Animated Discussion

I don’t know about you, but winter always seems to inspire a more sophisticated approach to decoration and when the weather becomes joyous and sunny, I’m looking for something more light hearted and witty. Recently, I was asked if I would write an article for Londonmums.com about decorating styles that would be suitable for a family home. I got to thinking about how animals feature so heavily in children’s literature, in films and in their toys. And when you pay attention, these same motifs are everywhere in home decor collections. And they’re not aimed at children.

So, let’s put the family category aside – because that’s not my focus on Putting the Love In – the same motifs have a charm and wit that may at first seem an unusual choice, especially if you live in an urban area, right? Wrong. By definition an animal motif is neither a floral nor a pattern nor a plain; they work with spots, stripes and checks. So, they don’t fight with any of the preconceived partners to pattern. Animal motifs can be teamed with any of these designs and instead of feeling out of place, add a general sense of whimsy to the scheme. They almost heighten the drama of the effect.

As a device to add character, the designers have pulled their punches, putting an animal – and I include birds and fish in this genre – on a cushion or a wallpaper is an instant focal point. And the good thing about that is that the design style of the animal motif can lead you into the scheme – if the cushions are linen with a ‘hand painted’ motif, then right away you can favour plaid and tweed in the fabric choices – suddenly you’re in the heart of the countryside. Or if the motif is more stylised, you can opt for a more urban look or pared back feel and team them with leather, sheepskin and metal.

country fabric textures

In the planning phase of a scheme, when you are surrounded by a sea of fabric and paint samples, something that helps you narrow the decision is a good thing. Often the starting point is the absolute hardest choice. So, I want you to be analytical, if when you’re looking at your array of samples you have a number of different patterns that you can’t decide between, will you feel happy if you only choose one? And do they fight with each other because they’re all on a similar scale size-wise? Introducing an animal motif will allow you to unite different patterns, it will give you the scale and you will then be able to see what needs to be smaller and what can be larger. It’s also a good way of trying out a style that you’re nervous about (by that I mean a sofa style that seems very grown up or is a statement piece), an animal motif makes the scheme less serious, more exuberant and more approachable – no-one is going to feel reluctant to sit on a sofa that has a dog cushion in residence!

Ok, so cushions and accessories are fine but wallpaper is an expensive way to add character, I hear you say. Is it, if it allows you to introduce other patterns and styles as part of the scheme? Anything that adds a witty edge is going to be a talking point and something that allows you to downplay – or feature – other things within your scheme will really prove its worth. This is the way to enhance a space that has flaws and as with all wallpaper, it will wear better than a paint colour, hiding the knocks and bumps of every day life quite successfully for much longer. If your furniture tastes are for the simple and chunky then an animal motif will balance that solidity because the unusual nature of the design will offer a visual contrast. And while I appreciate that not everyone is as captivated by florals as I am, a scheme that is simply based on plains will feel very impersonal – clinical even – so the design houses have been quite astute creating a genre that allows their clients the scope to incorporate a motif that doesn’t restrict the use of other pattern.


What I’m saying is that no home is perfect and knowing you can use a device like a visual motif to deflect attention from the weak points is going to give you back a sense of control and reduce your sleepless nights quite considerably! In a funny way an animal motif will actually help you define your direction – without limiting the scheme by period or style – because they’re as at home with vintage finds as they are with Scandi-modern.

dog felted cushion

Sometimes when a project takes a long time to come together, it is easy to forget that your interior is supposed to be a reflection of your personality. Even the most serious minded of us will find a certain humour in life and who said that interior design is supposed to be a serious matter? There is always room for wit and charm, something that makes you smile, something that lifts the heart. Finding a style that gives you so much back is worth exploring and embracing.

The thing is, animal motifs are a bold choice and perhaps that might be where the reservations stem from because a scheme that is witty, has charm, is a talking point and allows you to add other pattern and design to it, sounds just about the perfect way to enhance your living space – and for the wannabe pet owner, it’s certainly a cheaper alternative to the real thing.

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