The Neutral Allure of Animal Print

The patterns of nature have given us the perfectly versatile designing tool in animal prints. The potential for styling animal print is endless, from traditional interiors to the cutting edge, sleek designs of today. Animal print defies category by being both a bold, glamorous accent while also acting as a neutral.

Interiors with a neutral, limited palette and a touch of animal print make the pattern shine with its internal beauty. They're the enchanting friend you always invite over for dinner parties to brighten the mood! Below are a few notable examples of neutral interiors that come to life with a touch of animal print. 

The Manhattan apartment of tastemaker and designer Nina Griscom is an elegant mix of pale green, gray, cream, and brown fabrics, from the rustic natural fibers of the tribal patterns, to the refined sheen of the silk velvets. The collection of tiger and leopard velvet pillows are not to be overshadowed, but only outnumbered by the exquisite wall of old master drawings above her sofa in terracotta and sepia hues. As featured in Architectural Digest and photographed by Eric Piasecki. 

Mark D. Sikes's elegant tented room featured in Veranda is layered in striped and plaid fabrics in beige, white, and cream. Natural textures like the sisal rug and bamboo window treatments are accented by the playful velvet leopard lumbar pillows on the daybed.

The relaxed, living room also by Mark D. Sikes is full of natural elements from the thickly woven rug and rattan armchairs covered in linen, to the leopard pillow and zebra rug. Mark's signature love of blue and white melds beautifully amongst all the patterning in the room. Even though this room has now been re-decorated, I enjoy both versions.

Designer Matthew Kowles shows us how to stylishly make a one- bedroom apartment in Manhattan shine, as featured in Lonny. His form comes from his keen ability to layer a mostly neutral room in gray and cream tones with elegant new and old furniture, books, fabrics, and art. The leopard velvet pillow, trimmed in a two-tone twisted cord acts as a visual anchor between the art on the walls and the inviting sofa. I love how he resolved the lack of closet doors with another layer of cream cascading curtains.

Pictured above, the chic and rigorous apartment of Helene Rochas. It is the kind of style that only the Parisians can master: light-handed, natural, artistic, sexy. The soft palette in her music room lets the artworks take center stage (including a Balthus and Andy Warhol portrait of herself)  while the eye floats over the gestural lines of the iron and bronze furniture. Propped in the corner of the couch is a diminuative sized leopard pillow that excites the neutral palette of furniture and adds glamour and visual interest. 

The gracious scale of this Manhattan duplex apartment designed by Jeffrey Bilhuber in a neutral color scheme lets the eye travel through the architecture. The old and new find perfect balance in the two tiger silk velvet pillows designed in a unique square patchwork configuration, perched atop the twin Pauline de Rothschild inspired chaise longues. The tiger silk velvet glistens different hues of gold, orange, and yellow in each defined square. Photograph from House and Garden.

Classical, art deco, and modern art, furniture, and fabrics cohabit in Benjamin Vandiver's interiors. His glamorous mix of leopard print pillows, furniture, and graphic contrasts of black and white give a sculptural quality to the space in a mostly white field.

A light blue tiger velvet pillow is striking against the white couch and white walls, both painterly and playful when paired with the above art. Found on MyDomain


An intimate room by McMillen Inc., is a lovely setting for studying, viewing, and enjoying a thoughtful conversation. The leopard print seating provides pattern in an room otherwise composed in beige and cream hues. The oval shape of each individual leopard spot is enlarged in scale in the sculptural pattern of the table's base.

A gorgeous gray and white toned Parisian home office by Stephen Shubel, with a deep French mattress cushion turned banquette. The salon style wall of mirrors mixed with stone relief sculptures, and dramatic curtains elevate your eye to appreciate the generous scale of the room. The golden, brown colors of the velvet leopard pillow bring warmth and luxury next to the linen pillows.

My go-to decorator for inspiration is Alberto Pinto. Always a sharp thinker, he brings a worldly, collected aesthetic to all his projects. The fine pale-blue upholstery covering the curvaceous sofa pairs beautifully with the double-sided tiger velvet pillows. The rich hues of the tiger pillows are a wonderful complement to the warm dark furniture, objets and screen behind. An exquisite room.

Robert Brown shows us how to make a large bedroom serve many purposes in his Atlanta Showhouse design. The master bedroom suite is perfect for sleeping, lounging, and working, with a smart furniture arrangement that keeps the tasks separate. Using a cool palette of light blue, gray, cream, and white, coupled with touches of warm brown in the tiger velvet pillows, he gives the room a balanced and calming feel.

The living room of Alex Papachristidis's Bridgehampton home as featured in Architectural Digest and photographed by William Waldron. No recent decorator has mastered the comfortable and opulent mix of furniture and fabrics quite like Alex Papachristidis. The gilt furniture and neutral fabric on the sofa give a glistening and subtle framework for the tiger and leopard velvet fabrics. 

Bunny Williams has an unique versatility for designing personal spaces for her clients, while maintaining her warm, lived-in signature style. She masterfully fuses traditional and modern elements in her interiors that feel timeless. Her mix of furniture and objects often include glamorous touches such as animal print. Below and above are a selection of some of her notable limited palette interiors. 

And lastly, I've added a few mostly white interiors with a calming air and open furniture plans, punctuated by collected curiosities and art: 

Cy Twombly's famous apartment in Rome. Also see our previous post about the apartment to learn more. 

Above, Design by Thomas O'Brien

Above, Design by Carl Lana

Above, Design by Stephen Sills

Above, Design by Darryl Carter 


  • Thanks for the inclusion amongst a cavalcade of design greats.

    Posted by Carl Lana on November 20, 2015
  • So thrilled to be included with this beautiful post of amazing rooms. All of which I would be happy to live in. Thank you so much. Bunny

    Posted by Bunny Williams on November 14, 2015

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