You might not know the origins of shagreen, but chances are, you’ve seen this sumptuous pattern in design magazines or on Instagram already. Shagreen's characteristic richly textured stingray or shark hide is easily recognizable by its rounded, often sparkling pattern that symbolizes the height of sophistication in design.
What Is Shagreen?
Shagreen is a kind of untanned leather with a dappled surface. Real shagreen is made from the hide of shark, stingray, or dogfish, though imitations are widely available. It's used as a decorative material, covering walls, cabinets, pillows, decor items, and more.
The elegant pattern first made its appearance in the Middle Ages, when it was used on the hilts of Japanese swords, but has since become the darling of the design world for its instant ability to add a beautiful effect to any space.
Looking to add this luxurious texture to your space? Below, we spoke to two design experts to get their insights on exactly how to incorporate the sparkling stingray hide into your decor. The aesthetics and luxury of shagreen promises to add a beautiful effect to any room in the house—from the kitchen to the nursery.
Meet the Expert
- Charmaine Wynter is an international, award-winning design expert and the principal designer at Charmaine Wynter Interiors in Southlake, Texas. She was also one of the first designers to host a show on HGTV.
- Kelsey Searles is a former interior designer and the co-founder of MiliMili, a North Hollywood, California-based company that sells baby clothing and nursery goods with bold personalities and vibrant colors.
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Consider It a Neutral
According to Charmaine Wynter, Principal Designer at Charmaine Wynter Interiors, since shagreen is an animal print pattern, it can be used like any other neutral print. “I love to use shagreen print for wall coverings because it adds visual interest and an overall texture without becoming too busy,” she says.Continue to 2 of 10 below.
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Go for Patterned Furniture
“I love a shagreen pattern on furniture—some of my favorite applications have been on tables and chests,” Wynter says. Whether you opt for a larger statement piece or side pieces (like nightstands, for example), shagreen furniture is an easy way to add a relatively budget-friendly dose of sophistication to any space.Continue to 3 of 10 below.
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Look to Linens
“Shagreen always looks spectacular as toss pillows,” Wynter says. “They really are the perfect addition to a sofa or bed ensemble.” You can easily find shagreen pillow covers in myriad colorways to suit your existing decor—or consider using a shagreen fabric to add texture to your headboard.Continue to 4 of 10 below.
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Build a Playful but Sophisticated Nursery
“I love the look of shagreen, and back in my design days used to use it on side tables and coffee tables,” says Kelsey Searles, Co-Founder of MiliMili. Searles opted to transform her son’s nursery into a sumptuous little nest by using a bright shagreen wallpaper, offering an ideal intersect of playful but sophisticated.Continue to 5 of 10 below.
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Know That Less May Be More
Not fully sold on going all-in on shagreen just yet? A small amount of the print can leave a huge impression—especially more neutral shades like dark grey or black. Consider using a shagreen contact paper to line your bathroom drawers or use a plain colored print as a finish to update dated kitchen cabinetry.Continue to 6 of 10 below.
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Let There Be Light
The textured stingray pattern lends itself well to table lamps. It’s just neutral enough to match with various metals—like gold or brass—without looking too busy or overbearing. Consider adding a set of matching lamps on your nightstands for an instant dose of glamour and sophistication.Continue to 7 of 10 below.
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Employ a floor treatment
A large area rug is an excellent way to add some serious drama to your living space without worrying about investing too much capital or elbow grease into your design. A bold colored rug will add just as much visual interest as wallpaper without the added effort or permanence.Continue to 8 of 10 below.
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Consider a Serving Tray
Sometimes all you need is a sumptuous accessory to tie a room together—and a shagreen serving tray is just the ticket. Whether you stack it with books and candles on the coffee table or use it as an extra layer of visual interest on a bar cart, a simple tray is one of the easiest ways to add shagreen to your space.Continue to 9 of 10 below.
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Look in the Mirror
A mirror adds a whole new dimension to any room—but a stingray-patterned mirror will be your best bet if you’re looking for ways to add understated glamour to your space as well. Whether you opt for a bold colorway or something more neutral, a shagreen mirror will gel with pretty much any existing wall color or pattern.Continue to 10 of 10 below.
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Wine and dine
We’re quick to forget about the impact great statement plates can have on our overall design—especially if you’re keen on doing dramatic tablescapes. A set of shagreen bowls or plates will easily transform any meal into a sumptuous occasion.