I thought it would be fun to kick off the week with a new Design Discussion post. Today’s very controversial design topic (eek!)? Taxidermy. This one was actually a reader request that I was nervous to write about, but obliged. If you’re new around here, my Design Discussion series covers interior and home topics that people have strong feelings toward: styling with books, countertop space, stacked laundry units, nude art, rugs in the bathroom… you name it. I enjoy chatting about all sorts of design topics. It’s pretty fascinating and enlightening to hear unique perspectives, and learn about everyone’s preferences. I also enjoy sharing my personal opinion, background, and design philosophy surrounding some of these touchy subjects. Now- before we dive in, this topic is probably one that could elicit strong opinions, but I trust we can all be respectful of our differences and interior preferences. Let’s be sure to keep it friendly! I know I don’t have to say that to 99.9% of my friends here, but just as a precaution, consider that my reminder to keep things friendly. Let’s do it… click through!
Taxidermy… I’ve found people either like incorporating it into their homes, or hate it and are totally against it. However, most of these topics are love / hate, so that’s no surprise! The only taxidermy you’ve seen in my house is my vintage European antler mount in our formal living room, which I actually get a ton of questions about. I’m guessing my philosophy on taxidermy isn’t the popular opinion, but I’d still love to share my background, past, and design reasoning.
If you’ve been reading for awhile now, you already know I come from a small rural town, grew up on a small farm, and I’m guessing you’ve figured out by now- I eat all sorts of things, including meat (based on the recipes I share). I was a 10 year 4-H member, and always had to auction my livestock on the last day of the county fair- which is honestly an experience I absolutely loved (being in 4-H, not the auction). Anyway, I learned the tough lesson early on, that our animals were kind of like pets- we treated them well, we loved on them, we took amazing care of them, but they were also our livelihood… meaning they’d eventually go to market. I think that actually created a healthy understanding of food and sustainability for me. I value livestock that is treated well, love supporting small farmers, and care about quality when it comes to our food. Anyway, I’m thankful for my experience as a farm kid and teenager, and I could definitely see Emmett and myself having a little farm of our own someday (probably just for fun though with pets or horses). So how does food and farm life relate to taxidermy?
I also come from a family of hunters, who hunted as a food resource. Taxidermy was always very normal to me, so much so- that I didn’t even realize it was controversial until going off to design school. My family always fully used the animals that provided for us. I remember eating and trying all sorts of things that ended up on the dinner table as a kid- deer / venison, elk, rabbit, wild turkey, quail, squirrel, etc. To this day, Emmett’s mom sends us a cooler filled with venison, processed by his uncle, for Christmas each year. When I would come home from college, my dad would always send us back with a few pounds of elk from the freezer. I also remember my family sharing our deep freezer of meat with friends & neighbors, and those who needed extra food. I actually think our local food pantry accepted wild game. In high school, we even had to take a “Hunters Education & Safety” class. Emmett & I were actually in that class together, where we learned about safety, population control from our local conservation officers, and the importance of hunting in a humane, responsible way. All of that to say- it was a BIG part of the community we grew up in, and the majority of the people in our small town had taxidermy in their homes because of it.
Now that you know a little bit about my upbringing, let’s talk taxidermy in design. I really do think taxidermy is a beautiful and historic art form, although it’s not something I automatically think or seek to buy. When I’m designing a room, it isn’t like other accessories, where I think, “Oh!! I can’t forget to add an antler mount to this space!” like I would artwork or a lamp. I like the taxidermy I already own (a few vintage antler finds and my Dad’s collection). If I were to see something cool while thrift shopping (like European mounted antlers), I’d probably grab them, if they fit my space… but again- it’s not something I actively search for. I have a shelf in my prop closet devoted to the taxidermy I inherited from my Dad after he passed, that is really special and eventually I’ll find a place for in our home. Those feel sentimental, nostalgic, and are special to me.
In terms of design, taxidermy in interior spaces has a long standing history. When I lived in Europe and did more traveling abroad, I noticed a lot of taxidermy… in estates and homes I toured, while vintage shopping, and in museums. It seems to live in more traditional environments with a very classical aesthetic. When I used to be apart of ASID (American Society of Interior Design), we would have monthly meetings and one chapter meeting was a field trip to a club filled with vintage taxidermy. We discussed the history behind it, how designers have used it over the years, and why people either love or hate it. It was honestly an interesting meeting.
If you’re curious what a few other designers (including Ken Fulk) think about taxidermy, check out this article. Jonathan Adler states that he wishes taxidermy would go away for good, in this article. Some of my friends have gently approached the subject as well. Nicole, from Making it Lovely, thrifted a peacock and wrote about it in this post. My friend Gwen, of the Makerista, posted a zebra she thrifted and quickly took down her stories shortly after sharing (which honestly made me nervous to share this post). Summer Thornton wrote a blog post titled, Taxidermy- Love or Loathe? and you can read that here. The Wall Street Journal has even covered this topic! There are a zillion opinions.
I could definitely see how taxidermy could be unsettling- and it even is for me (someone who grew up with it) in certain situations. I can also understand why some enjoy thrifting or adding taxidermy to their homes. In regards to my own opinion… I don’t mind taxidermy, and I do like the look of tastefully done taxidermy in certain vignettes. I’m not opposed to vintage or ethically sourced pieces if they work well in a space. I will say- I’m fully against trophy hunting, poaching, and instances where animals are obtained illegally for decor (or other purposes). We have friends & family members who hunt responsibly to fill their freezers to support their family or community, and sometimes have (usually antlers or the rack from deer or elk) mounted. We also have friends & family who would never bring taxidermy in their home- new or vintage. We love them all the same. Please know there is zero judgement coming from me on this topic! You know what I always say… do what YOU love in YOUR home. Ready for the poll?
