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Solutions: Animal prints take decor to the wild side

Jeanine Matlow
Special to The Detroit News

As a longtime fan of animal prints, I’ve seen their endurance as well as their evolution through the years when it comes to the current design elements being shown for the home.

In addition to the classic palettes and patterns, the latest styles often take a more subtle approach with lighter shades and abstract details. They also appear in unexpected ways, such as framed art featuring animal prints and accent pieces that go beyond the standard rug.

A dear designer friend of mine, John Breco, who recently passed away, devoted an entire room in his incredible home to leopard print with carpeting and chairs covered in the iconic pattern. Though his bold approach may sound overwhelming, it actually had the opposite effect when merged with a black grasscloth wall filled with old photos that balanced out the space.

In my own home, I’ve come to showcase animal prints in smaller doses, which was never something I planned to do. They just seem to weave their way throughout the house, like a leopard runner I’ve had for years in the entryway that helps to hide dirt with its perfect combination of light and dark tones.

In the master bedroom, a zebra-print throw happens to match our black-and-white border collie who claims the blanket as much as we do. The same can be said for a faux cowhide rug in the living room that also reminds me of his markings.

A large lacquered box embellished with tiger stripes has been one of my personal favorites ever since I first positioned it by the fireplace in the living room and filled it with some decorating books long ago.

Now I’m inspired to add to my collection with some of the pieces I’ve seen recently like the gorgeous giraffe-inspired patterns that are everywhere. Their popularity may be due to the fact that their pattern is not only unique, but the colors are so warm.

Exquisite animal prints such as these appear on picture frames, candles, lampshades and pillows. We even have some zebra-themed sheets that perk up a daybed on our lower level.

Some of the current home décor strays a bit from the traditional colors, like a leopard print with a gray palette that puts a modern spin on the original. Among the latest selections, you’ll see everything from a cheetah or a fawn pattern to a Dalmatian design that can be found on

One way to introduce animal prints without making a major commitment is by incorporating them into your table settings with runners and place mats or even smaller accents like napkin rings.

So, take a walk on the wild side with these exotic decorations that strike a lively note in any room. Their natural beauty works with any style and their classic patterns have a timeless appeal that gives them staying power. Whether you choose to be daring by introducing a few in each space or go for a subtler approach with a touch here and there, you’ll be surrounded by the beauty of nature.

Jeanine Matlow is a Metro Detroit interior decorator turned freelance writer specializing in stories about interior design. You can reach her at