Inspiration Spaces

Taming Animal Prints for the Home

Popularized by fashion designer Roberto Cavalli (among others), the animal print suggests being untamed, strong, dangerous, and therefore sexy. It’s the “born to be wild” look.

Animal Print by Roberto Cavalli

But it’s also an art. Done well, animal prints show your guests that you’re confident, independent and daring. Done poorly, the room becomes a zoo enclosure where the walls are much too confining for comfort. So here are two simple tips on how to tame the trend to your home’s benefit.

Keep it Simple

Just like my recent post on nautical decor, using animal prints and fabrics are best used sparingly. Too much tiger and we’re talking tacky, not tempting. Throw in one, maybe two pieces with a feline pattern (depending on the size of the item) and you’re on your way to humble hunter. The image below shows a wing back chair fitted with a zebra-inspired print (back center). It’s so subtle, I actually missed it the first time I saw the image. The understated color and limited use of the pattern gives the room a touch of wild without turning it into a wildlife reserve.

Photo by Victoria Pearson

The image below uses the palest of pinks on the walls, drawing out the red tones in the tan cow hide rug. This modern rug could instantly turn this romantic escape into a rowdy wrangler room, but since it’s the only piece in the room that suggests country, the theme is merely whispered, toned down by cool, soft paint colors and rich gold accents. While the rug takes up most of the floor, it appears as a subtle accent because of what surrounds it.

Photo by Henry Bourne

Mix it Up

Use the print with unexpected color schemes. There are already plenty of safari settings out there that are dependent on brass, browns and garish patterns. Leave safari settings to Africa and Disney World and instead, try something surprising and therefore more interesting by using bolder colors and throwing in an animal print that breaks them up.

The bold lime green wall and royal blue velvet couch (below) are a fun, energetic pair, but they really vie for attention and have a tendency to become static and distracting. The zebra rug becomes an excellent mediator, breaking up the solid color blocks while balancing the scene. The eye actually finds rest despite the animal print’s lively stripes and the boldness of the room’s color scheme.

Photo from Haven and Home

Below is another great example of a unique color palette that uses animal stripes to complement the overall look (I must have a subconscious thing for zebra stripes…). You’ll notice there are many different patterns and shades of color that all have the potential to become distracting, but the splashes of yellow (placed both in the forefront and in the background at various levels) break up the black/white/gray palette while the solid black chandelier draws the eye from the zebra stripe chairs so neither it nor the chairs become a single focal point. You’ll also notice that the back wall is a single color, no pattern, which allows the eye to rest among a range of patterns.

Photo from

Would you use animal prints in your home? Already using them? Tell us how and share your ideas below!

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