Whenever I am asked to single out my favorite design trends, I often dither. What constitutes a trend? Conversely, whenever I am asked about my least favorite trends, I snap right back without a moment’s hesitation: taxidermy.
In the last ten years, taxidermy has become cringingly ubiquitous, an international symbol of hipster glam. Opening an artisanal cocktail den? Hang a bison on the wall and toss a jaunty hat on its horn. Furnishing your rock star lair? A crouching tiger sets the tone. Need an Instagrammable selfie for your burgeoning lifestyle brand? Jet to Deyrolle in Paris and pucker up.
Looks cool, right? Not to me—to me it’s a depressing ode to animal cruelty. So when I opened my March/April issue of Dwell, the sharing, caring, thinking man’s design magazine, and read editor-in-chief Amanda Dameron’s provocative question, "Should Animals Act as Decor?" my brain began to tingle. As the old cliché goes: Sunlight is the best disinfectant. My hope is that shedding light on the ethics of the trend will cut the cool factor. An unsettling image in the issue featured a (formerly) regal lion haunting the corner of a groovy living room. The homeowner inherited the trophy from his grandmother, who hunted it herself many years ago. I too had an intrepid, interesting grandmother. Luckily, she was a bit more Danish Modern than Safari Chic, so all I inherited from her was a Bernard Buffet print and some great Bjørn Wiinblads. No moral conundrum for moi.
Like many issues, taxidermy is . . . complicated. I was born and bred in rural America. My neighbors dined on venison under the watchful eyes of stuffed bucks. I eat meat and wear leather, but I would never wear fur. We all set our own limits.
My solution: Replace your conquest with a creative and cruelty-free homage to majestic creatures. Mount a plywood deer head, lounge on a zebra rug woven from llama’s wool, festoon with my Glass Menagerie Horse sculpture. Biophilia is the theory that humans have an innate need to commune with non-human animals, that there is a primal and energizing connection. But I think taxidermy misses the point of biophilia. A dead giraffe presiding above the mantle? Deeply upsetting. A giant Sergio Bustamante brass giraffe sculpture? Nirvana!