Checkerboard Decorating: How to “Jump” Your Furniture From Place to Place

My husband and I have moved so many times we can hardly count them. These moves prompted me to come up with Checkerboard Decorating. What is it? Checkerboard Decorating is a plan that allows you to coordinate furnishings and, at the same time, move them from place to place.

I came up with the idea during my husband’s Air Force days. For a time we moved every year. I would finish decorating the last room of our quarters and the moving van would pull up in front of our house. That didn’t stop me from hanging a picture to see how it looked. Moving so much taught me a lot about decorating.

1. HAVE A THEME. We couldn’t afford new furniture when we first married, so we bought things at thrift stores and antique shops. Our purchases could be called Early American and we have stayed with this theme. Today, we live in a Cape Cod house, the kind with a steep roof and dormer windows. The Early American theme continues inside our house.

2. CHOOSE MULTI-PURPOSE ITEMS. We have always had a round table in our house. Sometimes the table served as a nightstand next to the bed. It has also been used as a living room table. Most often, the round table was our kitchen table. This checkerboard idea – multifunction pieces that can “jump” from room to room – simplifies decorating.

3. BUY A FEW QUALITY PIECES. Sure, we’ve bought junk furniture and I’ve sanded it and painted it. But junk doesn’t last. On the other hand, a few quality pieces will last for years. When our kids were very young we invested in two Windsor chairs. They added charm to our Texas tract house, our Alabama barracks house, our quaint Ohio house, various other houses, and our present Minnesota house. Over the years I have had different cushions made for the chairs.

4. GET TWO THINGS THAT MATCH. This is where the checkerboard idea really pays off. Two pieces of furniture that match, like the Windsor chairs, can bring a room together. Suites of furniture aren’t popular now, but early in our marriage we bought a bedroom suite: bed, highboy, chest of drawers, and mirror. This furniture has come through all our moves unscathed. If necessary, I could use the mirror in the living room and my chest of drawers as a dining room hutch.

5. UNIFY WITH COLOR. Nothing unifies a room faster than color. We have so much mismatched furniture that I usually paint the walls white. Not refrigerator white, but a tan white or gray white. When I decorate a room I take wood colors into account. The orangey finish on our antique church pew, for example, blends well with the orange pillows on our sofa. I repeated the orange in cushions I had made for our Windsor chairs, which are now in the kitchen.

6. HAVE SOMETHING THAT DOESN’T BELONG. Our guest room has an antique wrought iron bed in it and an antique wicker chair. The wicker chair is pulled up to a white, modern Parson’s table, a design developed by the Parson’s School of Design in New York City. You wouldn’t think an antique chair would look good with a modern table, but it does.

7. SPOTLIGHT COLLECTIONS. Our kitchen is pretty much like everyone else’s kitchen, with the exception of my antique iron collection. The collection, which includes sad irons, tailor’s irons, and early electrics, sits atop the kitchen cupboards. My husband installed up lights to draw attention to the collection and the irons make our kitchen special.

Checkerboard Decorating allows you to make your place special. Like the checkers game, this kind of decorating is for everyone. It fits all decorating styles and all ages. Every time you move you use furniture in different ways. Tell your friends about Checkerboard Decorating because it’s smart and it’s fun.