Giraffes As a Design Motif

April 11, 2007

Zebra patterns were discussed here recently, so I thought we’d explore the Giraffe a bit today. When I thought of them as a motif years ago, I pictured the straight-off-the-Serengeti living rooms of the 80’s, decorated with Africian masks, hide throws galore, and lifesize giraffes carved from wood, in deep reddish tones (like this). Some people still dig safari style and they have every right to enjoy it, but I was never a fan of the look. I’m just not big on themed rooms as a rule, and cringe at the thought of all those themed kitchens of the past complete with wallpaper borders, usually sporting a rooster or a hen. So when I think of bringing animals into a space, whether it’s a cute owl or a graceful giraffe, less is really more. True, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and we all have our collections, but a word of caution here: avoid the dreaded theme park decor because it can go from sleek to cheap the more you pile it on.

Giraffes As a Design MotifOutside of the Serengeti, giraffes are a constant trend for the nursery, mostly in yellow or orange… And I dare to break my own rules here and say that for baby, you can go with a little theme if you wish, but again, proceed with caution. You want to make sure to keep that baby of yours happy, and this may sound snobby, but you also want the room to fit your home. I’ve been in places that had these ultra swank interiors, and immediately upon stepping into the nursery, you question what they were smoking when they designed the nursery.

As motifs go, you have the owls, turtles, trees, you name it — they’re all center stage at the moment. Even the little koi has his day. But what about the giraffe? Should this leggy beast be limited only to the safari look or a nursery? Or can we bring him out into the living room, dining area, even the kitchen? When I think of adding a little giraffe action to my home, I picture lighter, brighter colors, vintage wallpaper silhouettes, a playful pillow, and Jonathan Adler and his amazing lamp. Oh that lamp, what a charmer he is. Let’s now look at it inside the home of a stylish twentysomething designer. Oh, Lena? Where are you?

Giraffes As a Design MotifAh, here she is. Textile designer and illustrator Lena Corwin, successfully incorporates the giraffe lamp from Jonathan Adler into her largely mid-century modern flat in Brooklyn. Very grown up, this doesn’t read ‘safari’ or ‘nursery’ at all. It reads hip and fun.

I love Lena’s space, but that lamp adds an extra spark that completes the room for me. It’s a bit of a quirky, unexpected touch that tells us that Lena has personality, she’s a bit playful, doesn’t take design too seriously, but also has exquisite taste to be able to mingle a giraffe lamp into a room with tree wallpaper, contemporary art, and mid century furnishings. But enough gushing about Lena. We don’t want to make her uncomfortable. :)

Giraffes As a Design MotifOkay, maybe one more gush. Lena designed a travel plate with a giraffe on it that shows how well one can use this animal in an adult space. Unfortunately though, we don’t see enough of the giraffe in adult rooms, and I think it’s a shame because we’re limiting this beautiful animal with the silhouette of a super model. And when we see the giraffe pattern used in decor or fashion, it’s always in either deep brown and white or black and white.

Please designers of the world, let’s allow the giraffe to mature a bit, while keeping him modern and playful. Let’s show his pattern in chartreuse against a pale blue background for textiles, I’m thinking of this pattern from Judy Ross, only with a close-up view of the giraffe hide. Let’s bring that Adler lamp into an adult space a little more, and for fashion, let’s see the giraffe pattern in hot pink against white, turquoise, lime, for handbags, dresses, and the interior lining of luggage. C’mon — let’s turn up the dial and see what fun can result.

Giraffes As a Design MotifGiraffes As a Design MotifGiraffes As a Design Motif
Joy by Mel Lim wrote to me last week about her newly expanded line of paper products that have actually grown into a collection of gift wrap, children’s clothing, t-shirts, and pillows that I’m 100% in love with. Joy turned things up by using her imagination, seeing this leggy beast in a different way. She enjoys incorporating fish, ducks, and our tall friend in her designs, and I enjoy seeing it. Immensely.

Giraffes As a Design MotifOf course, seeing the giraffe on paper is never a bad thing. Especially when done right, like these Sweet cards from Elsewares, the personalized stationery, journal, and enclosure cards from Rock Scissor Paper, and cards from Five Fold Ink and Mini and Emma.

