What Are Checkered Tiles Called?

Elegant hallway featuring black and white checkerboard floor tiles, large arched windows, and a grand chandelier

Checkered tiles have transcended mere function to become a cultural touchstone. Seen across applications from flooring and walls to game boards and fashion, these patterned squares hold a surprisingly rich history and terminology. Understanding the proper terms associated with checkered tiles can not only enhance your design communication but also illuminate the fascinating journey of this timeless pattern.


Chic café interior with checkered floor tiles, patterned chairs, exposed brick walls, and industrial-style ducts


The Most Common Name: Checkerboard

The term "checkerboard" reigns supreme as the most widely recognized and understood name for checkered tiles. Its dominance reflects a fascinating interplay between function, history, and cultural familiarity. Let's delve deeper into the origins and nuances of this ubiquitous term.

A Game of Origin

The etymology of "checkerboard" points directly to its association with the classic strategy game of checkers. The term likely emerged sometime between the late 16th and early 17th centuries, coinciding with the rise of checker games in Europe and North America. Early versions of the game utilized boards with squares of contrasting colors, often black and white, to differentiate between player positions. As the game gained popularity, the term "checkerboard" became ingrained in everyday language, serving as a readily understood reference point for the checkered squares used not only in the game but also in other contexts.

Beyond the Game

While the game of checkers provided the initial spark, the term "checkerboard" transcended its gaming roots to become a universal term for any arrangement of alternating squares. This broad application reflects the inherent versatility of the checkered pattern itself. From the functional use on floors and walls to decorative applications in textiles and fashion, the checkered design offered a simple yet visually striking way to add pattern and interest. The familiarity with "checkerboard" from the game world made it a natural and easily understood term for this broader application.

The Power of Simplicity

Part of the enduring appeal of "checkerboard" lies in its simplicity and clarity. The term is self-explanatory, readily conveying the essence of the pattern – squares alternating in color. This straightforwardness makes it universally accessible, regardless of cultural background or language. Unlike some technical terms for checkered patterns like "tessellation," "checkerboard" avoids any sense of esotericism, making it readily understood by anyone encountering the pattern.

Variations Within the Norm

Despite the dominance of "checkerboard," subtle variations in terminology exist depending on regional dialects or specific applications. Here are a few examples:


This term, particularly common in British English and some Commonwealth countries, is essentially synonymous with "checkerboard." It emphasizes the checkered nature of the pattern, offering a slightly different nuance compared to the game-centric "checkerboard."

Dames Board

A less common but historically significant term, "dames board" specifically refers to a game board with a checkered pattern used for checkers or draughts. This term predates "checkerboard" in some regions and offers a glimpse into the early association of checkered patterns with strategy games.

A Timeless Term

In conclusion, "checkerboard" remains the undisputed champion when it comes to naming checkered tiles. Its clear origins in the game of checkers, coupled with its straightforwardness and broad applicability, solidify its position as the most widely recognized and understood term for this timeless design element. Whether gracing a game board, a kitchen floor, or a fashion statement, the term "checkerboard" continues to bridge the gap between function, history, and everyday life.


Close-up of polished black and white marble look checkered floor tiles with a reflection of a window, enhancing the luxurious design


Checkered vs. Harlequin

While the term "checkerboard" might be the go-to for any pattern of alternating squares, a nuanced distinction exists between a true checkerboard and a specific tile arrangement called "harlequin." Understanding these differences goes beyond mere terminology; it delves into the realm of visual perception and the impact of pattern orientation on the overall aesthetic.

The Orderly Checkerboard

The classic checkerboard pattern features squares laid in a straight grid, with all sides perfectly aligned to the walls. This creates a sense of order, regularity, and stability. The viewer's eye naturally follows the horizontal and vertical lines formed by the squares, fostering a feeling of calmness and balance. This orderly arrangement is particularly well-suited for traditional and formal settings, where clean lines and a sense of symmetry are desired.

The Dynamic Harlequin

The harlequin pattern, on the other hand, takes the basic principle of alternating squares and injects a dose of dynamism. Here, the squares are installed diagonally, creating a diamond shape when viewed from a particular angle. This shift in orientation disrupts the orderly grid of the checkerboard, introducing a sense of movement and playfulness. The eye follows the diagonal lines, creating a more dynamic visual experience. The resulting pattern is often described as energetic, lively, and perfect for spaces seeking a more contemporary or whimsical feel.

Beyond the Initial Glance

The distinction between checkerboard and harlequin goes beyond the initial visual impression. The way the pattern interacts with light and space also plays a significant role.