I’ll share one last (kind of unrelated) taxidermy story with you… when I was studying fine art in Italy, my drawing class spent a few days sketching at the La Specola museum, which houses incredible taxidermy (go check it out). I was in the bird room drawing a pair of owls, I finished my sketch, flew home to the states a couple months later, and Emmett decided to get a tattoo of my owl sketch on his arm. I thought that was absolutely crazy because we weren’t married (or even engaged) at that point. I thought, “Oh yikes… if we ever call it quits, he is going to have to live with my owl sketch on his arm forever!” Haha! That seemed like a big commitment. All of that to say, technically Emmett has a taxidermy tattoo, which sounds very strange when you say it out loud. I’ll drop a visual below…
If you’re looking for more Design Discussion topics to chat about, I’ll link them below…
- Hardwoods in the Kitchen
- Nude Art
- Countertop Space
- Color Blocking
- TV Over the Fireplace
- Stacked vs Side-by-Side Laundry Units
- Furniture Arranged Against a Wall
- Shelf Styling with Books
- Wool Rugs in the Bathroom
If you don’t like taxidermy, how do you feel about insect specimens- moths, butterflies, or beetles pinned in a frame? How do you feel about horn, bone inlay, antlers, leather, sheepskin rugs, fur, feathers, etc? What about faux taxidermy? These days the resin reproductions look just like the real thing! There are so many different types of taxidermy or using animals in one way or another, as its deeply rooted in culture and design (it dates back to the Egyptians!), and obviously is a very complex subject. What are your thoughts? We’re definitely seeing the traditional and grand millennial styles quickly gaining popularity, and it makes me wonder if we’ll begin to see more classical taxidermy in the coming year. I’m not sure! I can say, you’ll see a couple of my Dad’s taxidermy pieces in our house eventually (spoiler alert- I didn’t take any of the larger pieces… my brothers have those). If you are into taxidermy, I’ll drop some vintage finds below. Let’s do an easier topic next time, ok? Hah! Ideas for the next Design Discussion are welcome!
PeggiApril 5, 2021 at 5:21 am
Whoa! Brave topic for a Monday! Also very eery since I just discussed this with my friend; I’m contemplating buying a butterfly specimen as part of her birthday gift. So…I guess that hints at my opinion. Much like yourself, I grew up in a small agricultural area. My bumpa and uncles all hunted. Boys (and teachers!) at my high school regularly had gun racks in their trucks. (Simpler times.) I prize a skin from a bear that my brother shot and smoke-tanned while camped in Alaska. I own sheepskins, a cowhide and stunning vintage furs; I also have quite a bone collection… I was wildly envious when Nicole posted about her peacock, and I do think Gwen’s zebra is beautiful. But. I hate the idea that a design trend might fuel markets for exotic animals and trophy hunting. I want to think that buying vintage absolves me a little, but that’s my guilty showing. I adore animals! I don’t think I could raise one for meat. Pet cow, anyone? I totally understand some folks’ aversion to taxidermy, and I think it’s ok (smart even) to acknowledge that our stance on a once-accepted practice has changed. Haha. Does it sound like I’m representing both sides of this dilemma? Maybe I lack conviction? Maybe I’m complicated…
Here’s my funny taxidermy story: I loved reading The Landlady, by Roald Dahl, to my eighth graders every year. 🤣
SarahApril 5, 2021 at 7:59 am
I know… I was a bit nervous to hit publish on this one. Ha! It sounds like we’ve been thinking about the same things lately. I’m in total agreement on the taxidermy front. It’s definitely complicated! I’m also a big animal lover and it took me awhile to grasp “the circle of life” as my dad used to say, growing up on a farm. It’s hard. Maybe you need a milk cow! We had some jersey cows for awhile and they are great “pets”. Haha! OMG, The Landlady?! I’d love to hear your 8th graders reactions and commentary. Here’s to a great week ahead with awesome weather! xo
Leigh DApril 5, 2021 at 6:24 am
Almost every house we looked at when moving to Texas had some sort of taxidermy on the wall which was such a culture shock for us having grown up in the northeast. It became a joke between us to see how many we could find in each home we looked at. After moving there, we decided to buy a longhorn and mounted it over the fireplace as a sort of homage to the culture! It’s a very quirky piece in our much more traditional and colorful decorating scheme and is definitely one that makes a statement! The kids have named him, so Hank now oversees our daily goings on! I think if and when we move, he’ll definitely come with us and add that unexpected element to our next home as well. I’m fine with taxidermy but do not agree with trophy hunting. If you’re going to eat it, fine, if not, let it live it’s life in the wild!
