Interior designs: ‘Take care that each uses the same tones’

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CELEBRATED worldwide, Burns Night inevitably involves tartan to a greater or lesser extent. And it is exactly the extent to which tartans and plaids are used that makes the difference between classic and kitsch decoration.

Tartans and plaids perfectly co-ordinate with both patterned and plain fabrics and wallpapers, the shades within tartan fabrics make them a flexible accessory option for both traditional and contemporary schemes.

However, while using tartans and plaids as accessories and accent pieces is a winning combination, used as a main element in a scheme requires more subtle handling. Aim to relieve expanses of dramatic tartan with large blocks of plain colour co-ordinating with one of the tartan’s shades. Alternatively, complement with simple stripes to provide a muted backdrop. For a bold scheme, try mixing and matching tartans and blowsy chintzes – but take care that each uses the same tones, and avoid applying in the same proportions. Allow one or the other to take 
centre stage.

For full-blown tartan and plaid schemes, look at the way each is used by designers such as Ballater-based Mikhail Pietranek, Nina Campbell or Ralph Lauren.

Scottish designers, notably Annie Stewart at Anta and design duo McAuley and Simmons at Timorous Beasties, demonstrate an innovative take on the traditional, while maintaining links with Scottish heritage. Tartans and plaids continue to prove a popular design genre worldwide. To borrow from the Bard himself, in interior design terms it is ‘from scenes like these, old Scotia’s grandeur springs, that makes her lov’d at home, rever’d abroad.

• Pat Elliott, The Borders Design House. Visit the website for design services, courses and workshops. Start a new career with distance-learning interior design courses (07765 057 409,