The straight grid of the checkerboard can create a strong sense of directionality, particularly in larger rooms. This can be visually beneficial in narrowing down a long hallway or grounding a spacious room. However, in smaller spaces, the emphasis on horizontal and vertical lines might make the space feel more cramped.


The diagonal layout of the harlequin pattern can add a sense of spaciousness to a room. The eye tends to follow the diagonal lines, creating an illusion of a larger area. This can be particularly helpful in opening up smaller spaces or adding a touch of dynamism to narrow hallways. However, in very large rooms, the diagonal lines might create a sense of disorientation if not balanced with other design elements.

Choosing the Right Pattern

Ultimately, the choice between a checkerboard and a harlequin pattern depends on the desired aesthetic and the specific space. Consider these factors:

Overall Design Style

A checkerboard complements traditional and formal settings, while a harlequin suits contemporary and playful spaces.

Room Size and Proportion

Harlequin can enhance a small space, while checkerboard can ground a large one.

Light and Shadow

The checkerboard can emphasize directional light, while the harlequin might create more dynamic interplay of light and shadow.

By understanding the subtle differences between checkerboard and harlequin, you can make an informed decision about which pattern best serves your design goals and creates the desired visual experience in your space. If you require further assistance or a tailored approach, we offer expert design services to help you navigate these choices and ensure that your space is as impactful as you envision.


Spacious dining room with large windows, featuring elegant grey and white checkered floor tiles and modern furnishings


Beyond Black and White

Checkered tiles transcend the black and white dichotomy, offering a vast color palette to suit any design vision. Modern design embraces bold experimentation and subtle elegance, allowing you to create a space that reflects your personality. From vibrant hues that energize a room to calming neutrals that evoke a sense of tranquility, the possibilities are endless.

Classic Combinations

Our exploration of checkered tiles begins with two enduring color combinations that offer both elegance and versatility. These pairings provide a solid foundation for your design scheme, allowing you to build upon them with furniture, decor, and personal touches.

Grey and White

This timeless pairing provides a sleek, contemporary look. The neutrality of grey allows for flexibility in furniture and decor choices. Lighter shades of grey create a sense of spaciousness, while darker tones add a touch of sophistication. Consider incorporating textures like matte and gloss finishes within the grey tiles for added visual interest.

Black and Cream

A sophisticated alternative to stark black and white, this combination offers a touch of warmth. The cream color softens the boldness of black while maintaining a sense of formality. This palette works well in both modern and traditional settings. To add depth, consider using textured black tiles or incorporating a black and white checkered border around a cream-colored checkered center.

Earthy Inspiration

For a natural and grounded feel, consider colors like brown, beige, and terracotta. These warm tones create a sense of comfort and work well in spaces inspired by nature. Brown and beige checkered tiles with subtle variations in shade add a touch of texture and mimic the look of natural stone. Terracotta adds a vibrant warmth, perfect for creating a Mediterranean-inspired space. You can further enhance the natural aesthetic by pairing these colors with natural materials like wood furniture and woven rugs.

Pops of Color

Don't be afraid to inject some personality with bold and vibrant colors. A checkered pattern with a pop of color, like red, blue, or yellow, can create a statement piece and energize a space. Use contrasting colors for a high-impact look, or choose complementary tones for a more harmonious feel. For a truly playful approach, consider using a checkerboard pattern with multiple contrasting colors. This can be particularly effective in a children's playroom or a creative workspace.

Subtle Sophistication

For a more subdued and sophisticated look, explore muted tones like sage green, dusty rose, or navy blue. These colors offer a sense of elegance without overwhelming the space. A checkered pattern with muted tones can add a touch of visual interest to a minimalist design scheme. Consider pairing muted tones with metallic finishes for added luxury.

Color Theory in Play

Understanding basic color theory can help you create a cohesive and visually appealing checkered tile design. Here are some key principles to consider:

Complementary Colors

These colors sit opposite each other on the color wheel and create a high-contrast effect. Using complementary colors in a checkered pattern can be visually striking, but be mindful of the balance. Too much contrast can be overwhelming.

Analogous Colors

These colors sit next to each other on the color wheel and create a harmonious and calming effect. Using analogous colors in a checkered pattern can create a sense of flow and unity.

Beyond Solid Colors

The world of checkered tiles extends beyond solid colors. Consider these options for a truly unique look:

Patterned Tiles

Tiles with geometric patterns or floral motifs can add a layer of complexity to the checkered design.

Gradient Tiles

Tiles with a color gradient can create a dynamic and visually interesting effect.

