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The history of tartan in interior design

Conjuring up images of William Wallace and the Scottish Highlands, tartan is one of the most beloved and best-known patterns in the world.

Yet, this wasn’t always the case. Tartan’s journey from lowly clan cloth to interior design darling was fraught with rebellion, royalty and regional restraint.

To find out how tartan fabric found its way into our homes, read our brief history, below.

Highland hardships

Close up of a tartan fabric

For hundreds of years, tartan was the patriotic emblem of the Scottish Highlands; a flag of unity during tumultuous times.

In the 18th century, however, this runaway fashion craze ended suddenly when England won the Battle of Culloden and banned all tartan patterns (they believed it was a Scot symbol of rebellion).

While the ban was repealed just 36 years later, significant damage had been done and Highlanders, now accustomed to ‘lowland’ fashion, turned their backs on tartan.

A royal decoration

Thankfully, the tartan we know and love today owes a lot to King George IV. As the first English monarch to cross the northern border in nearly 200 years, George pledged good intentions between the two countries.

To show unity, he dressed himself head to toe in tartan – the renaissance of this playful pattern soon steamrolled its way across Scotland and the world. Today, it can be found in everything from clothes to throws and curtains.

Tartan interiors

Tartan fabric upholstery

Today, tartan remains a staple in interior design some 200 years after King George IV made it mainstream.

On sofas, armchairs, curtains, blankets and scatter cushions, tartan oozes a fashion-forward cosiness that blends Highland grandeur with a big cuddle.

An easy way to bring tartan into your home in 2020 is to layer up your colour profile. Start small, maybe a tartan blanket here or a couple of plaid scatter cushions there, for charming Còsagach vibes.

For those with a desire to double up on their tartan, however, it’s time to bring in big fluffy throws in dark blended tartan patterns to pair with brightly checked sofa fabrics. And if you’re looking to complement contemporary décor? The clean, dramatic lines of tartan blend well with modern trends, such as Scandinavian minimalism, too.

For more information about how you can stylishly experiment with this modern classic, take a look at how to introduce checked patterns into your lounge on our blog.

Can’t decide which tartan colour suits your style? Whether you’re looking for sofa covers, curtains or reupholstery fabrics, the full range of tartan options on the Plumbs website has everything you need.

Sophie Page
Sophie Page

Sophie is a great granddaughter of the founders of the business - so fabrics and furniture are almost part of her DNA! Her interests include home interiors and upcycling, and her favourite show to watch after work is The Repair Shop. Some of the topics she covers on the Plumbs blog include sofa reupholstery and furniture protection.

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