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The installation of my leopard print runner didn’t go exactly as planned, but I’m so happy with how it turned out. Here’s why I chose a leopard rug for my staircase and some design considerations if you’re thinking of adding animal print too.a

When I posted this reel on Instagram showing my new leopard runner on my staircase,  I heard from a few people who hated it instantly. And that’s fine.

Believe me, I understand that leopard print is definitely not for everyone. I like it because it’s part of my glam, colourful and traditional style. 

In this post I’m also going to sound like I’m defending it, but really I’m just explaining why leopard was a good choice for me, and how it could be an option for you.

You can also see a sneak peak of my fabulous Jardin Bloom Thibaut Wallpaper (See where you can buy it here)

By the way, my living room is FAR from complete. . . all the furniture in there is from my last house and my carpet is way too small (obviously) haha. I will keep some of it in here but the outdoor sectional (not shown) is definitely not staying.

Here’s the before with the grid moulding on the fireplace that made no sense.

Decorating with animal prints

Animal prints are a timeless pattern that are also considered a glamorous neutral. It goes with many colours in addition to patterns.

And believe me I have tried to sell animal print to my decorating clients for years in a pillow or a chair but most of them have said NO. 

Here’s the one I introduced to my living room with my Ballard Designs makeover last year:

The yellow in this particular animal print colourway repeats the yellow in my sofa perfectly. 

Animal prints come in countless colourways but I prefer the yellow/gold based ones (obviously because I love yellow).

If you’re someone who likes wearing animal prints, you will probably like having some in your home as well.

Look in your wardrobe. If you’re someone who dresses up more than you dress down, along with a dose of sequins, sparkle and velvet, this rug might also be for you.

The other great thing about animal prints is that they work with countless patterns and colours.

This fabulous teal and pink room by Rachel Cannon Interiors is a great example of this:

Leopard print staircase runner

Okay back to my runner installation:

The colour way I chose is Lake Safari-Prowl from Stanton Carpet

When the full runner arrived, I worried that it would feel like too much leopard – especially because I already have leopard sprinkled around the house. Even though leopard is a neutral, as we have all learned on this blog, too much of any good neutral isn’t good anymore.

So my project manager Jan Romanuk suggested that we install it on each step instead so that we could still see the white painted kick that connects to the panelling on both sides of my staircase (below):

It was the perfect compromise. 

And because of the way the railing wrapped around each end of the step it would have cost a fortune to refinish each edge by hand, so we had them painted a high gloss black.

Here’s the before again without any panelling on the wall above the staircase as well as three unnecessary windows from the entertainment room. Those were closed up immediately. If anyone is watching TV upstairs, it would disturb everyone else in the house.

Lucy likes to hang out right in the middle so she can see everything!

To be clear, if I didn’t have any leopard in my living room, I wouldn’t have hesitated to install it like a regular runner. But I like the leopard that is here and I don’t want to delete any of it. That makes this the right choice for my staircase.

Most people don’t have a staircase in between their entry hall and great room so this wouldn’t be an issue for you.

Love this forest wall mural paired with a leopard runner and carpet designed by Miles Redd:

Miles Redd 

Sarah Bartholomew

I think a staircase is a great place to add pattern especially because it hides everything! There’s zebra, antelope, herringbone, so many great options out there! Staircases are typically high traffic areas and I have seen too many dirty steps with light neutral carpeting!

Here’s the after again:

More to come, we are only at the beginning of decorating this home!

Timeless new build design advice

It’s new build season! If you are working on one, make sure you get all the details and colours right! Believe me, even if you know what you’re doing there are so many things that can go wrong if you are not there to catch it, never mind if you’re not even choosing the correct finishes!  Work with me here.

Also, January is a good time for a paint refresh, see my paint packages here.

Related posts:

4 Steps to Choosing the Perfect Wall-to-wall Carpet Colour

An Open Letter to my Lover on Decorating

3 Warning Signs that your Client is Bossing you Around

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  • Lisa B says:

    Give Jan Romanuk a raise for that suggestion!

  • LeAnn R. Chick says:


  • Alex says:

    Very pretty. I believe our homes are a reflection of our souls. It’s all you, Maria. 😊

    • Diane says:

      My house is really not a reflection of me.
      But I don’t hate it. I’m too tired to redo it all, having moved during a year from hell.
      I’m giving Maria’s home much more thought than my own recent move.
      And I love the leopard stair treads.
      Perfect solution! 🐆🐆🐆

      • Sharon says:

        Once your soul has had time to rest and heal, you may feel like making your home more of a reflection of you. Besides, it is good to live in a place for awhile before you decide what you really want/need. I hope that you recover and get your mo-jo back. I feel you- we have moved four times in the past three years and it has been “unsettling”, to say the least.