Giraffes As a Design MotifNext, you have these stretch canvas prints by Avalisa, again, more for the kids than the grown ups, but it’s still pretty cute and I love all the colors that it’s available in.

Giraffes As a Design Motif
How cute is this mini print from Repro Depot shown in two colorways, giraffe mania! I can’t see this working as pillows or curtains (eek!), well except again, in a child’s room, but it is a terrific little print.

Giraffes As a Design MotifTory Burch has giraffe bags in her latest collection (not shown), but these box totes from Neimans’ are adorable. I’d put magazines in them and tote them around my house. This $4 giraffe business card holder, handmade by Etsy seller Mirkah is super cute for your handbag, I like the lemon yellow with the tiny white grapics.

Giraffes As a Design MotifCute dress (imagine this print somewhere in the home, wow!), pillow, little juma, and glasses from Anthropologie. I really can’t take my eyes off of that dress. The print is exactly what I’m picturing when I think of a more modern take on the giraffe.

Giraffes As a Design MotifAnd from Etsy: A very funky patchwork toy from While She Naps, a Veronica Press wood book, Maxine Dear tote, and an Okins mid century plush.

Giraffes As a Design Motif
Of course, it’s back to the kiddies again with a slew of softies, but they are a bit hard to resist… Even for a grown up space. Dwell Baby pillows from Giggle are super cute (and huge) and another plush from Zid Zid Kids with a Moroccan edge.

Giraffes As a Design Motif
Wallpaper giraffe silhouettes, available in a gadzillion patterns from Inke, really appeal to me. But I don’t know if I’d use animal silhouettes like this in my childless abode, on a wall. Although strangly enough, I can see it in a kitchen somehow. Don’t ask me, I just can. But of course, I have a very modern, white and light blue interior in mind, a space that reads very contemporary and cool. In the right pattern, this giraffe may rock it behind a bistro table with this capri genie pendant.

Giraffes As a Design Motif
I think these Inke patterns would work in an adult space, they feel a bit more grown and polished to me.

More giraffe love (not shown): Here’s a giraffe lamp from Illums Bolighus, retro badges from Fluffington, and coasters from Kate Black.

Are you a fan of the giraffa camelopardalis? Do you have any in the home? What are your thoughts, hot or not?


  • Reply joy April 11, 2007 at 5:36 pm

    hey holly,

    love this post! i knew the giraffes were out there, but so cool to see them all together and really see how hot the trend is…nice to see a departure from birds (although i love them!


  • Reply Marisa and Creative Thursday April 11, 2007 at 5:37 pm

    I *heart* giraffes, too! Oh, and that lamp, love it!Thank you for this inspiring post with so many, many giraffes to choose from. I must go paint a giraffe now!!!

  • Reply juligie? April 11, 2007 at 6:15 pm

    OMG! i L-O-V-E giraffes too! who knew there were other giraffe fans too! this post is oh so perfect! it’s so hard to find cute and chic giraffes these days. thank you so much!

  • Reply ** Terramia ** April 11, 2007 at 7:04 pm

    Sweet! I adore all animals, so I think this is really hot!! (:
    Fabulous post… yet again!

  • Reply Ruth April 11, 2007 at 7:33 pm

    I hope all you giraffe lovers caught Lynn Scher’s Nature program a while back (although they seem to repeat it often) called “Tall Blondes” about giraffes. I want to take a vacation at the African manor that has giraffes in the front yard that peer in your 2nd floor window!

    I’m glad the giraffe is having its moment in the sun.

  • Reply alyson. April 11, 2007 at 7:59 pm

    oh my gosh, I love all these giraffe prints. the stuff from Anthropologie is so cute, of course. who would’ve thought giraffes printed on a dress would look so fabulous?

