Zebra: Is It Too Much of a Good Thing?

By Lynn Byrne. I am still new to the blogosphere, so I don’t always realize when one of my post ideas is a repeat of others.  I was inspired by the iconic Eileen Gray apartment shot below to do a post on zebra rugs.  (By the way, I recall reading in Domino that the zebra rug in the Gray designed apartment was used to “style” the photo.  Even the masters of design like Eileen Gray get styled!)  Photo from theboundary.co.uk.

Little did I realize at first that the zebra rug thing has been done (and done, and done).  You don’t need me to find you inspiring photos of rooms using a zebra rug.  They are all over the web.  Just google “zebra rug” and have at it.

But then I got thinking.  There is so much zebra pattern out there, has that style trend gone too far?  You be the judge.  First, consider zebra wallpaper.  

Can you live in these rooms?  Let me know.  Wallpaper photos from Echo, Just Say Mo, Porter House Designs, and Shakadoo.

Then I entered the daring world of zebra bedding.  Most of what you find when you google “zebra bedding” looks like this.  Photo from Mattresszine. Clearly way too bordello for me.

But then there is the duvet and shams offered by Williams Sonoma Home (they went a little zebra crazy this past holiday season; more on their offerings below).  It is toned down quite a bit by doing the zebra pattern in beige.  It is better, but I am not in love.  What do you think?

Photo from the Williams Sonoma Home catalog

I did kind of  like this zebra crib set done in brown and pink.  Photo from Carousel Designs. I find that a charming color combination.  I would have certainly stopped at the bedding though–no zebra wallpaper border, lampshades or rug for me.  One animal at a time thank you.  I think the room would be improved by solid brown chandelier shades, a pink shag rug and a pink lampshade on the table lamp and no border.  Much better in my opinion.

Although I am not generally the type of decorator who comes in with a sweep of her hands and proclaims that it all has to go, this young lady’s room might be the exception.  I couldn’t have my name on that one.  What do you think?  Photo from Princess Canopy Beds.

I also found quite a bit of zebra upholstered furniture.  Some of it is nice.  I like these chairs and ottomans as accent pieces in a room but in my view the bean bag is going too far.  Photos from CMC Design Studio, Brown Zebra, Material GirlsThe Trophy Room Collection and Hot Bean Bags.

When I considered accessories, I discovered that the realm of accessories went far beyond pillows.  Of course, I found pillows, but I also found a shower curtain (ugh), a faux zebra throw, an accent cube, a photo zebra print and even a Christmas stocking.  And everything but the shower curtain was offered by Williams Sonoma Home.  As I hinted at above, they recently went a little wild over zebra (and I haven’t even shown you their zebra slippers because I am limiting the post to home decor and not fashion!).  Photo of the shower curtain from Andover Direct. All other accessory photos from Williams Sonoma Home.

Do you like any of the above?  I did find a couple of pictures where I think zebra as an accent is done well.  Photos from Blossom Residential Design, Cote de Texas via Traditions Journal, Decor Pad.

After all that zebra, my favorite picture is the one below of zebra “au naturel”.  Photo from Coolest-Wallpapers.com. Has this trend run its course?  Tell me what you think.  

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  1. says

    I think that if done in moderation, it can look really smart and sophisticated. But more than that, I prefer when zebra is not in the typical white/black or beige/white that we see because that’s too close to looking like the real thing and I’m not such a fan of zebras that I want to bring the wildlife in. It’s more of a fascination I have with the patterns on animals — the zebra pattern itself is very striking and bold. I think the blue/white zebra wallpaper above in that entryway (I remember seeing that years ago in Domino magazine) is exactly what I’m talking about. It’s clearly zebra but not in the typical run-of-the-mill sense. I’ve seen zebra in pink and white on pillows and thought it was stunning, one on a simple white sofa is all you need. I also like it on the ottoman above in grey/white. I think it’s a very nice way to introduce pattern to a space without being too bold.

    Great post, thank you for emailing me and for your personal invitation to comment on this post. I am grateful to know that you value my opinion so much – an honor. Thank you!

    Holly Becker

  2. says

    Of course I value your opinion! You are one of the leaders in design blogs. I am thrilled you commented. Thanks. I agree with you about using the pattern in other colors, except for the fact that I don’t think I could live with the blue wallpaper. It is super cool looking but a bit too bold for my understated taste on a daily basis. My favorite way to use zebra is in moderation. I especially like the photo where the zebra rug is tossed over the ottoman.
    All the best,

  3. says

    I don’t think anything is ever “overdone”. Good design is good design regardless of (and often because of) its longevity.

    I think a lot (but not all) of these examples are atrocious, however. Not because of the zebra print, but because the converse of the above statement is also true: bad design will always be bad design, even if a favorable element is mixed in.