Remember, the key to successful color selection is to consider the overall mood you want to create in the space and to choose colors that complement your existing decor.


Elegant stairway area with a cozy bench and a basket of plants, highlighted by grey and white checkered floor tiles


Material Matters

The beauty of checkered tiles lies not just in their pattern but also in the vast array of materials they come in. Each material offers unique properties, aesthetics, and considerations, making the choice an integral part of the design process. 


For ultimate luxury and classic beauty, marble checkered tiles are unmatched. The natural veining patterns add a touch of individuality to each tile, creating a truly one-of-a-kind look. Marble offers a timeless elegance that complements traditional and formal settings. However, its porous nature requires special care and sealing to maintain its beauty. Additionally, marble can be a significant investment.


For a cost-effective and easy-to-maintain option, vinyl tiles can be a great choice for creating a checkered tile pattern. Modern vinyl tiles come in a wide variety of colors, patterns, and textures, allowing you to replicate the look of other materials like stone or wood at a fraction of the cost. Vinyl tiles are lightweight and relatively easy to install, making them suitable for DIY projects. However, vinyl flooring may not be as durable as other materials and can show wear and tear over time.

Ceramic and Porcelain

These materials offer a winning combination of durability, versatility, and affordability. Available in a vast array of colors, patterns, and finishes, ceramic and porcelain tiles allow for complete design flexibility. They can mimic the look of marble, wood, or even metal, providing a budget-friendly option for achieving a specific aesthetic. The glazed surface of these tiles makes them easy to clean and maintain, making them a popular choice for kitchens, bathrooms, and busy areas.

Beyond the Basics

When selecting a material for your checkered tiles, consider these additional factors:

Moisture Exposure

For bathrooms and laundry rooms, choose water-resistant materials like ceramic or porcelain.

Slip Resistance

Textured surfaces or specific tile finishes can improve slip resistance, especially important in wet areas.

Maintenance Needs

Natural stone requires more care than ceramic or porcelain, while vinyl requires regular cleaning to maintain its appearance.


Consider recycled content options or locally sourced materials for a more eco-friendly approach.


Classic black and white checkered tiles adorn the steps leading to a striking black front door with a polished knocker


Beyond the Classic Application

While checkered tiles are a classic flooring choice, their versatility extends far beyond traditional uses. Their ability to add visual interest, pattern, and a touch of personality makes them a valuable tool in the interior designer's toolbox. 


Checkered tiles can transform walls into captivating focal points. This bold approach is perfect for:

Accent Walls

Create a vibrant statement wall in your living room, entryway, or even a bedroom by using checkered tiles. Play with contrasting colors or choose a monochromatic palette for a more sophisticated look.

Powder Rooms and Bathrooms

Break away from the monotony of plain tiles in smaller spaces like powder rooms and guest bathrooms. A checkered tile wall adds a playful touch and unexpected charm. Consider using waterproof materials like ceramic or porcelain for these applications.


Backsplashes are no longer just about protecting your walls from splashes. They can be a design element in their own right. Checkered tiles offer a unique way to introduce pattern and personality to your:

Kitchen Backsplashes

Kickstart your culinary creativity with a checkered tile backsplash. Choose a classic black and white checkerboard for a timeless look, or opt for vibrant colors to complement your kitchen cabinetry. For a modern twist, consider using subway tiles in a checkered pattern.

Bathroom Backsplashes

Elevate your bathroom design with a checkered tile backsplash. A monochromatic palette of grey or beige tiles can create a spa-like ambiance, while a playful pattern in blue and white can add a nautical touch.


Creative Applications

The possibilities extend beyond walls, backsplashes, and countertops. Here are some additional ways to incorporate checkered tiles into your design:

Fireplace Surrounds

Frame your fireplace with a checkered tile surround for a touch of warmth and visual interest. This can add a classic touch to a traditional fireplace or create a modern statement in a contemporary space.

Shower Floors

Small checkered tiles can add a touch of personality and visual interest to your shower floor. Choose slip-resistant materials and ensure proper drainage to prevent accidents.

Furniture Accents

Incorporate checkered tiles into furniture pieces like tabletops, ottomans, or even cabinet doors. This adds a unique detail and personal touch to your existing furniture.

Outdoor Patios

Bring the checkered pattern outdoors with weather-resistant tiles for your patio or porch. This creates a stylish and inviting space for entertaining.

Designing with Checkered Tiles

While checkered tiles offer endless possibilities, here are some tips to ensure a successful design outcome:

Consider Scale

The size of the tiles should be proportionate to the space. Smaller tiles work well for walls and backsplashes, while larger tiles might be better suited for floors and countertops.

