Exotic animal prints have captivated our design imagination for centuries. From Cleopatra in ancient Rome to Napoleon in 19th-century France, royalty have draped themselves in luxurious furs and incorporated precious animal skins into their interiors to communicate wealth, status and power.
But today’s animal lovers and design enthusiasts alike will be happy to know that you don’t need to have access to royal coffers to get these exotic prints! Modern animal prints are widely accessible, and with so many affordable options and varieties available, anyone can easily incorporate them into their homes.
But what’s the difference between leopard spots, jaguar spots, snow leopard spots, and cheetah spots? It can get confusing knowing the difference between your big cat prints, so below we’ve broken down the differences between the two most versatile patterns – leopard and cheetah – to help you choose the one that best suits your style and needs.
Bold and Beautiful: Know Your Leopard Print
A lot of people mistakenly refer to all animal prints as “leopard,” but there is of course a difference between all these fabulous felines. The main difference between leopards and cheetahs are their signature spots. The background of a leopard’s coat is generally a warm golden tan, and what we call “spots” on a leopard are actually black rosettes with light brown spots in the center.
It seems leopard print is cropping up on everything from designer handbags to dog collars these days, and for good reason. Leopard has long been the top animal print of choice in the fashion and décor worlds. A favorite among fashion designers like Yves Saint Laurent and Dolce and Gabbana, leopard never goes out of vogue. Interior designers have used this animal as the go-to on every surface, epitomized by this iconic interior by French design great Madeleine Castaing.
The secret to leopard print’s versatility is its color and scale. Its tawny blend of caramel, black and brown makes a big visual statement while the densely packed pattern tricks the eye into reading it as a neutral. That’s why it works equally well as wall-to-wall carpeting as it does as a small tabletop accent. Leopard prints manage to strike a unique balance, at once being daring and fun and also timelessly chic.
In a modern twist, many of today’s leading print designers have created new colorways for the traditional leopard pattern, such as Schumacher’s Iconic Leopard. You might never see a sky blue or rose-colored leopard roaming the jungle, but a pattern like this is a fantastic way to add some major color flair with minimum effort and expense.
Sleek and Alluring: Know Your Cheetah Print
If you love animal prints as much as we do but tend to prefer something a little more subdued, cheetah print is the ideal choice for you. It exudes a quiet, slinky elegance that you can almost hear purring!
The key distinction between leopards and cheetahs is the coloration and arrangement of their spots. A cheetah’s coat is tan – usually a few shades cooler than a leopard’s – with a constellation of uniform black spots. Leopard’s spots, as you now know, are black with a brown center, whereas the cheetah’s are solid black. Cheetah is the more minimal of the two patterns.
Like leopard, the cheetah print is versatile and works pretty much everywhere. Josephine Baker famously had a pet cheetah named Chiquita, with whom she often matched her wardrobe. America interior design great Tony Duquette favored cheetah as his animal layer on everything from chairs to accent pillows.
Tips for Decorating with Animal Prints
You name it, we love to leopard it! Here are some ideas to bring these wild and wonderful patterns into your home:
- Go for big ferocious flare. Use a leopard print or cheetah print for your sofa. Yes, the whole thing – big sectionals especially! We promise, it will energize your living room without overpowering it. Make it next level luxe by choosing one of these prints in velvet.
- Choose one statement piece. A club chair upholstered in leopard or cheetah print automatically adds an element of warm glamour to your living room.
- Let them roam in pairs. Go with a set of animal print x-benches underneath a console table for extra seating, or a pair of throw pillows on a solid sofa.
- Get textural. Nothing says cozy more than a leopard or cheetah faux-fur throw.
- Make a small space roar. Create a purrrr-fectly fabulous foyer or powder room by wrapping the walls in one of these warm, exotic prints.
- Think jungle. There’s something extra chic about leopard print paired with a big, leafy banana palm or fern tree.
- Get spotty with accessories. Even the tiniest touch of animal print in a room gives it a little edgy elegance. We love the look of a leopard-print tray on a cocktail ottoman or coffee table, and nothing says glamorous more than a set of leopard print cocktail glasses displayed on a bar cart.
Now go let your inner wild cat out to play!
By: Debra Goldstein, Staff Writer at The Inside