When the pandemic is eventually behind us someday, many people will fondly remember a particular pattern that reemerged during all the uncertainty—checkerboard. From floors and walls to bedding and bath towels, it seems like the check pattern has touched every surface of our interiors and beyond. (Rose Los Angeles even incorporated the check into the design of their Milky Fruity edibles with Nünchi.) What starts as one single thing suddenly morphs into everything around you. But this pattern is more than another passing trend in the Instagram algorithm.
Long before any of this had ever occurred, I was introduced to the checkered way of life in my childhood home. My mother is a huge fan of MacKenzie-Childs and will gladly tell you all about how the Courtly Check is the base for the brand. MacKenzie-Childs has been associated with the pattern ever since the brand was established back in 1983. For decades, the company has been in the business of promoting joy and fun by filling homes with beautiful objects designed with a playful sensibility at the core. According to Rebecca Proctor, the creative director and chief brand officer for Mackenzie-Childs, checks have always been utilized as “a design device to separate other patterns.” She adds, “We call it Underpinnings because for us, it’s our neutral. It’s our foundation.”
Though an untrained eye may not notice the uniqueness at first glance, the MacKenzie-Childs check is very distinct. Because the print is hand-painted, subtle shades of blue, green, and purple are dragged through every brushstroke of black and ivory. The checks really took off for the brand with the introduction of enamel dinnerware in the 1993 Camp MacKenzie-Childs collection. Rebecca recalls how the pattern was originally named “Roasted Marshmallow,” but they officially changed it to “Courtly Check” in 1995 after the brand was referred to as “the court jester of tabletop” in an article. This moment would mark a major turning point for MacKenzie-Childs.
Then came the signature tea kettle in 2003, which has popped up everywhere from the sets of movies to the homes of movie stars. Without a doubt, the Courtly Check has become the most recognizable pattern from MacKenzie-Childs with its addition to printed textiles made out of Italy and upholstered furniture. (Keeping Up With the Kardashians fans might remember that Kris Jenner is a longtime fan.) The brand also offers more variations with Parchment Check, Royal Check, and the now retired Honeymoon Check, Wittika Pickles, and Wittika Peanuts collections.