04 May 2011

my checkered past


The first check of memory-at age 4 years- was a little tiny voile gingham made for me by my great MaMa. She was a wonderful seamstress and of course I loved a check even then.
Certainly not my first, In Fact- I never met a check I did not like...
Another check -a small yellow one sewn for a colonial dance in the first grade also comes to mind-as does the dance partner-still not happy at that pairing.

My mother wore them.
We picnicked on them.
There were aprons, tablecloths, napkins-

dress by Adrian

I've heard it said that a house will speak to you-If  you listen. Has yours talked to you lately? The house I left 5 years ago spoke in dulcet elegant tones. It wanted to speak French-but I insisted not. It knew I was right- that said- it was very Continental. A formal room of Manuel Canovas linen floral curtains on the wall, silk damasks-you get the picture.
The house I live in now spoke immediately-Besides saying Help! -it said-in a calm voice-You love checks!
Why not?
I don't count them for this story, that would mean I was on shaky ground in using more than One.

Red Checks  Blue Checks, Tan Checks-throughout the house.  Checks find their way into my design projects too. They live comfortably in any room and I especially love them looking smart & yes-even a little chic in my own bath (above) where the walls are a sort of  spiritual misty lavender and two shower curtains are made up in a large red voile check- paired with a Chanel poster. Neither has complained about the placement.

Clients rarely reject a check-unless they have a lingering hangup about kitchen towels or tab curtains from there own past. When thinking about checks - think Versatility.

My list of rooms that wear them well:
the kitchen of course- though this one is maybe too obvious-like shells at the beach cottage.
I love checks in a Nursery- large Blue checks from Greeff- with scallopy valances and canopies,
a Master Suite- large Blue Schumacher checks for the curtains, bed coverings, a headboard in a room with yellow walls,
the Guest Room- Black check curtains paired with a small red windowpane quilted checks & Black check twin headboards, finishing with a black and white Brunschwig toile paper on the walls.

GREAT ROOMS- Memorable Checks

Charles de Beistegui at Groussay

Interestingly -in the 18th century, slipcovers were necessity, keeping the many fine furnishings from the inevitable weather -dust and dirt that permeated  the most  sound  houses. The Duchess of Norfolk had check covers for all of the furnishing in London's Norfolk House. She was quite firm that  the  color scheme of each room be echoed in the check.  From the inventory the Duchess noted for the ground floor Great Drawing Room the case covers were in 'blew and white check' to match the 'blew Imbost Paper.'

a 1947 Check Evening dress and stole-timeless & as beautiful today as it was 64 years ago.

Carolina Herrera Fall 2011

The ever elegant Carolina Herrera (above) a does not hesitate to use a silk check for the tailored ball gown- How much do you love this dress?

When made of silk or silk tafetta, Checks are elegant, romantic- equally unexpected- large bold checks in the Living Room & tiny ones on dog collars. Large or small -in silk- a check abandons its ordered regimented nature and swishes from skirt to curtain to pillow.

Gorgeous silk checks from Kravet, Stroheim & Romann, Cowtan & Tout and  Robert Allen.

A silk check from Carelton V (above) in my bedroom has something of the little details I love.  I used this check with a finely stitched diagonal playing over the pattern on a French chair.
Some find checks an easy fix- I could not agree more! Often easy is best.
In culling tear sheets and scrap books-I found little french chairs dotting the pages : in the late Nan Kempner's closet- a check covered French chair & check boxes peak out of the curtained closet.

in Carolyne Roehm's makeshift office in Weatherstone's carriage house-serving after a fire swept through the main house in 1999. (below)

Checks can also double as trimmings & bands to add detail to chairs & curtains.

- details count
checks used as trimmings

A 1957 day dress photographed by John French with the check pattern running on the diagonal to create a completely unique look. As with any sort of sewing- simple or complex-the matching of seams must be perfect.

 GREAT ROOMS -Memorable Checks
Valentino's Living Room
check Curtains & dining chairs beyond

When ask  about his love for checks and plaids?  Valentino says- "Why not? Squares are such perfect shapes." According to IN Style 2006 - all of  Valentino's homes are stocked with checks and plaid towels, sheets, pillows, linens-as well as curtains and sofas. (above) Valentino's Appia Antica Villa- in Rome.

Adolpho's take on the romantic check- inspired by the 1967 Swedish film Elvira Madigan
(Vogue 1968)

Nicky Haslam
something about Chairs

Nicky Haslam used a check in his own dining room at the Hunting Lodge-once owned by John Fowler. An elegant room with formal notes- more gavotte than minuet.

Nicky Haslam's Hunting Lodge Dining Room

(above pages from Nicky Haslam's website here) , I love Haslam's use of a large check on the backs of leather chairs in the Kitchen of this project (at left). The checks used over 40 years ago for evening skirts would be perfect for dining with Nicky at the Hunting Lodge. I bet Colette, Nicky's colleague , has one ready and waiting just in case-I can not imagine she doesn't. She has a decided penchant for finding the perfect fabric from their library an having something made up to show stopping effect.

an evening skirt made from yards & yards of blue and white gingham check  taffeta
(from Vogue 1968)

A curtained day bed canopy  in my upstairs hall with a simple coarse tan check of cotton trimmed in a wooden tassel trim

GREAT ROOMS- Memorable Checks

Perhaps one of the most famous room-at least the room of checks I fell in love with at age 11. In the early 1970's Gloria swathed the family's Living Room at their Southampton home- Summertime in beautiful check gingham.