    What makes the Eileen Gray room beautiful isn’t the zebra, it’s the balance of shape and light and form and materials throughout the entire space. The zebra and other skins function as organic counterpoints to the steel, the tile, and the hard-edged sofa.

    (By the way, that fabulous Zebra wallpaper behind the Hermés ad is from Scalamandré. You can read about its history here: http://partners.nytimes.com/library/magazine/specials/20000416mag-thatsitalian.html )

  4. says

    I do think since zebra is EVERYWHERE now, it makes me a little more apprehensive about putting it in a room- I don’t want to put it in just to “follow a trend”. It has to be the right application! I like little pops of zebra here and there- no more than one piece per room! I am still loving the zebra hide rugs but I’m not a huge fan of zebra bedding or zebra done on a large scale. But using a pillow, an ottoman, a rug- those are all fine by me if done tastefully and on a smaller scale. Thanks so much for your email and for inviting me to comment on the post! You pulled some great examples of zebra!

  5. says

    Thanks for commenting Anna. My point is not that I don’t like zebra. I just think some of the recent products out there have used it in a terrible way, as in your comment about bad design. (I wouldn’t want zebra to go the way of the skull motif!!) Just because it has a zebra print, doesn’t automatically make it chic. Eileen Gray was an amazing designer . I particularly like the chairs in the photo. Thanks for the link on the wallpaper. And thanks again for commenting. Lynn

  6. needspark says

    Lynn, Great post! I think that zebra is a 2000s design trend that has run its course. I think it will always be tastful in small doses, but I think it will start disappearing for a while in the next few years, especially the zebra hide rugs and the upholstered pieces of furniture.

  7. says

    I am so pleased that you commented Emily. I have added your blog to my RSS reader. I completely agree with your comment. All the best, Lynn

  8. says

    It has gone a bit the way of the coral thing. I think we will see it a bit more sparingly as well in the upcoming months. Thanks so much for commenting. I am glad you liked the post. Best, Lynn

  9. says

    Found you via Decor8. Nice post. I really like zebra, so I’m not impartial. But because it’s an animal print and usually in classic black and white, think it can’t go out of style. But I do think it’s been overdone in design mags and catalogs. Throwing a zebra rug on the floor (along with dangling a fancy chandelier) seem to be the latest green-apples-styled-on-every-table styling bit.

  10. says

    I’m not a designer, but I do believe that you’re either an animal print gal or you’re not. To me, animal prints go along with everything blingalicious, like crystals, rhinestones, and metallics. It’s nice to see it used in a more toned-down palette as with the Williams Sonoma examples. Personally, I think animal prints, including zebra, have transformed from a trend to a modern classic.

  11. says

    Glad you found me and that you liked the post. I will definitely remember not to use green apples in my next photo shoot! You are right! Lynn

  12. says

    Animal prints when done well are a true classic. Think Else de Wolfe, a pioneer in interior design. She used them often. Thanks for commenting.

  13. Meaghan Bonafyde says

    To me Animal Prints such a Cheetah and Zebra are classics when done in their natural color palettes and become more trendy/modern when done in unnatural color palettes. Both are fun and it then becomes a matter of personal taste as to which one you choose. For me I Love them either way!

  14. Meaghan Bonafyde says

    Side note: I personally like it when then are used sparingly, a splash here or there adds Pop. Head to toe animal print is overkill for my tastes though.

  15. says


    I see you have a zebra print on a pillow behind you in your profile photo! I believe animal prints will never go out of style and are timeless. Moderation is the key or it becomes overwhelming to look at. I personally am partial to the camel and brown tones of the zebra print. Thank you for using a photo from my Sexy Beast blog post.

  16. Andi-A says

    Glad to find this blog thanks Holly. Nature always gets it right and it’s alway’s cool. The problem happens when it’s pimped into an entire theme. There should never be an entire room of somethimg so bold and beautiful it cheapens it. I know someone who wanted to do an African themed living room and had ended up with a leopard cheap print themed room. I’m interested to hear how others help direct clients from this.

  17. Andi-A says

    By the way I personally love dark brown/dirty cream even though black and white can really pull out and make something else shine, long lengthy not quick repeats, hairy looking not static printy striped zebra the best. My favorite peice was this kidney shaped desk that Sharper Image furniture did in mid 90’s. It was very random that they had an exclusive brief furniture catalog line, but it was gorgeous and unique.