Balance the Boldness

Checkered patterns can be visually dominant. Balance their boldness with neutral colors or simple patterns in other design elements.

Play with Grout Lines

The color and width of the grout lines can significantly impact the overall look. Think about whether you want the grout to blend in or create a contrasting element.

Lighting Matters

The way light interacts with checkered tiles can dramatically affect the space. Experiment with different lighting options to achieve the desired effect.

By understanding the versatility of checkered tiles and following these design tips, you can transform your space with a touch of classic charm, playful pattern, and timeless elegance.


Charming kitchen with beige cabinetry, black countertops, and soft grey and white checkered floor tiles, enhanced by a cozy decor


The Psychology of Checkers

The enduring appeal of checkered tiles transcends mere aesthetics. These geometric patterns tap into fundamental psychological principles, influencing our perception of space, evoking emotions, and triggering memories. Understanding the psychology of checkers can elevate them from a design element to a powerful tool for creating specific moods and atmospheres in your space.

Order and Stability

The most fundamental element of the checkered pattern is the grid. Our brains are wired to seek order and predictability. The regular arrangement of squares in a checkerboard pattern activates this innate human need for structure. This sense of order translates into a feeling of:


The perfect symmetry of the grid creates a sense of visual equilibrium. This can be particularly calming in busy spaces with a lot of visual stimuli.


The predictability of the repeating squares fosters a sense of security and grounding. This can be beneficial in busy areas like hallways or entryways.


The clear distinction between the squares provides a sense of visual clarity, making it easier for the eye to navigate the space.

Playfulness and Dynamism

While the grid promotes order, the checkered pattern also holds the potential for dynamism. This is particularly true when considering:

Contrasting Colors

The use of bold and contrasting colors in the squares disrupts the visual monotony of a single-tone checkerboard. This creates a sense of vibrancy and excitement, making the pattern more stimulating and visually engaging.

Diagonal Placement

Stepping away from the traditional straight grid layout and installing the tiles diagonally introduces a sense of movement and dynamism. This disrupts the predictability of the grid, creating a more playful and energetic feel. The diagonal lines can also add a touch of modernity to a space.

The Emotional Impact of Checkers

The psychology of checkers extends beyond visual perception. These patterns can evoke emotions and trigger memories, shaping the overall mood of a space.


The checkered pattern holds a strong association with classic games like checkers and draughts. Seeing these familiar squares can evoke feelings of nostalgia for childhood memories and simpler times. This can create a warm and inviting atmosphere.


The alternating squares and, particularly, the use of contrasting colors, can be visually stimulating. This can be beneficial in areas where alertness and focus are desired, like playrooms or workspaces.


Checkered patterns, especially those made with high-quality materials like marble or slate, can create a sense of luxury and sophistication. This can be particularly effective in formal settings.

Designing with the Psychology of Checkers in Mind

By understanding the psychological effects of checkered patterns, you can make informed design decisions that create the desired atmosphere in your space. To truly envision how these patterns will transform your environment, try our cutting-edge Augmented Reality (AR) tool, which allows you to visualize your chosen tiles in your own space.

For a Sense of Calm and Stability

Opt for a classic black and white checkerboard pattern with a straight grid layout. This is ideal for bedrooms, living rooms, or meditation spaces.

To Spark Creativity and Play

Incorporate checkered tiles with contrasting colors or a diagonal layout. This approach works well in playrooms, workspaces, or creative studios.

To Evoke a Sense of Nostalgia

Use checkered patterns with vintage colors or materials like encaustic cement tiles. This can be a charming addition to kitchens, bathrooms, or entryways.

To Create a Luxurious Feel

Invest in high-quality materials like marble or slate for your checkered tiles. This approach elevates the look of bathrooms, entryways, or formal living areas.

By considering the psychology of checkers, you can transform these classic patterns from a mere design element into a powerful tool for shaping the mood, evoking emotions, and creating a truly memorable space.


The checkered pattern transcends a simple square. Steeped in history and brimming with design potential, it offers more than just a single name ("checkerboard"). From classic marble to playful vinyl tiles, checkered patterns deliver a range of aesthetics. Understanding their terminology, materials, and applications empowers informed design decisions. So next time you see checkered tiles, appreciate their rich history and the potential they hold to transform your space.

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Elegant entryway with wooden staircase and gray bench, featuring stylish grey and white checkerboard marble look flooring.
Majestic hallway with high vaulted ceilings, adorned with black and white checkered marble floors, leading to a grand doorway