inside design with jeremiah brent: checkerboard’s timeless trend

by clé tile | published: Nov 06, 2020

interior designer jeremiah brent’s approach to design is very much california modern. although he and his husband, nate berkus, recently decamped from california back to new york, his relaxed california approach is still very much in play. the couple recently purchased a weekend retreat in montauk. jeremiah shares with us his approach to designing the outdoor space and his choice of a checkerboard floor design… from its timeless roots to the practicality of using cement tiles.

what inspired this space?
i would say this space is entirely inspired by our travels. when looking around you’ll see hints of mexico, portugal, the south of france… we’ve tried to introduce materials and patterns that feel timeless and celebrate the beauty of places we’ve been.

clé’s insight: while the checkerboard design has been popularized as of late, its roots date back to ancient times. black and white checkerboard floors, specifically, were used in egyptian temples and displayed on pottery pieces during the bronze age. the design also serves as one of the most recognized symbols of the freemasons, representing the “good and bad” inherent in life.

moving through the centuries — from ancient roman architecture to renaissance period artistry — checkerboard design eventually became a standard in 1950s american diners… many of which have retained the aesthetic to capture the essence of that time.

today, checkerboard design has embraced both color and dimension into its realm. no longer limited to black and white, or even dark/light hues, designers are experimenting with a broader, bolder palette. mixing multiple shades or juxtaposing contrasting colors like the soft pink of cle’s cement mocha and solid black are ways to bring standout style to any space.

when designing a space like this, when do you start to think about tile?
we always think about the floor first. it’s the first place your eye travels and is the beginning layer of creating the identity of a room. in this case, we wanted everything in the space to feel calm yet balanced by an impactful and bold floor.

why checkerboard? seems to be trending right now.
checkerboard is actually an old motif that can be found in historic structures around the world. while the colors can feel contemporary and trendy right now, the actual layout is fairly traditional, which is why we loved it.

what made you choose cement tile?
we’ve always been huge fans of clé tile and the range of selections available. we chose cement tiles for the practical component with children; they work indoors and outdoors and are a great way to add personality.

what were the other tiles you considered?
we were really just set on the cement! for us, the combination of aesthetic and functional qualities left no other choice.

did you have any apprehension about using white tile outdoors?
i’ve never had apprehension about using white in general: white tile, white furniture, white linens… we’ve always believed that nothing in your home should be too precious. the amazing thing with cement is that it’s easy to clean but also ages well with time.

what did you consider when using tile outdoors (kids, heavy traffic etc.)?
we considered everything! the kids, areas of high traffic, versatility, the idea of the space being formal yet informal. again, we wanted to add a lot of impact visually but keep the home family friendly, which clé helped us do successfully. for even more inspiration, visit our pinterest board on checkerboard designs.

3 steps to creating the checkerboard look
achieving the checkerboard look involves a few specific steps. as always, collaborate with your installer throughout the project to ensure you’re both working toward the same goal.

just as you’d do with any tile project, it’s important to determine the space’s square footage. when you place your order, make sure to include 15% overage. industry standard suggests adding at least this volume due to tile cuts, potential breakage, or future repairs.

solidify your desired design by mapping out the samples you’ve ordered. if you’re going for the classic two-color look (black/white, red/white, etc.) you’ll need an equal amount of each. but, if you’re expanding your design to include multiple shades, your installer will need to calculate how much of each tile color to order.

don’t forget the grout. our recommendation is to choose a time of day when you are most pleased with the lighting in the space (natural lighting, installed lighting, or a blend of both). during that lighting and time of day, work with your installer to select the grout color that best matches your tile selection.

whether you’re going for a playful, modern interpretation of checkerboard’s traditional pattern or want to retain its classic look and feel, you can’t go wrong with this design.