SarahApril 5, 2021 at 8:02 am
Isn’t that interesting? It’s definitely more prevalent in certain areas in the United States and has a strong tie to culture. My grandmother has a longhorn mount (they used to raise longhorns on their farm), and it’s actually really cool. Maybe that’s something I can bring to our home someday. I love that you’re embracing the culture and it sounds like a nice design moment! We’re definitely in agreement on taxidermy, Leigh. Hope you have a great day! Thanks for sharing :)
Melissa SApril 5, 2021 at 6:48 am
Wow such a thought provoking topic! I am pretty aligned with what Peggi stated. It’s complicated. On the one hand, I was raised with brothers and a dad that hunted and brought all manner of things home. One of my early memories is watching my dad “gut” the deer he had killed by stringing it up from my swing set. In later years they used our basketball goal for the task. While some may find that horrifying or traumatic, it was completely normal at our home (and yes, everything they killed was processed and eaten). Contrary to what some may think, my upbringing gave me a complete love/respect and fascination with all of nature. Years ago I bought some antlers from an antique store that are in a large bowl in my living room. I did so to remind me of home since moving several states away. When my little brother visited he found it hilarious that I had actually paid money for them- something he gets for free. At one time I was considering layering a hide rug in my living room but the more I thought about what it actually was and not knowing where it came from- I just couldn’t do it. Even though I’ve admired them in many beautiful spaces. So, it’s complicated. From a design aspect I think it’s no different than other elements. Meaning “ does it make sense for this space/this person?” Having said that, I think trophy hunting is disgusting and about nothing but ego.
Sarah, I am curious what is a “European mount” ?
SarahApril 5, 2021 at 8:08 am
It was a big one to tackle on a Monday. Ha! It really is complex. I had the same swing set processing experience. Ha! I guess that’s being resourceful? I also feel like that type of upbringing gave me a deep respect, appreciation, and love for nature. A European mount is just antlers or a rack mounted on some sort of plaque or shaped / beveled backboard- often times they’re set into a velvet cushion. I just like the style better than what my family typically had… it feels more refined to me. Thanks for weighing in, Melissa! Have a fabulous day :)
AmyApril 5, 2021 at 8:00 am
I have lived in Wisconsin almost all of my life and hunting is a huge part of the culture of our state, partly because our state has a wealth of public hunting land (this does not exist in Texas, for example). My husband bow and gun hunts and fishes per all the state regulations and we eat all the meat. (Although he left a deer heart in a plastic shopping bag just sitting in our fridge for a month and finally I threw it out!!!!) I had to read the articles you linked to see what peoples’ objections were (other than it just being creepy) because, as long as the animals are harvested legally and humanely, I don’t see the ethical dilemma. That being said, I’m not okay with purely trophy kills. Thanks for the interesting post!
SarahApril 5, 2021 at 6:02 pm
Yes! That’s exactly what we’re used to. It helps the entire ecosystem by controlling the population, and when families are provided with quality food- that’s something I can totally get behind (when done legally and humanely). After my dad passed away, I’ve been trying to convince Emmett to go on an elk hunt. I miss having lean meat in our freezer. Instead of having family barbecues, my family always had a “fish fry” with the fresh water fish we could catch. It was really a special thing and to this day, when my siblings and I get together- we do this. I am cracking up at the deer heart in the bag in your fridge (ew!). That sounds like something my brother would do to his wife. Haha! I totally agree with you on all that, Amy. Thank you so much for sharing. I hope you had a great Monday!
DeborahApril 5, 2021 at 8:26 am
It’s not for me, but I’m not against it in general. When I was growing up, my mom was the copy editor for a scientific journal, and her office was in the basement of the Monte L. Bean Life Sciences Museum (in Provo — you could visit!). Her office was down the hall from the taxidermist’s office, and he had a bunch of pieces in storage at the museum. At one point, she had decorated the wall of her office with little birdhouses, and she asked him if he had any birds to add to that display. What he provided was an owl with a rabbit in its talons! Be careful what you wish for!
SarahApril 5, 2021 at 7:01 pm
Really? I added it to my list to visit! Thank you for the tip, Deborah. I haven’t been to a museum since before Covid, but I’m now fully vaccinated and am excited to get back out. What a great story! I’m sure the owl taxidermy wasn’t exactly what she had envisioned for her sweet little bird houses. Haha! I hope you had a wonderful day.
PaigeApril 5, 2021 at 8:39 am
This is one of the many reasons I love this blog. We talk about about all the stuff. I’m in the South so it goes without saying you will find mounts in most homes. I don’t care for those furry types, probably because of the surrounding design aesthetic (did I say that nicely enough?). In our home we favor birds and bones -birds of different varieties and European mounts. I have real, faux, vintage and new taxidermy. It’s totally my style, giving a home a depth of nature that is hard to accomplish otherwise. My favorite is to use sheds we find in vases as bouquets and on shelves in groupings. My favorite “shed” might be a piece of corkscrew vine my then 4 year old found. He was convinced it came from some magical creature. It still takes pride of place in my collection. With a husband, two boys, and male dog, I have found a way to use taxidermy in a refined rustic style. Still all masculine, but nice and elevated for me.
While I say that I don’t prefer the furry taxidermy, there was a stunning red fox that lived in our last neighborhood. I always said if he were hit by traffic I was taking him straight to the stuffer. He was so amazing, truly a specimen to preserve. For all the wildlife we found on the road (we lived in a river basin, lots of animals got hit) the fox outsmarted them all.