  • Reply katesmate April 11, 2007 at 8:15 pm

    You shine as always Holly. I really love how you pull together things. Your eye is a very talented one. I can’t match white with white, so I appreciate how visual you are. Very strong.-Kate

  • Reply Leah April 11, 2007 at 8:20 pm

    I’ve been in love with giraffes ever since I was about 3 inches from one at Animal Kingdom (at Disney World) 6 years ago. I came about this.close to buying one of those giant African wooden ones at the time. I stopped myself b/c, well, I’m not into African knick-knacks. But still love the giraffe.

  • Reply hiphostess April 11, 2007 at 9:23 pm

    okay, Holly – this is one of the most fantastic posts I’ve ever seen – honestly!

    Giraffes are my absolute favorite animal too. I have the mini jonathan adler ones lined up in a row in my office. Still going to splurge on that lamp sometime!

    I just stumbled on this adorable nursery yesterday that has a fantastic giraffe illustration on the wall – you might like :)

    Ok – off to Anthropolgie now to buy those glasses!!

  • Reply yuka April 11, 2007 at 9:33 pm

    this is a really impressive post. thank you. I am in LOVE with the turqoise puff/ottoman in Lena’s apartment. Any idea where she got it?

  • Reply pinkbathtub April 11, 2007 at 9:55 pm

    Giraffe overload and I love it! I had a pink and white stuffed giraffe as a kid, so these bring back good memories! Great post:)


  • Reply that nashville chick April 12, 2007 at 1:44 am

    hmmm…. I dunno, I appreciate it all, but I’m still a monkey kind of gal… ;)

  • Reply April April 12, 2007 at 3:14 am

    Wow! You really covered the bases. I love all the animal trends (although I have another idea for what the next “hot” one is going to be) but I wonder when it’s going to go away. Design has been zoo-crazy for so long now, it’s bound to cool off pretty soon.

    Nevertheless, I’ve got birds all over my house, and I don’t plan on giving them up when they’re no longer trendy.


  • Reply Elizabeth April 12, 2007 at 5:45 am

    this post totally made my day. thank you!

  • Reply sadie April 12, 2007 at 6:11 am


    this post!

  • Reply Maditi April 12, 2007 at 8:26 am

    fabulous giraffe inspiration!!
    will keep my eyes open on the next flea market hunt :)

  • Reply zee homebug April 12, 2007 at 12:02 pm

    Ooo yay! The thought only just struck me a few days ago “Giraffes! I need something with a giraffe in my home!” A million thank yous Holly for providing so much inspiration and resources! Right on point!

  • Reply Anonymous April 12, 2007 at 4:08 pm

    there is a super cute giraffe onesie at giraffes are definitely great for decor.

  • Reply Suzy April 13, 2007 at 7:42 am

    goshhhhh, i love giraffes. and i love this post. i’m totally digging that giraffe lamp. amazing post, as always.

    i’ve yet to find any cool bear stuff though. :( an ebay search only yields carebears, chicago bears, and gnarly adirondack stuff.

  • Reply sandman_gr April 13, 2007 at 11:35 am

    Yesterday I was reading your giraffe post and today a colleague is wearing a t-shirt with a huge girrafe in b&w printed on a dark green background!

  • Reply Emma April 13, 2007 at 12:54 pm

    Hey This is a really cool entry, we love anything animal related! Check out for animal inspired handbag holders. They do one of a kinds and I already snapped up the giraffe but they have pigs, dolphins, kitty and poodles too!

  • Reply cleo April 16, 2007 at 10:54 am

    Ha! What a wonderful post! Lost of giraffes, beautiful!

  • Reply Lena June 8, 2007 at 10:47 pm

    hi holly!

    i’m a little late in seeing this post! i’ve been working so much the last few months… boo hoo, i’ve been missing out on browsing blogs regularly! thank you for your really lovely mentions of my apartment and Travel plate– thanks!!


  • Reply Mike June 28, 2007 at 8:00 am

    Perhaps for a more artistic interior decoration, you can couple the table and the cute giraffes with UK Bar Stools.

  • Reply moline February 28, 2008 at 9:10 am

    Holly, I so love this. Thinking of getting one for Moritz’ new room. Would look great with the Amy-Butler throw I am planning…

  • Reply bar stools April 16, 2008 at 2:19 pm

    absolutely fantastic

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