Tis the season to be growling with the big cats prowling London's home stores. H&M has just launched its brand-new homeware department on Oxford Street, and is selling leopard-print cushions, towels and bathmats for around a tenner, and a duvet set for £30. There's a shower curtain, too. "After all, fashion is what we do best," says Evelina Kravaev-Soderberg, head of a formidable Swedish home design team which came to London for the launch. They've mixed leopard in with pretty pastel feathers and whimsical prints of poetry and forest scenes (174-176 Oxford Street, W1; 020 7612 1820 or 0844 736 9000; hm.com).
Taming the wild
Big cats are a fashion perennial and always a hit. London design doyenne Nina Campbell says: "It was used in the 18th century, and has been in and out of fashion ever since." (Campbell's shop is at 9 Walton Street, SW3; 020 7225 1011; ninacampbell.com). Daring decorators do "double leopard" - two different prints (as in "double denim" which was so popular last summer). To play safe do a change of scale, advises Debbie McKeegan, design director at DigetexHOME(digetexhome. com).
"Leopard is great for autumn," says Pia Munden, design director at online decor outfit mydeco.com, a popular site for home-design planning and merchandise. She adds: "Those warm, cosy colours look great in front of the fire. Leopard was big on autumn/winter catwalks for D&G, Mulberry, Dries Van Noten to name a few. Now there's a plethora of throws, rugs, lighting, cushions and vases." Enhance the mood with gleams of gold for a richer touch.
There's a cooler side to leopard, too. Look for calmer prints in greys and beige, and mix with silver. Albany wallpaper in silver, beige and black is £19.99 per roll from wallpaperdirect.co.uk (01323 430 886) A luxurious leopard throw costs £125 at Oka (with a new flagship store at 155-165 Fulham Road, SW3; 020 7581 2564; go to okadirect.com or mydeco.com).
At Debenhams, Julien Macdonald's Star collection has leopard bedlinen, cushions and throws (debenhams.com). Reasonable prices can be had at Alexander Furnishings (51-61 Wigmore Street, W1; 020 7935 8664) where plush leopard velours, velvets and chenilles start at £30. But big cat also comes with a caveat - don't overdo the look. Maybe stick to well-chosen accessories, or spend a little more on a select piece. A touch is classy, too much is brassy.
Design Centre Chelsea Harbour has leopard-print in all colours, and showrooms will provide cuttings/samples (Lots Road, SW10; dcch.co.uk). Setting the tone is all-time classic Spinach Leopard fabric by Hollywood set designer Tony Duquette (foxlinton.com). Greg Kinsella's paw-print grasscloth wall covering comes in vibrant pink, yellow and blue as well as toffee (£62 a metre; 020 7352 7989; gregkinsella.com).
Thibaut's saucy Cats Meow fabric is a little print in trad shades plus sky/cobalt, pink/scarlet, and lime/fir (£48 a metre at The Bradley Collection (020 7351 6496; thibautdesign.com). Blenheim Carpets also do leopard (020 7823 3040; blenheim-carpets.com).
Turnell & Gigon has leopard fabrics from prints to velour and fur (020 7259 7280; tandggroup. com). But glammest find of all has to be Garrett Steerhide by Lizzo (formerly Donghia). Chocolate and gold leopard spots are printed on to a finehaired cow hide: buy half a skin for £500 (020 7823 3456; lizzo.net).
Finally, try teaming Cole & Son's rococo leopard wallpaper with Farrow & Ball's cat's paw paint for real class.