SarahApril 5, 2021 at 6:57 pm
All the stuff!! These conversations are so fun and interesting to me- I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m so happy you took the time to read and comment, Paige! I appreciate it. My taxidermy aesthetic sounds similar- we also have real, faux, vintage, and new (well, relatively new from my dad). It really does give a home a depth of whimsical nature, in a different way that plants can achieve. That’s an amazing point! I love the story of your 4 year old and the magical creature. The memories behind decor or objects is really the best part of it. You have me rolling laughing at “taking the fox straight to the stuffer” if he ever got hit by traffic. LOL! That sounds like something my beloved grandma would say. Then again, she also took down a deer with a rifle out of her kitchen window (while doing dishes) because it was eating her garden (it was in-season and they used it all for food), but that story is one I’ll never forget. Haha! I’m glad the sly fox lived a happy life without ending up in the basin. Thanks for the story, Paige!
LaurenApril 5, 2021 at 9:00 am
I too grew up with a healthy understanding of “the circle of life”, because my grandfather and father hunted. I grew up eating all types of meat from rabbit to venison, quail, dove, duck, elk…the list is endless. In our house it was instilled in us that hunting was never for the “trophy”- choosing to hunt came with a certain respect and obligation to nature and all it provides. It was understood that if we chose to partake, we were also choosing to see the process through to bringing the meat table-side. I also grew up with taxidermy in our home, and until middle school, I didn’t realize that it wasn’t the norm in most households. My dad has quite a bit of taxidermy in his home, and to me they are beautiful; but that’s also because I know that each animal was hunted responsibly, and provided sustenance for our family. I don’t agree with trophy hunting, poaching, or any other illegal form of obtaining an animal purely for decor purposes. We have one piece of taxidermy in our home, that Jeff hunted, and it is always the first thing people who are in our home for the first time, ask about. It always makes me nervous because you don’t know where the conversation will go. It’s such a loaded topic that is inherently complicated, and complex, no matter where you stand on it. I love the questions you asked as follow up for those who don’t like taxidermy-those are questions I’ve never thought about, but it’s true how much we don’t really realize that some form of animals in decor has been present for many years. Such a complicated topic, but kudos for the way you’ve presented it here. I always appreciate your ability to tackle a difficult design discussion. You do it so eloquently! Happy Monday Sarah!
SarahApril 5, 2021 at 6:50 pm
Yes! I remember our phone conversation, Lauren :) I had a very similar childhood eating all the things, and had the same values drilled into my brain, in regards to hunting, being respectful, being thankful for the bounty nature provides, etc. I’m thankful I learned all of those lessons! I totally agree with you. It really is a complicated topic that is deeply rooted in history and culture… and I’ve also worried what friends, neighbors, or even readers will think when they see taxidermy in our home. At the end of the day, I like knowing where they came from, the pieces we have are sentimental, and they make us happy in our home- so that’s all that matters. I just hate confrontation or the thought of offending anyone. Haha! I was so nervous posting this today, but everyone has been really friendly and open minded, even if we disagree, which has been really refreshing. As always, thanks for reading, and for your thoughtful comment & insight. I hope you and the fam are having a fantastic week so far with good weather! xo
Jennifer LauraApril 5, 2021 at 10:33 am
I personally love faux taxidermy, but not real. I do think it can look amazing in a space, but wouldn’t personally want it in my own spaces. I think I could see myself making an exception if it was a vintage piece, as in I personally didn’t have a hand in killing and stuffing the animal, it was already dead… I live deep in the Texas south though and have been in spaces where it completely covered EVERY inch and I just really didn’t enjoy it.
SarahApril 5, 2021 at 6:43 pm
I totally get that! I definitely will buy a vintage piece if it’s amazing and fits my space, but for the most part- I’m content with what I have from my dad’s collection (knowing they were ethically hunted and have sentimental value)… or faux pieces. My family is in the Kentucky area, so I imagine the taxidermy is just as prevalent there as it is in Texas. It’s interesting how different regions vary! I appreciate your insight- have a wonderful week, Jennifer!
StacyApril 5, 2021 at 11:33 am
Such a thoughtful post, Sarah! I’m very mixed on this one – I have no desire to have anything that still looks like an animal in my home, but I don’t have issues with the byproducts of eating animals. So I’m totally fine with leather, sheepskins, etc, but I don’t want anything to do with a mounted deer head. Antlers can be so beautiful, but I think if I were seeking those out I’d try to find something from an animal that naturally sheds them. I do not support exotic animal taxidermy at all; it’s a slippery slope that feels WAY too slippery for me.
If you don’t mind sharing, I’m curious to know what your thoughts are on some of these auctions where big game hunters bid on the chance to hunt a rhino or elephant, with the proceeds going towards conservation. I understand that $100k+ goes a long way in a lot of the less developed countries, but I still really struggle with the idea of it.
I honestly forgot that insect specimens are even a thing, and I have no idea how they’re done – I’ll have to look into that one. I appreciate the linked articles as well, this is definitely one of those things I’d be interested to read up on in order to get a better idea of WHY I feel the way that I feel about some of these scenarios. I appreciate you being brave enough to discuss this one!
SarahApril 5, 2021 at 6:40 pm
Amazing point on shed antlers, Stacy! My dad used to collect those or we’d find them while hiking or walking (I still have a lot of them we found together, which are special)- I think that’s a great way to implement “taxidermy” or a similar look without having to hunt an animal. I’m with you on the exotic animals and the poaching problems. I also struggle with the exotic big game auctions for conservation- when the animal isn’t being used and is just a trophy. Emmett & I actually donate to a few of our favorite conservation organizations, and I’d be happy to share those, if you’d like. I feel like there are better ways to help the population. There are some incredible people doing amazing things to protect animals from being hunted illegally or poached. One of our longterm retirement goals is to take part or travel to help in person someday. Thanks for taking the time and energy to share your thoughts, Stacy! This was a fun conversation. Hope your Monday was a good one!
StacyApril 6, 2021 at 5:47 am
Oooh, I’d love some ideas on where to donate for conservation! I’m familiar with a few of the big ones but I’m sure there are a ton of organizations out there that could use our help!
SarahApril 6, 2021 at 9:42 am
Absolutely happy to share! We love VETPAW. Emmett actually found them on Instagram a few years ago. It’s one of the main organizations we donate to: https://vetpaw.org It is veterans protecting animals alongside local communities (a nonprofit).
AJ ProcarioneApril 5, 2021 at 12:41 pm
My dad was a hunter so I never thought anything was weird about having one or two mounted antlers or a stuffed pheasant in the house…he was soooo proud of that pheasant. The only thing visitors to our house, kids and adults, ever said to me was ‘ooo, those are cool’ or ‘look at the antlers (or bird, feathers, etc, etc).’ We lived in the suburbs of Chicago…it’s not the normal decor for houses there. My friends thought I was strange for telling them that I’ve seen turkeys actually fly! :-)
I agree that hunting is good when used correctly and hunting for trophies or to extremes is terrible…just like pretty much anything else in life. And using taxidermy is a personal design decision. Kudos on the discussion!
SarahApril 5, 2021 at 6:33 pm
Same, AJ! My dad also had a pheasant and I grew up with bird dogs, so that was a very proud piece for him as well. All of my friends had taxidermy in their homes as well, so I didn’t realize it was not a “normal” thing until late in my teens. I had to laugh at your “turkeys actually flying” comment. Haha!! It sounds like our views on taxidermy and hunting align. I had hoped this discussion would be a friendly one (whew!). I appreciate you taking the time to share. Have a good week!
JennApril 5, 2021 at 1:26 pm
Reading these comments is interesting. I would have said that taxidermy is something that I associate with a museum but in thinking, I do think it’s just not something I grew up with. We would see taxidermied birds or animals in the natural history museum but not in homes. Unless it was something like Beauty and the Beast’s Gaston with his “I use antlers in all of my decorating!” :-) Same thing for furs — my mother in law has a fur coat from decades past that hangs in the closet and we sort of all treat it like it’s this odd thing from a bygone era (although my winter coat has the obviously fake fur around the hood and I do like that). It’s still definitely not for me and my house, but I do appreciate using up all parts of the animal and could appreciate it from that perspective. I am OK with leather and wouldn’t think twice about sheepskin rugs so I think there’s maybe something hypocritical about myself there — like the stuff I wouldn’t like is the part that reminds me the animal was alive (head etc.) but maybe that’s a reminder we need? Big game hunting for trophies is a no for me though and I’m glad you made that distinction. We’ve been to the George Eastman House in Rochester, NY — he founded Kodak and had money and would take trips to Africa and bring back all these taxidermied large animals. His house is absolutely gorgeous but the taxidermy did take over for me — like there’s this beautiful large room that is completely dominated by this giant elephant head so that’s all you really see and the amount of it in the house felt sad to me. But I’m certainly glad they kept it for the purposes of a museum.
SarahApril 5, 2021 at 6:30 pm
The comment section is always the best! I love the Beauty & The Beast reference… haha! I can relate on the fur. Pretty much everything in my closet that is “fur” is faux, but I’m with you on leather, sheepskin, etc. It’s so interesting to me! It sounds like the George Eastman Estate was an interesting place to see. It’s too bad the taxidermy was overdone. I think moderation is key (whether it’s real or faux). The elephant head would have made me sad, too. Thanks for contributing to this interesting conversation, Jenn! I hope your week is off to a good start.
AmyApril 5, 2021 at 1:45 pm
Well said, Sarah! Taxidermy isn’t something I have given much thought to in my own home’s decor, but I like the unique look of it. Thanks for approaching this topic with sensitivity and honesty!
SarahApril 5, 2021 at 6:26 pm
Thank you, Amy! I appreciate you taking the time to read and comment. Have a wonderful week :)
Anne HApril 5, 2021 at 3:43 pm
Wow, great and interesting topic, Sarah! Having grown up on the East coast, just outside of DC, probably needless to say, there was not much hunting going on there, but we were exposed to it when we’d visit South Dakota every Summer, where my parents were from. Most of our relatives had working farms and they all hunted. Wasn’t my thing and isn’t my thing now, but I don’t have a problem with it if they are using all the animal, as well as respecting the animal who is now sustaining them. Although I don’t personally mind insect specimens, I do prefer faux taxidermy in our home. We just hung some resin deer heads over our tv, I have a faux sheep skin rug in our closet, a faux hide rug in our office and a ceramic elk antler dish. While I never decorated with any taxidermy when we lived in Virginia, now living in Colorado, I do like using faux, though I know many friends and neighbors who use real. To each their own.
Real can definitely be a beautiful, too, like the peacocks in Nicole’s post and the animal in the NYT photo. (Not sure what that gorgeous creature is – mountain goat maybe, do you happen to know?) As for elsewhere in life, I would never wear real fur, I don’t have a problem with leather nor do I have a problem with eating meat, so possibly hypocritical of me? (When I do eat meat, we always take a moment to express our gratefulness to the animal and always attempt to seek out local, organic and free roaming, meat. Probably not enough for some, but it’s a good compromise for us.)