Jack Robinson photographed the rooms and family for House & Garden in June 1972.

Checks are forgiving in a sense that relatively inexpensive ones can made top notch rooms-however impeccable workmanship is imperative-Seamstresses that match checks, upholsterers that do the same.
The pink checks shown here are from Pindler & Pindler and along with these two large patterns matching smaller  checks are available.

I used a tiny Cowtan & Tout windowpane on the cupboard to keep it covered and pretty- The Cowtan and Tout checks probable have the best of all the Checkered pasts- The color range is beautiful-still one of the best to the trade and the grounds are equal to the color.

How many times has Eaton Check (pictured below) come to the rescue? Each time I use it is looks new, fresh-crisp. What a check should be?
Really-I never met a check I didn't like.

it's a toss up!



  1. A checkered panoply of pleasure!! You and I were separated at birth on this one - I just ADORE checks - of ALL sizes, colors and varieties - in fashion and decor. I would be perfectly happy to have a check somehow in ever room of my house!! Not to mention, may I say how much I want those Nicky Haslam chairs for my kitchen!!This post is a terrific tour de force in my book!!

  2. I never met a post by Little Augury I didn't LOVE and SAVE FOREVER!!

    What a complete treasure that post is! It belongs in a book!! One that can be taken off the shelf and read and reread and reread!

    best description of "checks" (which I have always loved) ; and the best explanation of their universal appeal and universal use.......in every possible incarnation...........(where in the heck can I find that Adrian dress?????) I would wear it tomorrow!!)

    Brilliant. That is all I can say.

    Completely brilliant. Off the charts! Thank you!!!


    ps so glad you don't allow anonymous comments. They are usually sniping and cowardly. They always just hate me!!!

  3. Hi Gaye, well... the large PINK + WHITE buffalo check is just what I am looking for right now. You show a silk [is it Cowtan + Tout in the image above your bedroom chair?] and a cotton version in last image that I love [from ?]. I imagine Zetta loves the daybed! ox

  4. i adore checks too.
    but they have to be big for me....
    some call them buffalo checks.
    hate the name, love the check.
    i enjoyed every drop of this post!!

  5. I will steal from you the portrait with the dress by Adrian. In fact I think you stole it from me. :) Outstanding posting, title frightening - I dreaded some renunciation of checks, which fortunately never came.

  6. A feast of a post, to be consumed in several sittings. I shall return - in the dress by Adrian.

    I wish my house would utter declarations too - I listen but so far all I hear is the occasional laugh and a few sighs.


  7. When I lived overseas, going to British day school, my summer uniform was red gigham cotton. I LOVED it! You could have any style dress made as long as it was red gingham. BTW, did you see Herrera last night at the Met gala. . . wearing that exact dress. I'd like to order one please.

  8. Check this out of the park! I would love the slip covers for my Nantucket blue dining room!

  9. Janet-I did not get to the Gala last night! So glad because I would have felt terrible to be wearing the same dress as CH! Do you have a link to the picture for Carolina-would love to see the dress.

  10. I love gingham checks. To me they are what are a classic, like katsup is to a hot dog. I love them.

  11. well i cant pass this up! guilty as charged on all accounts. I constantly battle my penchant for checks (and stripes for that matter)...i cant seem to stop! Christopher Kane's gingham dresses last year were a painful temptation that i resisted thinking them too 'on trend'...and now of course, regret. Lesson learnt and i will send pics of the ensemble i now feel i simply MUST whip up. xx colette

  12. We love checks.

    They appear in our bedroom, living room, sitting room, office and on some of our clothes! But this morning I am wearing a stripe patterned shirt.

    Maybe I will take a few photographs and do a check post, too!

  13. Loved this post! I hope the check is making a comeback in clothing...all of your examples (minus Adolpho's puffy skirt) are wonderful...especially your sweet little dress! How classy they can become when styled with care...whether for home or dress.
    This *does* need to be in a book...
    xo J~

  14. Dear Gaye, fabulous post! I definitely overlook checks. You've shown me how beautiful they can be. That Christopher Kane dress! The interiors! Gloria's bedroom.

    Love the picture of you too xx

  15. I think I might have that 1957 day dress made. It's perfect! And, it's the year I was born ; )

  16. Barbara-the pink silk check is from Robert Allen-though Cowtan and Tout has the same, about 6 years ago or so some of their silks started crossing over and this is one of those. The large cotton ones with the GV are from Pindler and Pindler. and do have that dress made it is fantastic!

  17. Penelope, thank you!

    I have not been SO put off of the Anon comments as of late,between the Anons. hating my readers- or Me-I have had enough. though I had stipulated they were not allowed when directed at my readers-still I do not enjoy the nasties directed at Me, why? Life is too short. I do still welcome challenges from friends that use Names to sling their barbs! Gaye

  18. I meant to confess in this post that I had saved a beautiful (or so I thought) large gingham top sheet from the rag bin- my brother's that is. Their "old" is gently worn at my house, and how could I resist a Blue RL crisp sheet. Well! the picture I took of it makes it appear a bit shabby-which I assure You it is Nothing of the Sort! thank you for all the wonderful check comments-Hug a Check today.

  19. What a beautiful post and blog! I am so glad I found you!
    Putting you on my blog list immediately...
    From your newest follower,
    The French Tangerine



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