  • Alysta says:

    I was surprised to see that I think it does work. It definitely helps revive the dated staircase. And it fits with your personality. Thumbs up 🙂

  • Linda Grissom says:

    LOVE the animal print! Very classic and classy!

  • Molly says:

    Thank you for this good posting. Can you share sone info bout Stanton carpet? You must have chosen it for a reason, and you’ve worked with a LOT of carpet. Did you source it locally? I see they ship but don’t know how that works. Any help greatly appreciated. Have to replace carpet on stairs, dog and gritty sandy dirt the issue

  • Sandra B says:

    Looks perfect and intentional…love it.

    Jan Romanuk’s idea is what the nuts and bolts of problem solving mean…

    Can’t wait to see what’s coming next…!

  • Kristin says:

    WOW! I think it looks amazing even though I am *not* a leopard person myself! But it absolutely works here!! I have been contemplating getting a runner for our stairs. It is just so much easier to clean without one…dog hair and dust etc… but wow this almost has me convinced! I love the blue on the ceiling, too and the fireplace update!

  • Wendy says:

    Stunning choice – and practical too, for the heavy wear of staircase traffic. I want to use the same on our next stair re-do!

  • Lauren T says:

    I think the leopard on the stairs is great, especially since you used it only on the tops of each stair.
    The other thing is, the black in the leopard print harmonizes with the black railing. I’ve been agonizing
    over an entry rug, and this has inspired me to look for a leopard one. It will be neutral and hide a lot of dirt.
    Thank you.

  • Amy Cook says:

    I LOVE it – just gorgeous. Fits your style perfectly. I definitely look at animal print as a neutral and leopard is my favorite. From far off, just looks like a neutral “print”.

  • Fran W. says:

    I LOVE IT!!!! So elegant, and it reads as a neutral in my opinion. Adds so much glamor to your space!

  • Marilyn says:

    Animal prints just add so much class to a room. This is a unique way to express that, and I LOVE it!!!.

  • Lisa Stevens says:

    It looks amazing!!

  • Barbara Olson says:

    I prefer the way you laid the animal print carpet on your stairs over the inspiration images you shared in this post. Your install looks so much more polished compared to the full runner down the stairs.

  • Susan Hubele says:

    Love the way the railing and the decorative way it attaches now looks updated and expensive! The black paint on the edges is so sophisticated too. Great work all!

  • diana says:

    Love leopard rug but don’t like the way it is installed. Long runner with brass rails is sophisticated. Carpet bound on the sides (not stitched) leaving room for wood to show would be my taste. HOWEVER, Maria – you are excited about your new home and I am too.
    Most excited about your changing the kitchen. You have a lovely home, it just needed you to touch it with your magical wand.

  • Beth says:

    Maria, It is your house and should only reflect what you love in your environment. I do have some animal print clothes and shoes which I wore last year but not much this year. I use very little (almost no) prints in my house as I get tired of them after a while so mostly I use solid neutrals. I have a lot of seasonal parties (Christmas, winter, fall, spring, Valentine’s Day, Fourth of July, Halloween,etc.) for which I go all out (overboard really)with the seasonal decorations and colors and have so much fun doing that. I am kind of known for that but couldn’t do it if my house backgrounds weren’t neutral. I have a certificate in staging and just love house decorations. I’m enjoying watching what you are doing and am so happy that you have such a beautiful house and yard. You definitely deserve it. Have fun.

  • Lisa says:

    I love the leopard carpet on your stairs and the way it works so well with that gorgeous wallpaper! You inspired me to add 2 leopard pillows to my living room last year. Something was missing and the pillows were just the thing I needed to pull the room together. They compliment my brass lighting and my yellow toned S & L woven stools.

  • Kendal says:

    Thanks for sharing this additional information Maria! I read it not as a defense but as further education for your readers whose minds are open and eager to understand your process. I read some of the negative feedback on IG and was frankly quite irritated on your behalf. Some folks just shoot from the lip I suppose. It would be a boring world if we all liked the same things, but it can always be a kinder world.

    I LOVE that you have shown your customary grace in this post. Brava!

  • Liz says:

    I love it! Love all animal prints! But not sure about the Miles Redd staircase, I don’t know but it just doesn’t work for me at all, maybe too dark??? Wall paper looks fabulous as well too!

