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Style: Plaid accents add pop to winter decorating

Mary Carol Garrity
Tribune News Service

You would think a girl who went to a Catholic high school dressed in a plaid skirt every single day for four years would shudder every time she saw a tartan. But while things like algebraic equations have long since faded into the mist (sorry, Sisters!), one thing from high school has stayed with me: A deep and abiding love of plaid. And, this simple equation: Winter decorating + plaid accents = a home that’s rich and beautiful. Here are four ways to wear a bit of plaid in your decor this winter.

Add plaid to your furnishings: Looking for a piece of furniture to warm up your den? Or make that man cave not only masculine but also stylish? Consider adding a sofa, chair or ottoman upholstered in plaid. If you are redecorating a room and need some inspiration, consider starting with plaid as your inspiration piece. These timeless patterns are packed full of wonderful colors you can use as a jumping off point for the entire room. Let the palette inspire your wall color, window treatments, furnishings and accents. Pair your plaid pieces with a bouquet of equally decadent winter fabrics — velvet, paisley, houndstooth check, tweed and herringbones — for a warm winter hug.

Because plaid is such a classic pattern, steeped in history, folks sometimes think it will only work in traditional homes. False! It’s time to let plaid out of the box and allow it to work its magic in transitional and modern homes, too. Where can you add a plaid pillow or two to your furniture?

Play with plaid accents: These vintage-inspired metal baskets make it easy to add a punch of plaid to any spot in your home. They come in three sizes and can be stacked together or used separately. And, I have to tell you, they are a blast to decorate with! We are putting them into holiday mantel displays, stacked one on top of another. We are working them into bookcase displays to add a little pop of color and pattern. We’re putting them next to bedsides, a great spot to store your reading glasses for the night.

Plaid paper tip towels are a great touch in your powder room. They are attention-grabbing and pretty and, most importantly, you don’t have to launder them! I also like to pick interesting napkins to use when I entertain.

Layer plaid into your bedding: Despite being hundreds of years old, plaid is still cool and plays well in the sandbox with every other fabric we throw at it at Nell Hill’s.

I love toile, which has covered several different chairs in my home through the years. We paired an earthy and lovely plaid with the toile in a custom duvet , then sprinkled in accent pillows that give a shout out to the red and navy in the fabric.

When we create custom bedding at Nell Hill’s, we strive to straddle the line between feminine and masculine, nothing too foo-foo or he-man. A bed of ours is a brilliant example of how you can strike a balance using fabrics, and make everyone happy. A tan and black plaid duvet, finished with black buttons, the solid black quilt and black and white ticking pillows are decidedly guy friendly. Toile pillows add a dusting of softness and femininity without being overly girly.

A menu of plaid on the dining table: When I set my table at home, you know plaid was front and center! My white and gold antique dishes and silver serving pieces radiate on a gorgeous plaid table square. Want to make a topper for your table? Get a yard and a half of plaid fabric and hem. If you’re not a sewer, just iron the edges under. Done!

When I set a dining table for winter entertaining, almost always, my mind goes to plaid. So I was over the moon when Spode came out with a sensational line of plaid inspired dishes. We are using them and over again on our dining tables at Nell Hill’s, continuously reinterpreting them by pairing them with different dishes, table linens and centerpieces.

This column was adapted from Mary Carol Garrity’s blog at She can be reached at