When it comes to polarizing styles, few things come to mind as much as animal print. There are those who love it both for its unapologetic opulence and quirky motifs. Equally, there are those who have sent it packing to the past, along with other ’80s relics whose ranks include neon. We fall into the former camp: When done right, it embodies old-school elegance, adding a refreshing breath of fresh air in the process. And what better way to make a statement than via wallpaper?
Lately, we’re seeing interest spike for a specific iteration of pattern: pieces that feature entire creatures rather than just co-opting their stripes and spots. For the bold, there’s tiger print, which has been enjoying a moment in the spotlight courtesy of such brands as Gucci and Hermès. A furniture collaboration between the Inside and heritage fabric brand Scalamandré also invites decorators to embrace the zoo theme in myriad ways—a zebra-print headboard for the more maximalist and leopard-laden decorative throw pillows for a smaller dose of drama.
Big or small, animal prints are particularly well suited to wallpaper because of how little they require in terms of complementary accessories. From the luxurious to the whimsical, here are a few of our favorite spaces—proving that the kitschy look can be done tastefully—plus the best papers to help you bring this playful style home.
The Chinoiserie One
Embrace old-world elegance in a real way with one of the most historically decadent motifs out there: chinoiserie. Rich mauve on silver gilded paper makes this de Gournay–wallpapered room showstopping, and we love this Etsy dupe. It involves hand-painted pink silk panels and is a real decorative treat—even if you only use it on one wall in your bedroom.
The Splurge-Worthy One
Gucci’s Heron wallpaper has been the cool kid of the wall coverings world for quite some time now. The perfect combination of unapologetic lavishness and playfulness—six-foot-tall herons are not exactly demure—the pink paper is great for those not afraid to go bold. Try it out in your dining room to turn a traditionally formal space into something with a sense of humor.
The Bold One
This vibrant flamingo version is Florida kitsch in the best way. It’s a minimalist’s nightmare and a maximalist’s dream. Designer Michelle Gage used it to dress up a tiny powder room; we think the lively design would look equally fun in a nursery. Who says kids’ rooms need to be boring?
The Jungle-Themed One
If leafy botanicals aren’t quite the jungle motif you’re going for, take a walk on the wild side with a leopard pattern. Use it to spruce up an old furniture piece in need of a modern makeover. Maybe your coffee table tray is calling out for a new surface or your IKEA bookshelf could use some zest—either way, this animal print is definitely eye-catching.
The Sketch Design One
The daring look isn’t for everyone, which is why a light doodle might be the way to go. These picks both look hand-drawn—plus, Chasing Paper’s blue option is removable, making it the ideal choice for someone who wants to tiptoe into the trend but isn’t 100 percent sold (yet).
The Whimsical One
Dee Murphy says this bird design actually inspired her entire dining room, and we can see why. It’s just playful enough to be the focal point of the space, but isn’t so out there that the rest of the room clashes. Bring a similar look to your own dining area. Meals at home can be a formal affair.
The Heritage One
Tomato red and massive zebras sounds like a recipe for disaster—unless it’s Scalamandré, of course. The iconic design is a great way to splash out on a guest bedroom–though if a horse print isn’t your speed, we also love this funky elephant and palm tree motif. It’s easier to take a color risk in a secondary room, after all, and whoever comes to stay with you will likely leave with a good helping of decor inspo.