  • Jeanne says:

    This is a beautiful room. Please tell us about the wallpaper. I love it all. I think the runner installation makes the stairs more 21st century.

  • BillP says:

    Hi Maria, congratulations on the great progress at your house. Regarding the stairs, could you explain the carpet width that you chose? I am accustomed to seeing more flooring on either side of a runner. Unfortunately, I fear that people’s toes will still hit and scuff your riser, that was my experience when I left my risers uncovered. Hopefully your guests are more careful than mine were!

  • Kim says:

    I am surprised at how much I LOVE your leopard stair treads, Maria, especially since I don’t like animal prints in clothing or decor. I think it’s because it is not one continuous runner down the stairs, which is just too much IMO. I also love the wallpaper; it’s stunning!

  • marian says:

    I can see where the print hides dirt…especially on stairs. But to me it is way too busy looking in most of the photos shown and just clashes. But if that is what one loves, I say go for it!

  • S. Renee Prasil says:

    Ignore any nay sayers, Maria. You do leopard GREAT, lady! Dating myself, but fell in love with Honey West as a little girl and that as a major part of her aesthetic. Absolutely LOVE the way you used it in both houses. I am an animal print fan, but mostly tawny leopard, zebra, and antelope. Have used golden tiger sparingly (pillows) in one room before, liked it, but haven’t found the right use for it again. However–since I now have a sweet brindle senior dog, it might be time to find a spot for it somewhere. LOL

  • Christine says:

    I love the leopard steps with white risers and I love the wallpaper & blue ceiling. The space looks amazing!

  • Cynthia says:

    Hi Maria, I’m a huge fan of leopard print. I’ve used zebra on a staircase for a client and it’s gorgeous. Speaking for myself, I reacted negatively to the application on the treads only. The examples of leopard runner stairs you posted showed continuous carpet on staircases. I just can’t get my head around the tread only treatment! But as you say, this is your house and your personal decision.

    I agree that laying the leopard carpet out in full was too much competition for the rest of your decor. It would be beautiful in a traditional hall where it could make it’s own separate statement, though. If I were specifying here on your staircase, I would have chosen a plain carpet with a border on each side to set it off and I would definitely have a continuous carpet. However it’s always interesting to see what other professionals decide and their reasoning for their decisions.

  • Mary Anne says:

    Excellent … the leopard print for your staircase!!! In my family room I have 2 leopard print ottomans and 2 leopard print pillows!! The print is definitely classic and elegant. Never mind it doesn’t show dirt !!!

  • Lisa L says:

    I love your leopard stair runner, but what makes it absolutely gorgeous is combining it with that stunning wallpaper. It gives your first floor an elegant, ethereal forest feel.

  • Bette says:

    I always thought of animal prints as masculine (you know, the whole hunter and head-on-the-wall trophy thing), but I’ve learned from you that it’s not the case. I absolutely love the leopard print on the stairs, esp because it ties together the brown floors and black railings. It comes across as neutral and sophisticated.

    PS. Website issue: Can you get rid of the flashing yellow balloon GIF? It’s super distracting from the content on your pages (when read via a desktop computer monitor).

  • Karen w says:

    I just love the leopard print. (The coat too)I myself love leopard print. I think the staircase is both classic and elegant. Love love love your new space

  • Cindi says:

    I love the leopard but then again I’m one of those leopard fanatics. I am currently not thrilled with the look of the install, but it may be just because I’ve never seen it before and have to get used to it. I keep thinking it’s covering the whole tread top, but then look back and see that it isn’t. I guess it just loses some of the “runner” look when installed that way.
    Also while I’ve never had a stair runner, I always thought half the reason it’s useful is so you don’t see shoe scuffs on the risers. I guess you will find out if that’s actually an issue.

  • Savvysnowbird .com says:


  • Liz says:

    Sold! When I first saw your reel on Insta, it wasn’t the leopard itself that bothered me – it was leaving the risers white. It just looked sooo wrong to me at first, and I did look at it for a while. But seeing the bigger images on my desktop PC has made a difference – I like it and think it’s a ‘grand’ way to come into your new home! Looking forward to all your other reveals! 🙂

  • Janelle says:

    It looks fine to me. At least in photos, it’s not overwhelming.

    The only issue I have is with painting only the ends of the steps with the black. The whole brown word part of the step should have been painted for flexibility in future. Personally, I would have just kept the brown wood, as wood and leopard print coordinate well, and the brown wood on the stairs repeats the brown wood of the beams in the living room.

