it’s a visceral reaction to spending more time at home which in turn sparked a desire to create more visual interest. While we often lean on paint when experimenting with color and print, flooring remains largely untapped, and yet there are so many mediums and styles you can play with. 

When designing her Brooklyn terrace, Athena found herself on the hunt for two-tone marble tiles, reminiscent of a checkered look you’d see in a classic French château—but the price was prohibitive. She eventually found a stone company in New Jersey that could source her dream tiles (a blue-gray marble and sandy-toned travertine) at the right price ($7 per square foot). “Those checkered floors make my heart go pitter-patter,” she says. Seek and ye shall find! Head to EyeSwoon’s Instagram to see how it came to life.

Of course, if you live in a rental and checkerboard floors didn’t come with the property, then you can mimic the look with Moroccan checkered rugs, towels, pillow covers, bedspreads, poufs, and throws. Choose from classic black and white to the more subdued chocolate and neutrals or ramp it up with burnt orange—whatever you choose, you can’t go wrong with the pattern’s timeless appeal and a Berber’s touchable texture. Alternatively, you can accessorize your space with checkered décor from mugs to chessboards to bring a touch of the ageless pattern home. 

“The simplicity of checkerboard is what makes it something that will last forever.”

— Montana Labelle, Principal and Founder, Montana Labelle Design

Shop Some of Our Favorite Checkered Rugs and Décor:

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