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Playing with Patterns: Houndstooth

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houndstooth pattern Playing with Patterns: Houndstooth

image: Dave Gates

Out of Scotland comes another traditional fabric pattern, houndstooth. The pattern, instantly recognizable as a four-pointed shape that looks something like a set of teeth (hence the name), is traditional, elegant and practical. Typically done in black and white, modern iterations of the pattern have been more liberal with colors, always with contrasting pale and dark shades. Although houndstooth is a duotone (two colors) pattern, modern designers have taken the liberty to add one, or sometimes even two, additional colors.

Traditional uses

Scottish weavers began making houndstooth-patterned fabrics in the 1800s (even though it wasn’t called “houndstooth” back then). It was woven in wool with black and white thread and put together as outer garments, such as coats, for shepherds to wear in the foggy Scottish weather. For a long time, it was only know as “Shepherd’s check”.

The term “houndstooth” seems to have been in use only since 1936, when the upper class, which had survived the recession, began to wear the pattern as a symbol of wealth. Since then, houndstooth has remained an elite, luxurious pattern, used by the great couture houses of the world and worn mostly as outerwear, although its use has now spread into popular fashion and home décor.

Home décor uses

Houndstooth as a décor pattern comes back every few years or so, but never really goes out style either. As a fabric pattern, it can be used wherever fabrics are appropriate. We recommend using houndstooth as an accent rather than a main pattern, but a bold statement with a big houndstooth piece can give instant stature to an otherwise prosaic décor. Here are some suggestions.

modern  Playing with Patterns: Houndstooth

Houndstooth in the bedroom

For a preppy, classy bedroom, houndstooth is a great choice for a pattern. It provides the same kind of effect as argyle, given the use of the fabric by elite classes in the 20th century.

Houndstooth can be used in every kind of bedroom, from the baby’s to the parents’. Change the colors according to the style of the person, and you have instant pop and visual interest. Teenage girls will enjoy big, bright-colored houndstooth, while adults will enjoy its discretion and neutrality, especially in black and white.

Houndstooth is a natural for comforters or duvet covers, but can also make a surprising statement as an area rug or on drapes. Move beyond the black and white for a more customized fit to your personal tastes, or use the traditional pattern if you like minimal, monochromatic styles.

Houndstooth in the living room

The natural place of houndstooth in the home, the living room will gain an instant touch of class with this pattern. Sofas, easy chairs, footstools, cushions, carpets, you name it: every living room fabric could be houndstooth. However, they should not all be at the same time: too much houndstooth can be hard for the eyes.

If you’re using houndstooth on big pieces, like sofas and chairs, keep the rest of the room neutral and solid. Black and white is the typical pattern, but with the variety of colors available nowadays, you can customize the design and make it more to your liking.

Houndstooth is inherently masculine, as it is widely used as a fabric for hunting clothes. The traditional black-and-white pattern will have that effect. When used in a minimalist, monochromatic décor, houndstooth brings a dab of visual interest that won’t distract from the main effect.

To soften or feminize houndstooth, try changing the colors to pastels and using it on cushions or drapes. Colored houndstooth is easier to find nowadays, so don’t let its traditional hues stop you from using it in more creative ways.

contemporary dining room Playing with Patterns: Houndstooth

Houndstooth elsewhere

These days, houndstooth isn’t just a fabric anymore. You can see it printed on plates and mugs, used on bathroom kits and on wallpapers. It has grown contemporary and versatile, and can be used in any way that strikes your fancy. Its simplicity is its best attribute: the pattern is instantly recognizable and classic.

In the dining room, use it as chair upholstery or as placemats or napkins. The bathroom will become classier with a houndstooth-print rug or the simple trio of glass, soap bottle and toothbrush holder. In the kitchen, use a houndstooth-print cotton for your hand cloth or as casual placemats on the breakfast bar.

How do you see this timeless, classic pattern in your home? Share your ideas with us in the comments!

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