  18. Cheryl Shestack says

    Hi Lynn,
    I have read a few of your blogs, and have really enjoyed the insightful information and interesting photos. I agree with your opinions on the above, although I must admit that I LOVED the zebra crib set done in brown and pink and thought that the added border and lampshades were a nice addition and tastefully done. Just my amateur opinion, as I am far from being a stylista (just ask Carolyn T!). By the way, have you blogged on wallpaper yet? If so, could you provide a link for me? I know that the trend is to get rid of it, but I still like my wallpaper and feel that it is subtle enough to not look outdated. The bold “bordello-like” zebra bedding photo featured some wallpaper which either means that wallpaper can still be in style, or I should consider the source and my question is answered. :)
    Cheers, Cheryl

  19. says

    Wish I had seen the Sharper Image piece thing. As for the clients, sometimes you have just got to say no—-but in the nicest way possible!! That is what makes the decorating business a challenge! Thanks for commenting. Lynn

  20. says

    To The Designer Insider: Always happy to learn of a new source. I will spend some time checking out your site. Thanks for commenting! Lynn

  21. says

    So nice to hear from your Cheryl and thanks for checking out my blog!!!! I LOVE wallpaper and it is definitely not out of style. I did a post on the Nest Wallcoverings from Schumacher (made out of real feathers). Search Nest Wallcoverings in the search box in the bottom middle column. I also did a post on period wallpaper by CFA Voysey (search Voysey–same place) . You will also find the posts if you scroll through Archives. There will certainly be more wallpaper posts because I am obsessed. Hit the contact button on the blog and shoot me an email if you want more wallpaper sources or you would like me to pick up some samples for you. Lovely to hear from you. Lynn

  22. mydivabydesign says

    I like zebra (and other animal prints). I think that putting it on everything is a bit much! A little can go a long way. Zebra print shower curtain? no. Zebra print stocking? no. Zebra print bedspread? no. I could see a beige zebra print (which is more subtle) in a small guest bathroom. I think the popularity is due to black and white being such a classic combination. One zebra print in one place in a room can be a great accent and add personality!

  23. says

    Hello! I just hopped over from Decor8, and had to see what the responses have been for the zebra conversation! I am a big fan of zebra print, in small doses. I think it’s both my love of the black/white combination, along with a eye-catching graphic pattern. A very long time ago I started noticing a little spot of zebra print in so many of the gorgeous rooms shown in home magazines. I quickly learned that it was acceptable to use it, but just as an accent.

    I recently noticed how many things that I have with animal prints and went on an little “hunt” and wrote a post about it: http://tomkatstudio.blogspot.com/2009/08/welcome-to-my-jungle.html

    Great topic, thanks for starting the conversation!

  24. says

    I am so glad you “hopped” over and that you will continue to check back. I will certainly check out your blog post. Thanks for commenting. Lynn

  25. belledame says

    it’s all about the context, not simply the item. i’m not into zebra, but some pieces are so well done i can appreciate them. my niece loves this bedding: http://www2.jcpenney.com/jcp/X6.aspx?ItemTyp=G&itemID=15574a5&GrpTyp=STY&ShowMenu=T&ShopBy=0&SearchString=zebra+bedding&RefPage=SearchDepartment.aspx&s4PageSize=15&CmCatId=searchresults&mscssid=67553a92eaf124d05a646e5b8dd7e03e4xMnVNoV5a3WxMnVNoV5a3o200B4F2E37F9C99838B8B67B6D0906B9E9001000800&Search1Prod=True

    so for her birthday i got her these sheets in the same – but far less flashy vein, for her mother’s sanity: http://cgi.ebay.com/HILLCREST-SATEEN-TWIN-SHEET-SET-LAVENDER-ZEBRA-PRINT_W0QQitemZ140359041274QQcmdZViewItemQQptZSheets?hash=item20ae0d00fa

    i think the pattern and color will play much more interchangeably and subtly in her room than that overwhelming set. in general, i find zebra patterns for kids to be off-putting and less tasteful (aka gauche or corny).

  26. Natasha says

    I love zebra and all animal patterns! I think that they are always going to be classic… after all, they are inspired by nature!

  27. says

    Sadly, I think faux bois is becoming the zebra pattern of 2010. I enjoy both but in moderation. The two children’s rooms you showed are a bit unnerving. I agree that the second of the two would have be a start over project. The furniture could stay only after a new paint job. Personally, I’ve been craving a zebra rug but have chastised myself for “giving in.” It is most attractive when in an unexpected color and placement. For example, I saw a yellow zebra upholstery fabric that I thought was fun for bench and I very much like the photo of the hide across the ottoman.

    P.S. Thank you for using the word “bordello.” It appropriately describes that bedding and I never see/hear it.

  28. says

    Thanks for commenting. I happen to love faux bois. I hope it doesn’t not get over-exposed. Zebra is a classic, but sometimes these things get used a bit too much. Glad you liked the post. Lynn

  29. says

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