I do think it’s sad that other bloggers & designers received vitriol for their opinions and their choices. Like with every design discussion, I feel it should absolutely be up to you what you do in your own home.
That said, trophy hunting is absolutely disgusting, especially when it’s illegal in certain countries and would not want to use real ivory in any decor. I actually have experience seeing a house in Utah that was featuring whole, exotic animals. It was a few years back and we were trick or treating with the nephews in their Grandma’s wealthy, gated neighborhood in Sandy and one of the houses, although it was really more of a mansion, was getting a lot of attention. Turns out the homeowner was inviting everyone (kids of course, included) to see his massive entry foyer that was filled with free standing trophy animals, clearly very proud. I did not make it past the door. Talk about sad. And scary! Ugh. No way could I live in a house like that.
Funny story though, a few years ago I gifted fabric bust animal heads to a friend for her baby shower. Everyone thought they were super cute (as did I), but I could immediately tell that my friend was not much of a fan of hanging them in their nursery. I actually checked with her partner, too in advance and he assured me that she’d love them. Awkward!
As for future topics, I’ve often wondered how homeowners (or their designers who suggest it) who decorate with very colorful tile or outlandish, funky wallpaper, just as examples, fair when they go to sell their property. Certainly going wild on your walls with color, is a relatively easy fix for the new owner, but swapping out tile and removing wallpaper, not as much.
Thanks for the interesting start to the week, Sarah! Per usual, I really enjoyed reading everyones comments.
SarahApril 5, 2021 at 6:24 pm
Thanks, Anne! I feel the same way… to each their own! Lots of the faux taxidermy is really beautiful these days (and easier to clean)! I think the animal in the NYT image is indeed a mountain goat- it’s beautiful. We do the same, in terms of food. I feel like everyone has to find their own balance based on their values. Sadly, I’ve found social media to be a judgmental place lately. Emmett joked that I may get “cancelled” for posting about this topic, which I didn’t think was very funny. Ha! I like deep conversations and hearing the perspective of others. I always come back to this though… for every 1 negative comment or mean message, there are 99 positive or friendly ones. I keep at it because of the genuine people I love chatting and connecting with, like YOU! Back to taxidermy… trophy hunting is a BIG no in my book. The house in Sandy sounds appalling. OMG to the baby shower gifts (which sounds adorable, BTW)!! Definitely an awkward moment, I can imagine. I would’ve loved those. Haha! I love your topic ideas- I’ll add those to the list. Thank you so much for sharing! Have a fantastic week, Anne! xo
ColleenApril 5, 2021 at 5:48 pm
I guess my opinion is everything in moderation? I prefer faux taxidermy in ceramic form – but that’s bc of cleaning with my dust allergy. But it’s also a balance – I LOVE museums, doesn’t bother me there especially from a learning stand point. Even in a house doesn’t always bother me – but when I know it’s specifically bc it’s a trophy but not like a medal but like token, it can start to weird me out. I’m from WI, but knew families that had one or two in the house & used the meat to feed their family & hunted responsibly, and then knew families who went out to drink, get as many they could legally get each year, sell the meat but keep the heads on the wall (and when I say sell they didn’t need to do as a business or income standpoint, they just didnt want to look bad throwing it away once they got their mount). So intent clearly also makes a difference to me I guess. Those were not impressive like prize deer or anything either. Filled a room lining the walls with the head mounts. That & the concept behind it what made me uncomfortable. But 99% of the people I know that have it didn’t do that, I just ponder the cleaning aspect of it. I just know it’s not for me, but am not against it completely & also not necessarily entirely neutral either. 🤷🏻♀️
SarahApril 5, 2021 at 6:10 pm
Same! Moderation being the key word, in terms of using it for design. I’m also very appreciative of taxidermy in a museum setting for learning and educational purposes. That’s far better than many animals in captivity- that always makes me sad. I agree with you- there is definitely a difference in how animals are hunted, what they’re used for, how they’re taken, etc. Taking an animal’s life is such a big responsibility that shouldn’t be taken lightly (in my opinion). I know lots of taxidermy is done after an animal has been found dead (of natural causes hopefully), but I’m with you… it can make me feel uncomfortable in certain situations (knowing the backstory) and trophy taxidermy / hunting is very upsetting to me. It’s a tricky subject! Thanks for weighing in, Colleen! As always- it was nice to hear your opinion. I hope you had a fabulous day, my friend! xo
AJune 28, 2022 at 10:49 pm
Thing is, there’s actually no difference between the people who hunt “responsibly” and the people that hunt for trophies. Hunting in our world is no longer required for survival therefore it’s always recreational. Sure some families will consume the meat and feed their families, but there was absolutely no necessity for them to do so in the first place. The original intent is still recreational, aka enjoyment in tracking an animal with the ultimate goal of killing it. I guess people just feel better about killing innocent animals if they can tell themselves that it’s being done “responsibly”.
SarahJune 29, 2022 at 8:28 am
Actually, that’s not true at all. The intent of hunting is to procure responsibly sourced meat for food. It’s the most ethical, humane, and healthiest way to eat, if meat is in your diet. It is less environmentally impactful with the lowest carbon footprint, it’s better for our environment, balances the ecosystem and population control, and it’s the healthiest: organic, antibiotic free, totally natural, and the ultimate “free range”. Statistically, it’s far better and more responsible for many reasons (animal quality of life, environmentally friendly, healthier, etc) than buying store bought meat at the grocery. In regards to responsibility, it’s the MOST responsible way to consume meat. Didn’t feel like attaching your name to this comment?
