Going wild: Animal-themed interiors explored
- Credit: Getty Images/moodboard RF
Once upon a time, the thought of including animal themes into interior design meant ducks on the wall, stuffed deer heads and snakeskin rugs.
These days there’s far more of an appetite to go really wild as manufacturers somehow manage to incorporate everything on four legs into something functional or decorative.
You don’t have to have a shark’s head sticking from the roof to make a statement as they range from simple fun ideas that can transform a child’s bedroom to quality statement pieces that will become serious talking points.
Animal themes have been developing for a while and making an ever-greater impact - just look at those bold zebra stripes that, on rugs, seem to lift a room like little else. It’s worth remembering though that they can dominate a space, so it’s best to restrict them to one or two pieces, be it furniture or textiles or ornate table accessories.
Cheetah, jaguar and giraffe prints have a similar boldness about them that can set off a room, especially those decorated in plain, earthy tones that act as a sympathetic backdrop.
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Some of the most striking examples I’ve seen for a while were Ayrshire designer Mark Stoddart’s animal coffee and dining tables in which large bronze hippos, rhinos and even crocodiles not only support glass table tops but pierce them as if emerging from the water.
In each case he bolted the sculpture to the glass surface and secured it with handmade grommets to give them the sort of strength you’d expect when you have a rhino balancing your dinner set.
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Equally innovative were a pair of Icelandic designers who used a technique dating back to the Vikings to dry and preserve large fish and turn them into lamps. The so-called Uggi Lights saw light emanating from the mouths of large cod measuring over a metre long.
On a more modest scale, a local online entrepreneur has used the animal theme as inspiration for a series of decorative light switches and cupboard knobs for children’s rooms and built quite a following in the process.
Karoline Mileham, 41, started Candy Queen Designs in 2003 - after leaving the University of Hertfordshire with a first class honours degree in art and design - as a way of following her dream to make extraordinary things from everyday items.
Animals featured heavily among her designs; from unicorns to dinosaurs and from farm animals to safari creatures which she first sold at St Albans Market and local craft fairs.
“I create fun, original decorative accessories to fulfil a function but mostly to make people smile and inject some fun into the boring and mundane,” she said.
“I love taking something that’s plain, dull and boring and altering it so that it’s bright, fun and has a wow factor, even though it’s essentially the same item or re-purposing an item into something else, such as plastic animals into cupboard knobs.
“I want to make things fun. Life and design can be too serious. My work must be bright, original and fun but also quality, that’s a really important part of it.”
Karoline, who operated from a series of ad-hoc workshops in Wheathampstead and Markyate before settling in Harpenden, uses a process where objects, including sweets - thus, the Candy name - are encapsulated inside several layers of resin, including a pigmented one.
It seems that everything has its place in the home these days, and I don’t just mean sausage dog draught excluders. While pigs are often seen supporting table tops, smaller creatures such as frogs and turtles tend to look after keys, foxes and rabbits appear as bookends while elephants and hippos play other supporting roles as seating.
All this comes on the back of a growing market for real - and increasingly exotic - animals as pets; everything from marmoset monkeys, giant African land snails you need two hands to hold, and for those who think tarantulas are passé, Madagascan hissing cockroaches
Amsterdam-based interiors bloggers Ethnic Chic insist “nature is our biggest friend when it comes to inspiration for colouring and patterns”, citing opportunities presented by “thick hides, strong expressions, sharp teeth and brilliant colours”.
But Home Zada advise steering clear of the exotic pet theme when thinking in terms of décor choices, adding that “some animals might frighten you”.
Karoline Mileham says that every year sees a different animal trending in interior design, although some remain consistently strong.
“Everyone loves a leopard print it seems and flamingos have seen a surge in the past few years,” she said. “Stag and deer heads remain strong in the game, perhaps because they are elegant and suit many types of interior schemes.
“Popular culture plays a part too. With Harry Potter being so popular with his own magic owl, everyone else wants things with owls on.
“Cats never seem to die out, closely followed by dogs, with different breeds being in the top spot each year. I think last year was the year of the pug! Maybe if you can’t actually have a pug, a pug cushion or some wall art is the next best thing.”