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Why Animal Prints Never Go Out of Style

Laveta Brigham

Elizabeth Pash is a professional designer and owner of Elizabeth Pash Interiors & Antiques. In this column, she shares what she’s loving right now from the world of design. Animal print in interior decorating is hardly something new—from the earliest human civilizations adorning homes with hides to today’s more wildlife-friendly […]

Elizabeth Pash is a professional designer and owner of Elizabeth Pash Interiors & Antiques. In this column, she shares what she’s loving right now from the world of design.

Animal print in interior decorating is hardly something new—from the earliest human civilizations adorning homes with hides to today’s more wildlife-friendly iterations, there’s something about the stripe of a zebra or the spot of a leopard that just seems to work in every style of design.

One of my personal favorite uses of animal motif dates back to the early 20th century, when the legendary designer Elsie de Wolfe used it at Villa Trianon, her beloved home in Versailles. As with so many of her innovations, Ms. De Wolfe did this with aplomb and with a gracious style that lives on century later. In an elegant hallway space, leopard print cushions are the perfect layering piece on a pair of Louis XVI style banquettes. Although this juxtaposition was a bit daring in the early 20th century, the space still looks fresh today.

 

preview for Design School

From tiger stripes to cheetah or leopard spots, an animal print can often add an exciting element of the unexpected to an interior. In my opinion, an animal print is almost neutral. A zebra or leopard print accessory or rug can complement either a contemporary room in all white or a traditional space, because it can so easily coexist with other colors and patterns.

How to use it:

Animal prints work equally well as accents or large coverings. I love reupholstering very traditional chairs with a strong and lively animal print for a jolt of the unexpected that gives what could be considered “old lady brown furniture” a new lease on life. We also never tire of using an animal print rug as a fabulous backdrop to a room. Although it can be neutral, it adds movement and pattern to a space, making the room appear larger and more vibrant. If you’re not quite there yet, dip your toe with a throw pillow, tablecloth, or accent chair.

louis xvi chair

’this vibrant scalamandre tiger stripe gives this stately louis xvi style chair a new personality!

Karyn Millet
leopard stool

Even a small pillow or ottoman can have an impact in a space. How cute is this little stool, clad in leopard??

Karyn Millet
leopard bench

We used this leopard fabric in an entry of a NYC apartment. The playful leopard fabric is a great contrast to the “serious” gilt base.

KARYN R MILLET
red den

Animal prints come in many colors—here we added a bit of red zebra stripes as the finishing touch to this cozy red den.

KARYN R MILLET
tiger rug

A tiger stripe in a den dictated the color story of this room

Karyn Millet
winter room

In a house on Long Island, this room, known as the “Winter Family Room” screamed for an antelope rug to create a warm and cozy vibe.

KARYN R MILLET
tiger print coffee table

In this interior, beautifully designed bySuzanne Kasler, a tiger stripe tapestry drapes a coffee table, adding a bit of drama to this room.
Peter Vitale
regency sofa in zebra stripe pattern

We love how designerKati Curtis used a playful zebra stripe on this serious Regency sofa—the contrast is brilliant!
Eric Laignel
louis xvi style dining chairs

Curtis also introduced a subtle animal print on these Louis XVI style dining chairs.

Eric Laignel

Like with many bold choices, too much animal print in interiors (or fashion) is never a good idea. But when it’s incorporated successfully, it can play a subtle, yet starring role. Try it! Once you walk on the wild side, you won’t look back.


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