We’re not the first to have waxed poetic on the virtues of bringing natural elements into your interior design, and we won’t be the last—and for good reason. Including a bit of organic inspiration makes your décor look easy and timeless, even while you experiment with colors, trends, and materials all around it. While we often take our natural inspiration from leaves, flowers, trees, water, and the like, today we’re looking to another form of nature to bring a sense of worldly elegance into our designs: animals, and their inimitable coat patterns.
But first, let’s clear up a few misconceptions. When we say animal prints or animal patterns, we’re not talking hides, but woven and printed textiles and covered or painted furniture with patterns inspired by animals or reptiles—think tigers, cows, leopards, zebras, giraffes, cheetahs, or snakes. We’re also not talking about tacky, ’70s-style velour wall hangings or something Sofia Vergara’s bodacious-babe character on Modern Family might wear, so wipe those associations out of mind. Today there are tons of options available for animal-pattern home décor that look lush, luxe, and expensive.
Now the rules: when it comes to incorporating these bold prints into your favorite rooms, less is much, much more. For a luxe, high-end look, stick to one large-scale investment piece, like a rug, king-size quilt, or an armoire. If your style is more boho or eclectic, the safari feel might be a better match. So choose two to four smaller items—think an accent chair, a lamp, a pair of vases or throw pillows, a throw, or a decorative tray—in the same or complementary animal patterns, and you’ll give your favorite space an instant dose of global charm.
While some designers have experimented—quite successfully, in fact—with colored versions of animal patterns, we can’t quite get on board with an aqua leopard print or a tiger pattern rendered in electric orange. Except maybe on our pajamas or slippers. For us, animal patterns work a whole lot better when they’re close to their natural counterparts, so we always opt for neutrals. That might seem literal-minded, but it’s also a fool-proof way to make sure whatever animal print you choose will blend into your room instead of overwhelming it.
Here are a few of our current favorite animal-print décor picks: