I’m Stuffed

My big city friend emailed a couple of weeks ago and said, “You must address the taxidermy issue; it’s the elephant in the room.”  or something like that.  I was trying to keep away from all issues political, but this one has been bouncing around in my head and today I had to put it to rest.


My thought was to find examples of taxidermy used well.  I have to come clean here.  You know that Mr. Blandings is a hunter and in his first home there was a good little bit of stuffed stuff.  Fowl.  It does not remain.  But as I began to hunt myself, I couldn’t bag a beast.  The above images from The Well-Lived Life were the closest I could find.  And, frankly, without the head attached Issac’s rug was a stretch and the fantasy room by set designer Marla Weinhoff was, well, as crazy as the inspiration, but fake.  So I packed it in; tasteful taxidermy was a wash.

But Courtney’s post on Sister Parish sent me back to Albert Hadley: The Story of America’s Preeminent Interior Designer today to catch up.  Imagine my surprise to find a forgotten image of Wilbur Pippin, cat in hand, in the opening chapters.

And another, at Hadley’s country house on the Hudson River.  I’ve looked as closely as I can and this one could be carved, but the antlers look very real.  Could be skin.


Moving in for the kill, I settled in on the floor beside the design books and began a more focused quest.  If Hadley had a head or two, maybe Van Day Truex did, too.  Alas, only one, and faux, but a classic image all the same and as I hadn’t hit my limit, in it went.

Vogue Living: Houses, Gardens, People was the granddaddy of them all.  Giancarlo Giammetti’s Paris apartment contained a Francois-Xavier Lalanne alligator chair, which is sculpture, but spectacular.

Samantha and Aby Rosen’s New York apartment was a treasure trove of natural selection.  146 million year old pliosaur skeleton, skunk and crocodile cushions, moose antler, dear antlers and some sort of trophy, perhaps antelope?

Always trying to make a Mitford connection, Stella Tennant and David Lasnet’s Berwickshire library has a charming little bird on the mantle.  (Tennant’s grandmother, Deborah is a Mitford sister.)

Emma and Timmy Hanbury’s son, David, has a polar bear rug in his country bedroom.  David Hanbury was only sixteen at the time of the shoot; some might say he was too young and they should have let him go unharmed.  
You can make your own call on taxidermy in design – chic or aw shucks.  Mr. Blandings did not put up a fuss when his menagerie did not move to the Dream House.  Now if I can keep him from bagging a trophy wife I’ll be in luck.

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29 thoughts on “I’m Stuffed

  1. The animals on the wall are here now (my house – really tall ceilings and he won on that one) but I’m thinking they just might not make it to the next house – gee, they just won’t fit I am afraid. I tolerate them but certainly would not have chosen them. In my case, they came with the marriage – dead deer and really big stereo speakers. It took a while to get rid of those – now for the “trophies”!

  2. love the last line- you are too clever, mrs b.

    sticky issue, and one the design lover and the animal lover in me are both quite conflicted about- so the steak lover in me wins, and we just stay in complete denial about the whole thing.

  3. the more a room looks like the museum of natural history the more i love it – so i vote chic. although i have to say faux really should be the way to go. so many great imitations these days (with the exception of the pliosaur i suppose).

  4. I leave you with perhaps some food for thought, have you ever heard of “rogue taxidermy” where the animal and some sort of mythical creature are combined in sort of what I would call a “Walton-esque-ish” sort of way. I quite like that because it elevates the beast.

    The closest thing here is the “shed” from a deer – a horn from a 6 pointer was found by our stack of wood out back. No marlins or swordfish either, however I do love them in beachy locales.

  5. Mrs B – Paul Newman said, Why go out for hamburger when you have steak at home? I’d bet money Mr B would share in that sentiment.

  6. Thirty years of living in Wisconsin has made me a fan of taxidermy and skulls. A couple of years ago, my husband gave me a stuffed crow mounted on a sheep skull for Christmas. (Ordered online from someone in England).

    Now that might not be everyone’s idea of a great present, but it sure was mine. So I’ve got the trophy and the husband.

    Thanks for another great post. (Albert Hadley’s Hudson River house has always been an inspiration).

  7. For years I avoided having two marlin make their home in my home. Unfortunately my mother in law passed away and her son’s “prizes” moved from Mom’s home, where I must admit they were quite happy, to our home. Momentarily they will be mounted in the den/library. Well at least one of them will-the other is in wait, in case something happens to the first one. I can’t imagine what could happen in dusting, rearranging furniture, banging on the wall-can you?

  8. I live in the middle of the city. It would look like something was amiss if I had animals or taxidermied bits around the house. Maybe a wee mouse… no, not that either!

  9. A sticky issue indeed. My sister’s family owns a duck hunting club on the Hudson River. My future father-in-law is also an avid hunter and bought a house to be closer to the Millbrook club. Me? I couldn’t shoot an animal if you begged me and I hate the hunting of what I call “non meat animals”. Most Americans don’t eat polar bear, tiger, zebra, black bear etc. so the hunting of them bothers me. Deer? Turkey? Pheasant? Animals that people routinely eat, doesn’t keep me up at night. Killing something just for the sake of killing it, irks me.

  10. There are alternatives, as I have a gorgeous Faux Fur throw that looks like the real thing, and is sooo cozy. I have to admit to owning a couple of real furs, they are vinatge by now though.By the way Patricia, you Are the Trophy Wife!