  • Gail says:

    I love the leopard runner done separately on each stair. vs as a runner. It is such a clean look with the white risers. Can you tell me what brand/color the blue paint on your living room ceiling is. THis is great with the crisp white below.

  • Kay says:

    Maria, I love the way you did this. Jan’s suggestion was brilliant; I like it so much better the way you installed it, even compared to the full designer installations you show. And the glossy black tread ends look terrific—probably much better than they would have looked covered with the print. All in all, wildly successful! It doesn’t have to be my style for me to appreciate it.

  • Denise says:

    The molding, animal print runner and railing really set this apart from run of the mill cookie cutter decorating design! Please tell us how the molding was put together. Thank you!

  • Amy says:

    I love the leopard stair runner, and the Jardin Bloom wallpaper, and your coat too! The funny thing is I used the exact same carpet on my stairs when I redecorated earlier this year. My dog also loves the carpet because it feels so good! I have found that some people love it, and some just don’t get it. I think it elevates your stairs from fine to fabulous.

  • Dana says:

    It’s all about how it’s used, and it’s used here perfectly. Beautiful. Thanks for photos and explanation of what makes it work so well.

  • Nell Byrum says:

    Do other designers ever carpet just the stair treads? I haven’t seen any photos. It looks like you are cutting corners but I know you weren’t. Either it’s a runner or it’s not. If leopard didn’t work as a runner, then I would have chosen a carpet that did, or not use carpet at all. Just my two cents.

    • Tina says:

      Maria, your home is looking fabulous with the beautiful wallpaper and painted ceiling. The staircase also looks good IMO. I think you will both enjoy living in this beautiful home. Great work.

    • Benesse says:

      Right on the money.

  • Lilly says:

    I love it! It’s classic and beautiful and I have always wanted leopard on my stairs and one day I will have it. I also love the wallpaper in the living room -another thing I’ve always wanted. So far I think your house looks fabulous.

  • Linda Gail Trammel says:

    I find it hard to believe that some people do not like animal print! I love it and I think you have done a perfect balance of using it. The stairs look marvelous. I would love to decorate more with animal print but find it hard to incorporate at this stage of decorating my home but maybe later. So far I love everything you have done. Can’t wait to see more!

  • Benesse says:

    Leopard is timeless and I like the pattern. However, I do wish it was used as a runner ( as in the 2 examples you provided) for a cleaner, less fussy look. Leaving the stairs without carpeting would have also been a fine choice.
    I realize that these things are subjective and the most important goal should always be to make yourself happy.

  • Susan says:

    If I had stairs I would want this look – I love it!! I think it looks elegant with just a touch of WILD. 😍

  • Bess says:

    Gorgeous! Friend of mine in Newport Beach, CA has the same exact leopard runner on her stairs and also as wall to wall carpeting in her master bedroom. I love it so much that going I’m going to instal it in our master bedroom as well. You are inspiring me to incorporate using some wallpaper. Your home is beautiful. Your sweet puppy is the best accessory!

  • Tina says:

    Maria, your home is so far looking beautiful with the lovely wallpaper and painted ceiling that makes such a difference. Can’t wait to see more as its done. I know you will enjoy living in this great home. Great work!

  • Christine Lutzko says:

    I love the leopard runner and the white beams with blue ceiling! I typically prefer white ceilings but this blue is lovely. What color blue did you use?

  • Ellie says:

    I absolutely love leopard print but I’m not a fan of the stripey effect here. I much prefer the look in the images you posted where the runner covers the risers too.
    But it would be a funny old world if everyone’s tastes were the same 😊

  • Helene Belloni says:

    I’m not a fan of animal prints, but I don’t think it looks bad. I think the busy wall pattern is repeated by the busy stair tread pattern so it goes lovely. Love that you left the risers white. Its really coming together. Best wishes,

  • Tim Minor says:

    Love your use of animal print and the installation on treads only.

  • Jennifer says:

    I DO NOT dress up much but I still LOVE leopard…every day and twice on Sunday!! Maria, I LOVE your pick…TIMELESS & CLASSIC! I’m sure Lucy loves the new rug too, now she can run up and down the stairs without slipping : )

  • Janet says:

    Love the leopard!!

  • Carol T says:

    I think the size of the print is what really makes it work on uour staircase. Really Really Really like the blue ceiling and I didn’t think I would!!!
    Also like what you did with the wall molding abouve the fireplace…..makes it look very classy!