MelissaJune 29, 2022 at 12:14 pm
Hmmm, maybe you shouldn’t speak on matters you are not familiar with. Sarah already gave a great response regarding the nutritional and environmental impact but also consider what a family saves on their grocery bill. My brother can feed his family of 6 on the fish and meat he kills with rarely buying protein at the grocery store (big savings). Since when is feeding your family not a necessity? When he wants to hunt for sport, it’s wild hogs. They kill hundreds a year. Ask a farmer why this matters. Their is a reason the are laws/ limits and seasons for hunting. Hunting actually keeps the population numbers in check which provides healthier conditions and less disease. And there is a reason it is always open season on hogs. It’s a reality of life. Stop judging things you don’t understand
Wenda ScottApril 5, 2021 at 6:12 pm
I liked your post on this. i grew up with family that would hunt for food in the freezer and a brother in law that did taxidermy. I used to watch him do it. he had a wild hog head with the mouth open exposing the teeth. my sister wasn’t too thrilled with all of his projects throughout her house and the hog ended up in a bedroom above a bed. one night when i slept in that bed the head fall off the wall and was on the pillow next to me looking right at me when i opened my eyes. good thing it didn’t land on my head……….
SarahApril 5, 2021 at 7:02 pm
Thank you, Wenda! I am cracking up at the hog head story. Haha! I can imagine your sister wasn’t very pleased with that one.
CharlotteApril 5, 2021 at 6:42 pm
Sarah! I was so happy to sit and read this post! I know you were nervous to tackle it but you did such a great job explaining and exploring it. Thank you. I myself have gone from being quite anti taxidermy in decor, to having several antler and deer mounts in my home, and even a fish mount! What changed my mind? Honestly, I think it was understanding my hunting heritage, becoming a hunter and farmer myself, and realizing that taxidermy doesn’t have to look “country” or “hunting lodge” in a space. The first piece of taxidermy my husband insisted on was a mount of a giant bass he caught, and I banished it to the basement for years. It eventually found its way into my son’s room alongside an antler mount I inherited from my grandma ( from a buck she harvested in 1945!). It’s honestly one of the first things I’d grab off the wall in a fire. Fast forward a few years, we moved onto my grandparents old farm in northern Ontario, Canada, and have amassed so many found shed antlers, and added more antler mounts and even a some deer head mounts. I honestly think they are so beautiful, each have a story, and add so much character. But I totally get why people aren’t into it, and all the reasons why. It’s not for everyone, and definitely not for every space, just like many, many other design choices and approaches. I’m so glad you have such understanding followers and commenters, who have been respectful of taxidermy lovers even if they themselves aren’t. Thanks for being brave and the great post.
SarahApril 5, 2021 at 7:10 pm
Thank you so much, Charlotte! I’m glad it translated. I love your point on “taxidermy doesn’t have to look country or hunting lodge”. I feel like it’s more about the design surrounding it, how it’s used (in moderation), and the overall aesthetic. I think it can look quite elegant and sophisticated! I also have a bass that used to hang in my dad’s office, but I have yet to find a place for it. Your grandma sounds amazing and like she was quite the provider- that reminds me of my own grandmother. I also have a shed collection and each one has a memory associated with it. I definitely can relate to each piece having sentimental value and character. Taxidermy is definitely not for everyone, which I can understand and respect. Like everything else, I have high standards and a criteria for what we bring into our home. I fully believe that home should be a reflection of its inhabitants, and the things we bring into it should in turn bring us joy in some way. I’m also incredibly thankful for having such a respectful and fantastic community here! Even when we disagree, we can still hold intelligent, thoughtful, and friendly conversations that help us consider other perspectives. I’m not sure why I was so nervous for this one. Haha! I hope you had a really good Monday.
AshleyApril 5, 2021 at 7:50 pm
Love all your topics. This is controversial, and I have to admit I would never use real or faux taxidermy in my home. But not for ethical reasons, I just avoid any and all art that has living creatures. No people or animals. Something about it creeps me out. Mostly it’s the eyes. I feel like I’m being watched. Lol. So all my artwork is either landscapes or abstract. I know, I know. But to each their own, right?
I do remember in elementary school when kid’s parents would come and talk about their jobs, someone’s dad was a taxidermist. He passed around all kinds of stuffed animals. It was wild! Can only imagine what their house must have looked like.
SarahApril 6, 2021 at 10:00 am
Thank you, Ashley! This is another totally valid point… bringing things into our home we’re comfortable with and that make us happy, while avoiding things that make us feel uneasy, uncomfortable, or something we simply don’t like. If you don’t like eyes, then I wouldn’t expect to see any oil portraits in your home. That’s such a great point! Sometimes we can not like something just because we don’t like it. I don’t do butterflies, so you’ll never see butterflies in my home anywhere (pillows, wallpaper, art, whatever). They creep me out (weird, I know)! Also- crazy story about the taxidermist coming to your school. LOL!! Thanks for sharing! xo
DanicaApril 5, 2021 at 8:26 pm
Hi Sarah, thank you for this wonderful post. I actually didn’t realize taxidermy was a controversial design topic until I read your post. Some background on me – I grew up in the Philippines, then I moved to the east coast and have lived here ever since. I always thought I didn’t really see taxidermy in homes these days mostly because they’re so traditional, or if you don’t hunt, there wouldn’t be much of a reason to have taxidermy in your home.
