I think by this time, my love of leopard print is a pretty well-established fact. And yet, I’m well aware that it’s basically the ‘marmite‘ of design (ie., you either love it or you hate it – and for the record, I hate marmite which makes me a very bad Anglophile).
Jenna Lyons, Creative Director and President of J. Crew, famously said, “As far as I’m concerned, leopard print is a neutral” and every leopard print lover out there rejoiced. Because we all went, “OH WOW, SHE’S SO RIGHT.” And this is true not just in fashion but it crosses over to interiors as well.
How can it be said that it’s a neutral? I mean, there is some colour and pattern within the classic print but somehow, it manages to go with everything – brights, neutrals, clean white, black, moody hues, florals, checks – the list goes on. And I’m going to share some of my favourite inspirational images using leopard print to illustrate this point.
I think the issue with it is, you have to treat it delicately. You have to handle leopard print with care. As another food analogy, it’s like over doing it on the spice when you are cooking – just enough and it brings all the other flavours to the fore – too much and it will overpower the entire dish, making it inedible. Or in the case of design, making it just look a mess. Balance is key.
When I designed my office for the One Room Challenge this past Spring, I knew I wanted to introduce a bit of leopard print to the design. I initially considered a leopard print chair but like that spice, I just felt it would fight a bit too much with the other flavours in the room. No, I wanted it to fall into the background, a touch of it was enough. So I introduced it in two smaller ways.
The curtains were just enough to not overwhelm the space. They are not necessarily the first thing you see when you walk into the room (the wallpaper on the chimney breast is probably the first thing to grab your eye) and I used it in this area on purpose. Against a soft pink background, they really do act as a neutral, simply adding a bit of spice to a flavourful room.
I used it again on the desk to pull the pattern more into the middle of the room but just on two magazine files. A dash of it was enough. I didn’t feel the room needed any more than this.
And this is the secret to using leopard print as a neutral. It shouldn’t overwhelm the space. It shouldn’t be the first thing that jumps out at you. Leopard print has a tendency to get LOUD very quickly. Let’s use another analogy – it’s like the base guitar in a band. It supports everything else but it’s not the first instrument you hear. If it starts getting loud and overbearing, you will fail to hear the rest of the instruments. It’s a supporting player, not the star of the show.
The foyer above perfectly illustrates this. Designer Amie Corley uses it sparingly in a small stool under a lucite table. It marries beautifully to the vintage rug and the gold accents. It doesn’t scream for attention, it’s a subtle accent that goes a long way in creating a bright eclectic space.
Rachel Parcell of Pink Peonies used a pale leopard print rug in one of my favourite office/dressing room spaces ever. It’s a glorious backdrop that adds glamour but you’ll note it is not a pattern that’s repeated anywhere else. It marries to the other colours in the room – soft gold and white and pink – without fighting for your attention.
Want full on glamour? Keep the rest of the space in a highly restricted palette as shown here by Horchow (via Domaine). Black, white and gold create a neutral palette but adding in a splash of leopard print in small scale stools gives the whole space wow factor.
I recently introduced you to Julia from Cuckoo4Design and her bedroom is another great example of using leopard print as a neutral. The bedroom’s soft colour scheme is accented with a pair of leopard print cushions. They add warmth to the space and a touch of drama without overwhelming the senses.
One of my favourite tours on Lonny from a few years ago included this stunningly styled fireplace but it was the upholstered foot rest/coffee table with curvy gold legs that grabbed my heart.
Feeling brave? Yes you can go leopard print on a larger scale as shown on this sofa above (Patrick Mele via Domino). How does this still work? With a black wall colour and the larger pieces around it in neutrals, it reads sophisticated rather than tacky. Bright colours are thrown into the mix which adds some fun. Not a look for everyone but yes, it can still work. If he’d added leopard print cushions or leopard print wallpaper or used it somewhere else – it could have gone wrong but it’s just enough to keep things interesting and exciting.
I just had to share my love of leopard one last time. In my kitchen, I have a little leopard print cutting board, purchased a few years ago from Zara Home. I think it’s more a serving platter than something you’d actually want to cut upon but every time I share it, someone asks where it’s from. It works so well with the floral pattern, though, doesn’t it? See? Leopard print really is a neutral.
So tell me… are you a leopard print lover too? Or is it something you could never see yourself using? And if not, why not? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this one.