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The Beauty of Chequerboard Floors

26 November 2020

Chessboard chic – and we’re not talking about the show-that-everybody’s-watching, The Queen’s Gambit. A mainstay in the world of interiors, chequerboard floors are as striking and as sophisticated as they come, having long been in the tiling hall of fame be it in the temples of the Ancient Egyptians, the entrance halls of the Britain and France’s grandest heritage homes, or even teamed with red leather banquettes in the diners of 1950s America. We caught up with Gordon Fleck, our resident stone specialist at Artisans of Devizes to get the lowdown on how to master the everlasting trend, as well as to hear about some of his favourite chequerboard case studies to date…

Tora Blue Limestone and Estremoz Marble

Chequerboard floors – what sort of home suits them most?

Honest answer? Any style of property can take one in their stride from new builds to restoration projects. There’s a grandeur attached to them, because typically people picture palatial black and white marble floors, but they come in all manner of materials and scales, meaning the character varies enormously. That opens up chequerboard flooring to a wide range of homes and budgets, from your small porcelain square tiles that might suit an industrial-style apartment to larger format, tumbled edge stones that lend themselves to a country manor’s master bathroom.

Is there anything I need to consider before going down the chequerboard route?

Think about what level of contrast you’re seeking. If you’re designing a country home or London townhouse think about whether a more natural chequerboard variation would better suit (See Royal Mink and Cipriani Limestone for that beautiful lived-in crumbly look) Or is it the classic jet black and pearl white sort that cuts a very sharp contrast in your room that you’re seeking? (See Brompton Field in Liquorice and Milk for a contemporary take on chequerboard) Remember that chequerboard doesn’t have to always be in monochrome. Prefer to keep to neutrals? Try two shades of grey or brown instead.

What sort of materials create a chequerboard floor?

Marble from polished to honed (see dramatically veined Haute Marbre in Iceberg or Noir), limestones with tumbled edges or those crisp and clean, but equally porcelain tiles, encaustic (Plain Field is a good example here) and Victorian-inspired like Brompton Underground.

Aliseo Marble & Minton Marble both in a tumbled finish

Are there any scale considerations to take into account?

Styling a grand entrance? Go for a larger format tile for your chequerboard such as 60x60cm. If it’s a more utilitarian space like a kitchen or dining room, a 20x20cm format is more suited. Try not to be pigeon-holed into thinking a small space means small tiles. In fact, large chequerboard tiles in a small bathroom can make it feel ten times larger.

Is there a way to achieve a modern chequerboard look?

Contemporary chequerboards can be just as striking as those inspired by the past. Take the Adam Grey tiles as an example. They take a three-way palette of black, grey and white and take chequerboard down a cubist route. Or Parisian Cafe that offer another geometric spin on chequerboard floors be it for your interior or garden.

Standout chequerboard floors – which are some of your most memorable projects to date?

A hallway really is a perfect place for a chequerboard, be it a capacious manor house or a narrow Victorian terrace. It’s the center point of the house and so it creates a really strong anchor and with so many other doorways coming from it, it makes sense to have a floor that has a non-directional layout because it lets the adjoining spaces do as they please. We supplied our Tora Blue Limestone and Estremoz marble tiles to Studio Duggan for a north London property’s hallway with beautiful blue-toned cabinetry and orb chandeliers that always stands out in my mind. As does the London townhouse home of Georgie Coleridge Cole (the founder and editor of Sheerluxe) whose Royal Mink Tumbled and Cipriani limestone chequerboard hallway is nothing short of luxurious.

I’ve seen beautiful chequerboard floors though in airy orangeries, French-style bathrooms, even utility rooms (such as one we supplied in a Beaconsfield family home using Wychwood and Amaya Limestone Tumbled on the diagonal which was carried through to the bathroom, though here it was square-on for variation) and even outdoors under porticos or as a garden’s terrace.

Trend versus timeless, do you think the chequerboard floor is here to stay?

Chequerboard flooring is a totally timeless concept whether you recreate something traditional or put a modern-day twist on things. Clients never look back once they decide what sort of chequerboard is for them. I recall a client in our showroom to-ing and fro-ing from out chequerboard Mallory and Tora Blue for her hallway and finally, she made her mind up to go for it, taking it from the hallway and ante room through to the downstairs loo and corridor that lead to the basement. Afterwards told me, “it was the best decision she made for her whole house.”