If you poke your head into a home decor store these days, you'll probably notice that it's a jungle out there -- in more ways than one.
Among popular design trends, one of the most widespread revolves around all things animal -- and all indications are that it is only growing. Many of you will naturally think of zebra-patterned throw pillows, leopard-spotted ottomans and tortoise-inspired mirror frames (and it is true that those elements have been around for some time and seem to be staying put). However, those are just the foundation of what we're seeing unleashed on the world of home interior design.
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The animal trend today also means an unlikely return to "taxidermy chic" in its most controversial and traditional form (think once-living heads hanging from walls), as well as in much less controversial and much more interpretive forms involving only sacrifices of papier-mâché, resin, ceramic and wood, either molded, formed or carved to look like a more abstract version of the real thing.
Here in the States, the most recent return to the incorporation of real taxidermy in home decor seems to have been spawned in Brooklyn, where so many hipster ideas are credited with originating. Taxidermy as an art form, however, is hundreds of years old and is perhaps experienced at its highest level in one of Paris' most famed institutions, Maison Deyrolle.
Almost completely destroyed several decades ago by an electrical fire, Deyrolle has subsequently been rebuilt and resurrected to its glory days. Even if you're not a fan of this variety of stuffed animals, it's worth a visit to take in the incredible 18th-century architecture and impeccably handcrafted wood display cases.
It's like walking into an old-school natural history museum but without the glass separating you from the animals. Deyrolle maintains that its specimens all have died of natural causes and were not hunted for the purpose of creating these taxidermy masterpieces.
For some, that will be enough to seriously consider shopping for this unique variety of home accessory. For others, there just aren't enough words to get you there. If you think this trend is for you, keep in mind that a little bit of taxidermy goes a long way. Also, if you're in Paris and seriously considering a purchase at Deyrolle, make sure to inquire thoroughly about what is allowable for importation into the United States.
For those intrigued by the taxidermy trend, but don't want the remnants of a once-living animal staring back at you, you're in luck. The animal trend has become so pervasive that many mass retailers are stocked with more animal-friendly taxidermy options. Perusing almost any home decor website reveals a plethora of artistically interpreted mounts that range from the über-exotic rhinoceros, giraffe and elephant to the more ordinary cow and horse all crafted without a single hair sacrificed and at surprisingly affordable prices.
Choose to create a real focal wall by hanging one above your fireplace or, if you like the trend but don't want to stare it in the face all the time, give your powder room a visual lift by injecting the adventure uniquely provided when a white ceramic elephant head hangs above your toilet.
As big as taxidermy chic happens to be at the moment, the animal home-decor trend still has its foundation in all of the incredible textiles in the marketplace. Partially inspired by the endless parade of leopard- and zebra-printed frocks that parade down fashion runways every year, animal prints are bigger than ever.
Fabricut, one of the largest and most important home-decor fabric companies in the world, feeds the growing demand by constantly offering the end user traditional animal prints in colors matched perfectly to the creatures themselves, as well as more fanciful patterns that take a bit of artistic liberty.
Zebra and leopard rule this textile jungle, but even prints featuring ordinary house dogs are big sellers, indicating that animals in all forms can make our rooms feel more interesting and alive. Even the Metropolitan Museum of Art gift shop is getting in on the act. Perusing its catalog and website unveils a variety of items featuring the iconic pattern found on peacock feathers, perhaps the hottest animal pattern this year.
And if animal prints on your curtains, sofas and throws aren't enough to quench your thirst for this enormous trend, Milliken, one of the leading manufacturers of residential carpet, offers products that allow you to bring the pattern onto your floor.
Without question, the animal trend continues to grow in the world of home design and encompasses such a wide territory that almost anyone can find a way to affordably layer in a combination of exotic and unusual.
A word of caution: Unless you are trying to win a contest for most Safari-themed on your block, pick one or two key ways to introduce this trend into any single room. A single piece of taxidermy, real or artistically interpreted, can be a big and powerful statement in and of itself without adding a leopard print rug or cheetah-spotted throw pillows.
But have fun with this powerful design tool. A room full of solid upholstery and neutral walls can avoid a serious case of the blahs with the excitement and unique life only a zebra patterned rug or oversize animal sculpture can lend. This trend is huge and here to stay because animals (in so many forms) have a way of enlivening any space.
Whether your taste leans toward traditional, contemporary or something in between, the animal trend will continue to make a lot of noise in the design arena and most definitely helps to keep visual boredom at bay.
• Vern Yip is an interior designer and star of HGTV's "Design Star" and "Bang for Your Buck."