Love Leopard Print? Here’s How To Incorporate It At Home

By Jessica Doyle
Daily Telegraph UK
A statement floor covering like this one from Designer Rugs, the 'Donatella', is a great way to inject some leopard print into your home.

Glamorous, fun and versatile, the divisive print is having a moment. Here’s how to get it right in your home, according to the experts.

Take a look at the high street’s fashion shops at the moment – and, indeed, the red carpet – and you’ll spot that there’s one print which is particularly on trend right now. Leopard print is everywhere, from skirts to swimsuits; and it’s on the prowl in the homeware collections too.

For some, leopard print is never not on trend: it’s fun, glamorous and versatile, and can be paired with just about any other colour. For others, it calls to mind visions of Coronation Street’s Bet Lynch or the Playboy Mansion: tacky and garish. So why has this most divisive of prints become the height of chic in stylish homes?

A surprising number of interior designers use leopard as a secret weapon, to bring a little contrast and energy to a scheme: much like using spices in cooking, the idea is to use it in a way that your eye hardly notices it’s there, but it adds a little piquancy to a room.

“At Colefax, we’ve always enjoyed adding a little wildlife into our schemes,” says Emma Burns, joint MD at the prestigious decorating firm Sibyl Colefax & John Fowler. “The words ‘leopard print’ perhaps conjure ageing rockers or porn stars, but this and other animal prints or weaves are fabulous non-patterns – in fact, they’re neutrals.”

Using leopard print in high-end homes is not, continues Burns, a new thing: “The iconic decorator Madeleine Castaing was a great proponent of leopard, particularly in carpets, which added a huge amount of “look” to her interiors. You only have to think of the pair of sofas from the Givenchy sale [at auction house Christie’s in 2022], which generated a bidding war and made in excess of a quarter of a million euros, to understand that animal prints are not to be sniffed at.”

Burns herself prefers “just a dash – on cushions, ottomans, window-seat squabs and small chairs. Too much and it does start edging in the wrong direction.”

Of course, not all leopard prints are created equal: “There is a huge and crucial difference between leopard print, which could be considered a bit ‘non-U’, and a weave, which nudges into the chicer-than-chic camp,” observes Burns’ colleague, Philip Hooper. “If choosing a printed fabric over a weave, avoid all-over spots. A pattern that juxtaposes leopard spots with another abstract design is far more whimsical and less obvious: our Leopard Stripe fabric is a great example of this, and has been a favourite of ours for many decades.”

Needless to say, leopard prints in any colour other than their natural palette should be chosen with care: a tasteful blue, ochre, green or terracotta works; while a hot pink veers into tacky territory. The other colours and patterns you pair it with will also affect the impact it carries in a room.

“Leopard print has energy; like a floral, it’s full of life,” says interior designer Natalie Tredgett, a firm fan of the motif. “To balance this dynamic print, I love pairing it with solid colours and large-scale geometric prints, which help it from becoming overwhelming. The structure forms of plains and geometric shapes provide a contrast to the organic shapes in leopard print.”

In terms of which colours to pair it with, “incorporating cooler colours such as greens and blues can further reduce the intensity derived from an animal print,” says Tredgett. “Pastel tones of pinks and yellows add softness, in addition to reducing the vibrancy.”

Perhaps the best way to see leopard print is as a disruptor in a room that might otherwise look a little too buttoned-up. “I like to throw in a random cushion or footstool in leopard, particularly when a space is full-on ‘matchy matchy’ or super polished,” says interior designer Tiffany Duggan. “A dash of irreverence and bad taste is often a good thing.”

How to tame leopard print

  1. Channel the late, great French decorator Madeleine Castaing and use it for flooring: a leopard rug will bring warmth and pattern that will help to anchor a room – or use it as a stair runner to add impact to a hallway. House of Hackney’s Wild Card carpet is a stylish place to start.
  2. Throw in a single leopard-print scatter cushion on a sofa or chair to add energy to a room.
  3. Cover dining-chair seat pads with a leopard weave, for a dash of pattern.
  4. Use it as you would a floral, and pair with a striped or checked print elsewhere to reduce the intensity.
  5. Don’t overdo it: too much leopard in one room will overwhelm the eye.

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