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posted: 7/24/2015 6:00 AM

Bring out the animal in your style

Embrace the animal in your style

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  • Give an exotic piece "room to breathe and shine," advises Edyta Czajkowska, an interior designer based in Park Ridge and founder of Edyta & Co.

    Give an exotic piece "room to breathe and shine," advises Edyta Czajkowska, an interior designer based in Park Ridge and founder of Edyta & Co.

  • Zebra motifs are "huge" among teens, says Kathy Rezny, co-owner of the York Furrier in  Elmhurst and Deer Park.

    Zebra motifs are "huge" among teens, says Kathy Rezny, co-owner of the York Furrier in Elmhurst and Deer Park.

  • Animal-themed items, such as the snail placecard holders, above, and decorative tortoise shell box, below, both by Nate Berkus, can be used as accent pieces to add whimsy to a formal space.

    Animal-themed items, such as the snail placecard holders, above, and decorative tortoise shell box, below, both by Nate Berkus, can be used as accent pieces to add whimsy to a formal space.

  • Bird sculptures and busts of animals can add eye-catching detail, Czajkowska says.

    Bird sculptures and busts of animals can add eye-catching detail, Czajkowska says.



  • Mix standard items such as understated pillows with attention-grabbing pieces to achieve a wild, yet cohesive look.

    Mix standard items such as understated pillows with attention-grabbing pieces to achieve a wild, yet cohesive look.


 
By Erin Chan Ding
CTW Features

If you were one of the tens of millions of fans who clicked on Fox's hit first-season drama, "Empire," this year, you'll have noticed that Cookie Lyon brimmed over with it.

Sass? Yes. Determination? Yes. Balanced with a moral core? Well, yes, as much as an ex-felon can have one.

But there was something else abundant about Cookie Lyon: animal prints.

Cookie Lyon, acted deftly by Taraji P. Henson, wore chinchilla and mink and beaver with confidence. The wildlife patterns also decorated her apartment, her office and just about every space she graced.

And because just about everyone loves the character of Cookie, they notice what she loves, too.

Does that mean animal-inspired décor is experiencing a bit of a crest in fashion?

Kathy Rezny, co-owner of the 84-year-old York Furrier in the Chicago suburbs of Elmhurst and Deer Park with her husband, provided "Empire" with several of its decorative and wearable animal-inspired pieces, including Tibetan lamb pillows, which are known for their willowy, curly softness.

"For us, it has never gone out of style," she says of fur and animal prints. But, she adds, "Even the young gals now are deciding that this is a product they want to have."

When choosing animal-inspired products for home décor, however, it's important to think with the entire design concept or room in mind.

"It's kind of like when you're getting dressed for stylists, they always say, 'Do one great accessory,'" Rezny says. "You can do a great color, and you don't want to be matchy-matchy with the animal print. It's an accent. It's an extracurricular focal point. You wouldn't do your whole living room in leopard print."

Edyta Czajkowska, an interior designer based in Park Ridge and founder of Edyta & Co., suggests showcasing an animal-inspired piece.

"You have to give it room to breathe and shine," she says. "Don't clutter up a room with tons of patterns and objects but rather make the animal motif be the focal point of the room that the eye can fully enjoy."

She adds that lately, she's been seeing animal-patterned wallpaper adorning homes.

She points specifically to a design by Lee Jofa that features black and silver sketched rabbits on pink wallpaper that looks quite classy and modern.

"I love animal motifs for their whimsy element that they add, and I think others love that part, as well," Czajkowska says. "They could also be very classic and add organic, vibrant and intricate detailing to a room."

Jillian McClenahan, a marketing specialist at hayneedle.com, pointed out two large ceramic vases decorated with blue and gold zebra print that the home décor and furniture company sells on its site called the Imax Elixer Animal Print Vase. Rezny adds that pink and black zebra motifs are "huge" among teens.

Hayneedle.com also features an 18-inch leather pouf ottoman with black and white Holstein Friesian patterns and a throw pillow featuring a turtle design that comes in bluish gray, light blue, sand and warm gray.

Busts of animals have also inspired decorators. Czajkowska said she loves a resin cast of a white bunny by Oly, a design company, adding bird sculptures can often give a room an eye-catching decorative element, too. McClenahan, meanwhile, pointed to a pair of black-and-tan wooden zebra heads on hayneedle.com that also serve as bookends.

Wildlife-inspired home décor has gone mainstream, too, with items like the Nate Berkus Decorative Tortoise Shell Box ($19.99) and a pair of golden snail placeholders from the Nate Berkus Snail Placecard Holder Set ($7.99 for both).

What you might already have hanging in your closet can also be used for animal-inspired décor.

Rezney and her team at York Furrier, for instance, have shortened mink coats and used the excess fabric to make throw pillows. They can also stencil silver fox or beaver fur to put patterns and colors into throw pillows.

Snakeskin (or fabric inspired by it), known for its leathery feel, she says, can be used for chair covers or ottomans. Lampshades, too, could look sassy with leopard or zebra print.

Leopard prints, Rezny says, have consistently held onto their popularity.

"It is one of those definitely wild looks, but wild in that there's the warmth of those rich colors," she says.

"So it's wild but not crazy wild. So you put it out there, you get that pop and attention-grabber, but the colors blend so well with everything else you have in your home."

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