  11. One more thought after reading Matt’s comment re: museum of natural history…..I love incorporating natural things into my decor. I collect wasp’s nests, bird’s nests, rocks, antlers that have been shed naturally, shells, etc. I even get the whole “overpopulation, so the deer need to be thinned out” mentality here in the Texas hill country. I just don’t want to be the one who kills the animal and I really don’t like thinking about it when I look at them in my home.

    Sorry… a bit tangential from what you originally asked, but I do find different perspectives interesting.

  12. When it comes to decor, alot can be overlooked for getting just the right look ha ha
    There are many faux taxis now, made of resin, like all the horns.
    And alot of the stuffed things are old, vintage and antique, so somehow it’s like wearing a vintage fur coat, something that was made when we were all ignorant of the politics of animal rights and the ramifications of cruelty, therefore making it sort of okay to wear the old thing.
    I did a piece on this too (with a fab opening photo),
    http://visualvamp.blogspot.com/2008/07/taxidermy-in-current-interior-design.html
    People don’t like to comment on the elephant in the room, so I commend you Mrs. B for getting a discussion going!
    xo xo

  13. I grew up in a house with trophy heads staring at us. Think “Out of Africa,” and you get the picture. Limoge and heads. My dad big-game hunted in Africa as a young man (during the 1920’s) and apparently returned with half its animal population in tow. My mother loved my father, and my father loved his trophies AND his mother’s along with my mother’s limoge.

    Hence I can deal with an antique head or skin, but I was determined to marry a man who would rather walk on burning coals than shoot an animal. My sister cured my uncle of loving blood sports. She carried a dead bird around and cried after my uncle took her hunting with him. Worked like a charm! 😉

    That being said, I confess to having a rather moth-eaten zebra rug in one room (and some horns in the garage), and yes, some pheasant feathers from the Eighties, but I still prefer faux if it’s not an antique or naturally shed as some antlers are. I draw the line when it comes to shoes and purses: leather is good.

    And lest you think the hunters in our family didn’t love animals, they all adored dogs and horses, with some even loving cats.

  14. Parish Hadley did happen to use a lot of hooked zebra (wool) rugs and I think I spotted a white resin head in the older book but I’ll have to go back and take a closer look.

    Chloe Warner, a young designer, favors taxidermy though.

    I agree, Mr. B has the prize already 🙂

  15. I’m sensing general thumbs up. I agree and have some naturally shed antlers, a tortoise shell and other treasures that the boys have brought in. Like some of you, I don’t want to do the killing, but don’t mind so much “after.” I tend to agree that “safari” type pieces make me more uncomfortable, but I wonder if that is sentiment.

    HoBaC – kind words, and I think he would agree. Lucky me.

    Vamp – sorry I missed your earlier post – how could I have forgotten the Bilhuber peacock!

  16. stella tennant is related to the mitfords? totally random association.

    my sleeping dogs are as close as i’ll get to a hide rug with the head attached.

    betsy burnham is another ‘young’ designer who favors taxidermy.

  17. animal lover here so I say no to animal parts there is enough nature about so leave the animal their parts and go for faux.. or organic, not once living and beautiful, not lifeless on some twit’s floor just say no to fur, etc.

  18. Hi Mrs. B, Good question! I personally think vintage is good and honors the animal but new is not so great.
    Love your blog and am adding you to my blogroll!

  19. This is so funny! I have been planning a taxidermy post for awhile and have collected quite a few well done (at least I think so) examples. The peacock being one. I will try and get it out soon and link back to your great post here. Is taxidermy a seasonal thing? More popular as the air cools and we think about roasted fowl? Hmmm.

  20. There is no place like Big Cedar for taxidermy. My boys loved to lay in bed and talk about the animals on the walls. I preferred to pretend they weren’t there.

  21. I had to laugh when I read your post about taxidermy…I just finished posting pictures on my blog and I titled it…Hey Lady, you have a Moose in your house…Yes, I actually have a moose head, 2 dear and a stuffed rainbow trout. Not that fancy park Ave. Ralph Lauren stuff…but hey, I think it works in my space. I was going for that northwoods lodge look…

  22. Ugh, it’s just gross and I cannot understand the “trend”. It is so trashy. Why do you want something that is dead mounted on your wall?? Just because it’s a pretty animal and you think you should have it? Or because you killed it for your own personal gain? Get a photograph.

    Big game trophy hunting in Africa is especially disgusting as it’s all about ego – why else would anyone pay top dollar to kill something? (And let’s be honest, it’s not like it’s hard). I remember seeing one particularly horrific image in Bunny Williams’ “Point of View” of a house that was chock full of dead African animals. Go see these animals in the wild – see a zebra’s long curly eyelashes and how their mane sticks straight up or how staggeringly beautiful leopards are when they are lazing in a tree or how powerful a lioness is when she’s on the hunt – or just watch a nature show on TV. Taxidermy is the ultimate in wasteful and unnecessary selfish indulgence.

  23. You obviously agree with it Mrs Blandings. Too bad. What a shame. Perhaps in your next life, you’ll come back as a cow. Learn compassion. Peace…

  24. I’ll take my taxidermy faux – the real deal just reminds me too much of Norman Bates. I do have one of those grotesque fox wraps with the heads and paws still on it from my Gram though. It kind of freaks me out but it’s kind of fabulous in a Grey Gardens way.

    becky

    PS I just used that pic of Isaac in a post recently as well – the vacuum, the look on his face, the post, the PJs…I just love him!

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