Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Is leopard print a neutral?

My whole family is a little ga ga for interiors.  My older brother designs home theaters with his interior designer wife.  My younger brother is a real estate lawyer and peruses the residential listings on a regular basis even though he and his wife are not planning on moving.  We used to go to the Parade of Homes as a family, just for fun.  So perhaps it is no surprise that my mom brought a fabric swatch to Mother's day brunch, and a debate about animal print ensued.  (the swatch in question: a grey and white small scale leopard print, in consideration to reupholster a pair of slipper chairs in her den.)

My mother and I insisted that leopard is a neutral.

Everyone else disagreed.

Here's what dictionary.com says (after a whole bunch of definitions having to do with war and not taking sides, which, actually kind of relates to where I am going with this): "matching well with many or most other colors or shades, as white or beige."

This is, of course, the beauty of animal prints: they go with anything.  From Victorian to Midcentury, Regency to Global, leopard print really never looks out of place.

I thought I'd do a little research on the matter, because the pictures don't lie.

[Miles Redd]


[House Beautiful]



[Traditional Home]

[Traditional Home]

[New York Living]

[Muriel Brandolini, New York Living]

For some reason, I especially love leopard print carpet as a "neutral".  Check it.



When I first embarked on this leopard print journey, one of the first spaces I thought of was this apartment of Hamish Bowles in his days at Vogue (maybe he's still there?  I didn't see him in The September Issue, a documentary about Anna Wintour and Grace Coddington which is a MUST see.)  

Leopard carpet PLUS accessories.

[Hamish Bowles, New York Living]

My conclusion?  Like anything else in design, so much depends on the context.  Let's compare two entires that use leopard.

Leopard is an indisputable neutral when you live in a crazytown of color, pattern, and styles because the color palette and earthiness can ground a room and the small scale organic pattern of it can keep things moving.

[Hamish Bowles, New York Living]

But put animal print into a pared down, neutral palette space?  Suddenly it is the star of the show.

[Jeffrey Bilhuber's Design Basics]

Not so neutral now.

How about you: would you use leopard as a neutral?

And watch for a roundup of zebra.  Coming soon.


  1. I have a whole list of 'rules' - literally it's a typed out list and in the top 10 is: Leopard is a neutral. So mom is correct. BTW, black is also a neutral.


  2. I agree. Leopard is a neutral, which is why I wear my leopard flats with everything.

  3. I agree! Leopard is a neutral! My mom recently installed leopard carpeting as a runner on her stairs and in the den (gorgeous with peacock blue walls) - it is stunning.

  4. Kate, sounds GORGEOUS!
    Carolin, me too!
    And Randy, I would LOVE to see the rest of your rules. I think that should be a post, for sure!


Let me know what you think. I love hearing from you!


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