Animal prints have long been a favorite of interior designers. But because of the prints' bold nature, many homeowners are confused or perhaps shy as to how to use them in d├ęcor. Here are some tips:

How to begin

One of the easiest and safest ways to incorporate an animal print into a space is through the use of area rugs. As a designer, I always choose my rugs first for design, color or pattern inspiration, or last in order to tie everything together. Other ways to include animal prints: toss pillows, throws, even wall or window coverings, such as wallpaper or drapery.

Coordinating colors

So you've settled on an animal print. Now what? As nearly all of them include neutral colors (e.g. black, white and brown), they are quite versatile. When working with animal prints, treat them as you would any other solid color. For example, let's say that zebra-print rug you have your eye on is black and white; use one of those solid colors or both to help set the tone for the rest of the space. In general, white and black look great with bright colors that can be warm or cool, while colors such as cream and brown tend to look better with warm colors.

Dos and don'ts

In general, go for the patterns you love; then use these guidelines to help make your design that much more successful.

DO

1. Choose a strong animal print, and build a color palette around it.

2. Mix bright colors with your print.

3. Consider different types of animal prints.

4. Use animal prints in more than one room of your home.

5. Consider using animal prints in accent pieces such as toss pillows, throws or drapery.

DON'T

1. Be afraid to make an animal print a focal point in a space.

2. Mix more than one animal print in a space; it tends to overwhelm.

3. Be afraid to select an animal print in an interesting color.

4. Create a theme around your animal print (for example, don't bring in zebra accessory pieces just because you are using a zebra-print rug).

5. Be afraid to use animal prints, regardless of your own personal style. From traditional to modern, animal prints can be timeless.

Cathy Hobbs, based in New York City, is an Emmy Award-winning TV host and an interior design and home-staging expert.