Seeing spots: Leopard prints leap back into home decor

The Drake sofa by Lillian August for Hickory White in a bold leopard print.

HIGH POINT, N.C. — They were seeing spots at Fall High Point Market in October. Leopard prints have leaped back into the spotlight in home furnishings.

It was mostly upholstery that sported the exotic animal pattern, but lamps, rugs and occasional pieces also found their wild side. The look of leopard is timeless whether it's a pillbox hat or a pouf, but we no longer have to harm the big cats to get their pattern. Unless you are a naturalist, it's hard to tell cheetah and jaguar prints from leopard, but all of them were stalking this market.

"Leopard spots in textiles can be traced back to the 17th century," noted Tina Nicole, designer and co-owner of Nathan Anthony.

She showed the frame of the Ansonia/U chair with a black-and-white colored cheetah/ leopard fabric on the legs. The look was inspired by a jumpsuit she saw at the Milan fashion show.

"I like it when animal prints get a modern interpretation, and I think there's always a place to mix these compelling patterns into home decor," she said.


One of the most remarked about pieces was a low back Charmer chair by Kara Mann upholstered in a tattooed leather leopard print. The interior designer who reinvented Baker Furniture's Milling Road Collection, says a leopard print is always in style.

"It adds an effortless chic to any space," she said.

She considers it a neutral because it mixes with so many colors, patterns and styles. "It is timeless."

"Animal patterns, be they print or woven, never go out of style, and designers are always exploring new ways to utilize them in fashion and interiors," said Cecil Adams, creative director for Currey & Company.

The company's Gilbert bench is a modern take on predator prints. "One of the current trends is to explode the scale of the pattern, which creates a more contemporary vibe when the fabric is applied to a chair or bench or even wall art," he said.

Thayer Coggin, meanwhile, covered its Cool Roger chair in large black and white animal spots, which paired nicely with the sleek shiny steel frame. And you didn't have to be a big game hunter to spot Jamie Young's Littlefield chair and ottoman with leopard print hide as well as the occasional boxes covered in it.

Tobi Fairley's Elle chair for CR Laine is upholstered in leopard spots on a 100 percent cotton fabric with the luxurious feel of faux velvet. It makes you want to curl up on one.

"This market we are modernly classic," declared Hennessy Wayser, owner of French Heritage.


Among the pieces exemplifying that aesthetic were the decoupage chest made in Florence, Italy, and classic armchairs covered in a leopard print. Also taking a very classic chair and showing off its animal instinct was Highland House. The newly reinvented furniture maker has a youthful vibe, thanks to its millennial president, Nathan Copeland.

Lillian August of Hickory White made a strong statement on spots with the dark walnut-framed Drake sofa fully upholstered in a leopard print fabric called Jamil Gold.

"Leopard has evolved into a neutral. A pop of leopard can go in every room as the perfect finishing touch," said Jamie Young, president of Jamie Young Co.

These very traditional Highland House wood frame arm chairs get an exotic facelift with the addition of black and white leopard upholstery.

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