  • Martha says:

    So amusing that some like the way the stairs were finished and others prefer a fully covered stair. Personally I like the white riser. In all of the other photos the leopard looks too heavy and grabs all the attention from the whole design. I like what you’re doing in your space. It’s such a light and airy room. You’ve even got me thinking about leopard pillows.

  • Kimberly says:

    The leopard goes a long way in making the room feel very “you”. And I noticed it makes the iron black railing feel more integrated.

    Loving watching your process, thank you for including us <3

  • Love, love, love… Swoon, swoon, swoon! I never would have suggested leopard print for my client’s stairs, but it’s absolutely the perfect choice!

  • Leesa says:

    I absolutely love the leopard! It’s a neutral print to me! Also love that it is just on the treads.

  • carrie smurthwaite says:

    I love the fact that people have different taste which is reflected in their design. It makes interior design pictures waaaaaaaaaaay more interesting, teaches us about ourselves and our preferences. Thank you for the post and making pictures interesting.

  • Rhonda says:

    I’m really enjoying seeing your new home come together in perfect Maria style! The stairs and living room are simply gorgeous! Some years ago, my decorator encouraged me to install a leopard runner on our stairs, and I said “Leopard???” Lol! But I love your pictures and am inspired. We need the floors refinished, and after that, just maybe the stairs will sport a new look.

  • KNJ says:

    Hello dearest Maria, So sorry, but you messed this up. I can see why a straight on view would make you think it works (it looks great when the wallpaper isn’t in view especially with the blackened sides) but the overall feel in the open space is just plain unharmonious when you consider the uber feminine wallpaper & the clean/fresh green accents. It’s screaming “loved the carpet, had to have it, doesn’t work but I’m the professional so I’ll explain it away…wrong.” ….. and…..The Rachel photo is abominable. Absolutely a mess. I don’t care how much it cost, where is it was printed and who the client was…it is atrocious…remember screaming 2 year olds get a lot of attention and that photo probably did too but Not for the right reasons. Bunny Williams had a similar grand mistake too which got a lot of eyeballs. The Sara photo is amenable and the Miles photo works because the ambiance of the stairwell is not feminine and the wild animal print works in tone & colour. Live with it for a few years and then change it out once everything else is done. I realize it is professionally difficult to own up to mistakes but if anyone has the courage & muster to do so, it is You! I made a huge mistake 22 years ago and had to wait 10 years to fix it since it was cost prohibitive …. Everyone that came to my home knew something was off … it was only those in the trade that knew that it was wrong and wondered how I could have not seen it …. I just loved the wallpaper & silk fabric and had to have it …. They were gorgeous together but didn’t fit the room/space. Keep moving forward since the bones of your home are fabulous and everything else has been spot on. Love the lavender/lilac bedroom, wallpaper, kitchen paint, lvg. ceiling colour. Sorry about the candor of my comment but I know you are a straight shooter and wouldn’t wish us to hold back. Happy 2023 to you & T!

  • Bri says:

    Absolutely love the look, its an unusual applicatioon that adds a kick to the classic animal print. Have to admit that Lucy made my day. Just did a tiger stair runner as my self Christmas gift and I love it, but not nearly as much as my Yorkie Diamond. Like Lucy she is consistently perched mid stair as she observes and rules her world. Congratulations on your new home and thank you for constantly inspiring/educating us!

  • KJG says:

    Hi Maria, I love the way you installed the patterned carpet just on the treads. Looks great and the pattern being just on top doesn’t compete with anything else in the room. Also solves a problem that’s always bugged me with both carpeted stairs and those with runners which is having to vacuum the vertical risers also. The painted white risers look so fresh!

  • Rene Prinsloo says:

    The leopard on the stairs are gorgeous and I love it!

  • Joanne says:

    Hi Maria.
    I love leopard! I would love to incorporate some in my home but I’m not sure which color animal print to use. My hard finishes are yellow beige and green beige. My colors and accent colors are linen white, pallidian blue, small touches of yellow-green and pale lavender. Can I use a leopard print similar to yours? I would love to add 2 X benches and throw pillows in the living room in that print.

  • PursuitofPerfect says:

    It’s so much fun seeing your vision come together. We have different styles, but I would be delighted to sip tea with you in your beautiful living room. Looking forward to more reveals!

  • Julie says:

    I love it! More importantly I love that *you* love it and are making choices for yourselves and not internet approval. Thanks for explaining your process – Great example of working with existing constraints aka features, to come up with a cohesive, beautiful result that is very you.

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