Pattern Recognition: Antelope

Seattle Antelope carpet rug

This series of blog posts, which I am calling ”Pattern Recognition,” will highlight patterns for use in interior design. I will begin by focusing on one of my absolute favorite animal prints–Antelope!

Now, animal prints are perhaps the original decorative designs going back into prehistory. Leopard and zebra prints lend an exotic air to interiors, and Tiger prints are perennial favorites. But the thing with animal prints is that they can be too overwhelming if used profusely. It’s best to use them judiciously either as accents, or to neutralize them into the rest of the decor. 

The Antelope Pattern

One perfect pattern that works very effectively as a neutral is the so-called “Antelope” print, which comprises various white spots on a ground of tawny shades. The antelope pattern was developed by Stark Carpet and released in 1970, a time when Safari Chic was very much in the Western imagination. 

The Antelope Pattern from Stark Carpets features white spots on a variegated ground of tans and browns.

While the pattern is based on a real animal hide, it is not that of an antelope. Instead, the pattern is taken from the Indian chital (Axis axis), a genus of deer. Why Stark chose to call the pattern “antelope” is beyond me, though perhaps they thought customers were more likely to associate exotic animal prints with antelopes than with deer. 

Axis deer in India.
The chital (Axis axis) of India is a species of deer with a spotted coat, even on full-grown adults.

Although deer and antelope are in the same order, Artiodactyla, they are in different families. They are about as related to each other as dogs are to bears. Close, but obviously very different. Further, while there are some species of antelope in the genus Tragelaphus that have spots on their coats, those spots are marginal and nowhere near as abundant as they are on the axis deer. 

The Cape Bushbuck is an antelope species in the genus Tragelaphus. As you can see, it has both stripes and spots on it’s coat, although the latter nowhere near as abundant as those found on the axis deer. © Hans Hillewaert, Tragelaphus scriptus (male)CC BY-SA 4.0

Variations of Antelope

Stark also has a number of iterations on this pattern in its catalogue. One of them, Antilocarpa, is a misspelling of the generic name for the pronghorn (Antilocapra americana), which is also neither an antelope or even spotted, but is at least colloquially called an antelope in the United States. I don’t particularly like this iteration of the Antelope pattern because the spots are more angular, calling to mind the scaly spots on a reptile. 

Pronghorn on a grassy hill.
Although called an “antelope” in the United States, the pronghorn (Genus Antilocapra), is from an ancient lineage that predates both the deer and antelope families. As you can see, it is not a spotted animal.
The Antilocarpa pattern from Stark features spots that are much more geometric in shape as opposed to the more organic forms found on the original Antelope print.

A Modern Classic

In any case, the antelope pattern has become a modern classic, used in fine interiors since at least its inception. What makes it so great is that the variegated pattern hides stains and soiling very well. No surprise there, given that axis deer in the wild rely on their spotted coats as camouflage from predators.

Axis deer camouflage.
The spotted coat of the axis deer provides excellent camouflage.

In recent years, the pattern has trickled down to some affordable offerings, such as rugs at Ballard Designs. It was even used last year on a wired holiday ribbon at the big box craft retailer Michaels! 

Ballard designs antelope rug in dining room.
The antelope rug from Ballard Designs is a more affordably priced option for this pattern. Source: Ballard Designs
Ballard Designs Antelope Pillow
Ballard Designs has also released a fabric version of their antelope pattern, used here on a cushion cover. Source: Ballard Designs
Antelope Christmas Ribbon
The antelope pattern was even used for holiday ribbon last year at a major craft retailer.

While nowhere near as ubiquitous as leopard spots or even the famous tiger velvet, it has become a standard pattern in the animal print arsenal for those in the know.

Blaine and Booth 1970s design with antelope carpet.
While the artwork may be dated, the rest of the furnishings in this Blaine and Booth decorated room, including the antelope carpet, are surprisingly still very fresh. Image via Peak of Chic.
Seattle Antelope Carpet and Chair Design
Here, I used the “Axis” velvet fabric from F. Schumacher to have a chair seat cushion created that matches the antelope pattern carpet, bringing some vertical dimensionality.


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