Thursday, October 6, 2011

Dead animals as decor: a do or a don't?

I've talked to you about animal carcass, haven't I?  Oh wait, what's that?  I haven't?  Well, boy, have I done you a decorating disservice.  Dead animal is only THE biggest trend in interior design right now.  It's pulling ahead of succulents and bar carts and left state decor in the dust miles ago.   By far the most common and least disgusting item of the dead animal craze is antlers.  Seen in rustic mountain getaways and lobbies of ski-resorts forever now, antlers are the new big things in anyone's home.  Whether you live in the middle of Manhattan or in the middle of the Rockies,  antlers are excellent accents on a dining room table, as candlestick holders or a necklace rack.  Have you seen Dean from My Little Apartment's awesome elk antlers?  (She's a little more obsessed with dead animals than most people, but we will get there.) 
From My Little Apartment
Here's the cool thing about antlers: deer and elk shed them naturally every year.  So, having antlers in your home, while maybe not being vegan, is certainly vegetarian (what's the difference between an antler and an egg?) and is harmless to the animal.  I am all for antlers.  They are structurally interesting and bring a warm cozy vibe to interiors.

What looks like a faux, wood deer head from Yossawat
But, this now leads us to the less-friendly part of this growing trend: mounted antlers and taxidermy.  We will begin with mounted antlers (usually smaller than deers antlers and possibly from a smaller deer or maybe a goat?).  Mounted antlers are by far the second most common form of this trend and are, from my observation, the new "it" thing.  They are a small fraction of the skull of the animal and the antlers fixed onto a typically nicely shaped plaque--they're essentially hunting trophies.  Of course, this means that the animal did have to die for you to have this decoration in your home.  And, according to my boyfriend, it also glorifies hunting.  

My new piece.  

Now, I am anti-hunting, when done for sport.  When I think of hunting done for it's original purpose, food, it doesn't bother me too much.  I am an animal lover, don't get me wrong.  I can hardly eat meat and swoon at every cow, horse, pig, cat, dog, bird and snail that I come into contact with.  But when I think that even some animals are meat eaters it seems only natural that people would be, too.  And when I think of hunting for meat or raising it to be eaten, the former seems much more humane.  Would you rather grow up in a small cage or pen, never feeling free and knowing that you will be killed one day or would you rather be running free as a bird through the woods without a care when your time comes?  But, while hunting for food is something that I can't really argue with (it's better for our health to have less reliable sources of meat, too) I do not think it is okay to go out in your coonskin cap, shoot yourself a nice dear or goat and hang it's head up on your wall just to show what a man (or manly woman) you are.

Real head plaques from via Your Decorating Hotline
That being said, I love this trend.  My boyfriend originally said a big fat "N-O!" to it, but, perhaps once he realized that he had just bought a new car, he relented a little and said that a faux antler, or "fantler" would be okay.  And that's when I somehow started to get a little antler crazy.  I saw them everywhere, passing an antiques shop here in our quiet German town, in magazines and in books.  I wanted one BAD.  But all the while I had Peter's voice in my head, "Dead animal," and "glorifies hunting as a sport."  And then I went to Coburg's fleamarket...
Adorable necklace holder made from it going too far?  From Burke Vector
Yes, a few weeks ago, we had a flea market here.  The whole town was completely filled with tables of people selling old crap.  There was literally everything, but, as luck (or maybe fate) would have it, the first thing I saw at the flea market was a hug table filled with skull-antlers to choose from.  I decided to ask how much they were, just because I was curious of course.  I was fully expecting them to be somewhere around 15 EURO--and even that may have enticed me--so imagine my surprise when this old Bavarian hunter told me these precious pieces of decor (and animal skeleton) were only 4 EURO each.  Yes, four!  Apparently, he had no idea about the design gold mine on which he was sitting.   At that point I had no choice.  I scooped one up and happily went on my way, singing "I bought a head, I bought a head" all the way home.  (Um...does singing to myself mean I need help.)
Fantlers from Balard Design

When I got there I took my skull out of its old, reused plastic bag (hey, at least this hunter recycles, right?) and held my beautiful new animal head out to admire.  That's when I felt something strange...there was a...what...a....eeeeeeewwwwww!!  You have got to be kidding me?!?!?!  There, nestled into a little groove in the back of my animal plaque was a horrifying, disgusting and tell-tale set of little animal teeth.   And a date: July 14, 1986.  Peter was right all along.  These things did glorify hunting. 
The teeth on the back of my antlers.  Ew. 

I got pretty creeped out, but tried to rationalize it, telling myself that it would have died whether I bought it or not, and that at least I was giving it a place to live where it would be recognized, appreciated and beloved.  I still say thank you to this little guy everyday.
How he looks hanging over my desk.  Also, please notice my really amazing brass lamp.  I also got that at the flea market!
After my experience, I still don't know where I stand on the whole thing.  I'm quite certain that it's wrong, but I just love them so much.  Mine looks lovely and I am so happy about it.  I have to ignore the teeth, but when it's hanging that's possible.  I think the fake ones are awesome, but I am afraid that, because they are often all white, they don't lend the coziness to a room that the real ones lend.  This is all just so confusing! 

Regarding, taxidermy, I will tell you it is another growing trend (although maybe not quite as widely loved or accepted).  Dear heads specifically are really popular.  Does this disgust you?  I am not sure how I feel about it.  I love nature in decor but I think I would be creeped out by the deer head at night.  Not to mention the whole harming animals/glorifying hunting discussion above, which obviously applies here, too.  Dean from My Little Apartment is a big fan and has it all over here house. It looks great, but maybe it is crossing a line?
From My Little Apartment.
 A deer head. 
From My Little Apartment.  A taxidermy turtle.

Luckily, there are plenty of fun, cheeky faxidermy (faux taxidermy, get it?) pieces out there right now.  I love these fun, teddy bear looking ones from Butlers in Germany.  I think they would be so cute and a little sassy in a kid's room.

From Butler's Germany: Mammutkopf.

From Butler's Germany: Wildschweinkopf.

From Butler's Germany: Hirschkopf.

This one, also from Butler's is a little more grown up.  It would look really cute in a cozy den or at Christmas next to a tree. 
From Butler's Germany: Rehbockkopf.
Urban Outfitters has a selection of wooden ones, which look less realistic, but are still interesting and animal-themed. 
Urban Outfitters: Cardboard Taxidermy.

I am sure there is lots more out there, too.  Give me your thoughts on the whole dead-animal thing please.  I would love to know what you think about it.  Do you have any pictures of good taxidermy or antlers?  Do you have it in your house?  I can't wait to hear from you!

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