I’ve also thought of taxidermy as a classic element of traditional design. I didn’t grow up hunting or farming but I did grow up eating a lot of freshly caught whole fish and seafood, and it has given me a similar appreciation for animal life. I do believe that hunting and fishing humanely and respectfully helps our environment, and teaches us important lessons about nature and respect for life. It makes me sad that those positive aspects are often overlooked/ignored in discussions about food these days. I think if you’re going to end a living creature’s life, you should honor their death and let nothing go to waste. When obtained respectfully and humanely, taxidermy can be a visible reminder to ourselves to be grateful.
SarahApril 6, 2021 at 9:57 am
Thank you so much for the valuable insight, Danica! I have the same mindset and taxidermy also feels very traditional to me, too. I totally agree with you about honoring an animals death and nature teaching us respect and important lessons as it provides for us. That’s such a big deal! I especially love your point of “taxidermy as a visual reminder to be grateful” Wow! So simple, yet so true. Thanks for taking the time to share more of your story! Hope you’re having a great week :)
DanicaApril 6, 2021 at 9:35 pm
Hi Sarah, thank you for replying and thank you for starting this discussion! I’ve been a long time fan of Room for Tuesday for a while now, and I’m so grateful for your hard work on this blog and Tuesday Made. Thank you to you, Emmett, Crosby, and Cash for sharing your home with us. Looking forward to your next blog posts!
SarahApril 9, 2021 at 8:21 am
Thank you so much for your kind words, Danica! I truly appreciate you following along on our journey :) You made my day with this comment. Have a lovely weekend!! xo
DanicaApril 10, 2021 at 3:29 pm
It’s the least I could do given all the hard work and knowledge you’ve shared with us. Your new roof looks amazing btw. Have a great weekend!
SarahApril 12, 2021 at 7:15 pm
Thank you, Danica! I so appreciate that. I am thrilled with our roof. I just found out we have enough tile leftover to roof our shed, so that’s coming up next. Yay!
kiminthecoveApril 5, 2021 at 8:48 pm
I was never a fan but lost my brother last year and he left behind several African antelope mounts that I promised him I would keep. We had a good laugh about *me* having taxidermy in my house because I don’t hunt, not a fan of guns, rescue worms from the sidewalk to give them a second chance, etc. But I told him the animal heads will always remind me of one of his happiest experiences. Thanks for broaching this topic!
SarahApril 6, 2021 at 9:50 am
I love this story! Thank you for sharing. Those are so special (even if they’re not exactly your style) and how lovely that you’re able to remember happy memories of your brother by looking at them. I always wonder about the stories behind the treasures found in someone’s home. Did they belong to relatives? Why are they special? Do they represent the interests of whoever is living there? I find this all so fascinating and personal. I love that you were able to chat with your brother about the taxidermy before he passed- I’m sure that’s a moment you’ll always remember and cherish.
EmilyApril 11, 2021 at 6:56 pm
Growing up we had a second living room upstairs that we called the “nature room”. There was a large window over looking the pond and the back of my parents property. The bottom half of the walls were a dark forest green color with a wallpaper boarder that looked like the forest floor. The walls covered with taxidermy deer, ducks, and turkey tails. Next to the sofas were end tables with glass tops showcasing items found during our childhood like abandoned bird nests, dead butterflies, bird skeletons from out fire place, and many more random things. I always thought it was normal until I started having friends over in elementary school and they were afraid of the deer on the walls! Haha I’ve never really thought of adding taxidermy to my home though, interesting topic!
SarahApril 12, 2021 at 7:13 pm
The nature room… I love that story, Emily! Thank you for sharing. It sounds like a really interesting space! :)
DebbieApril 11, 2021 at 9:45 pm
I LOVE taxidermy wasn’t one of your options in the survey. 😂 You know I more than like it (no trophy hunting though, so no hating on me people) I also love bones, sheds, all the found things too. Our new obsession is shark teeth. I always kind of forget about the bug thing which I like but not at the top of the list. (Are we allowed to tell people about your butterfly phobia?) It’s not for all or even most of my clients, but if one of them asked, I’d be happy to oblige.
SarahApril 12, 2021 at 7:11 pm
Haha!! Oh, I KNOW how you feel about taxidermy, and I think you’re a big reason I decided to embrace it after coming out of design school, so thank you for that! I’ll never forget the deer hooves piece and searching the markets for cool things. I’ve got to go check out some shark teeth and see what this obsession is all about. Do you frame them? Put them in a bowl on a coffee table? I need some images. The butterfly phobia is a real thing! Lol! I can’t wait to see your cabin someday. xox
DebbieApril 13, 2021 at 9:02 am
So far we are collecting them in a vintage silver Revere bowl (another design obsession- old silverplate) Most of them are tiny so it might take a while to get that bowl photo worthy, but we’re working on it.
SarahApril 13, 2021 at 10:35 pm
Ooh, I love that idea! What a fun curiosity to collect- that’s going to be incredible once you fill it up. Can’t wait to see!
EmilyJanuary 31, 2022 at 7:15 am
I really appreciate this post. My partner is a big hunter and wants to incorporate his taxidermy into our home. I initially said absolutely no. But I feel like, it is his space too, so until we get that bigger house with the “man cave space” or office, I can get creative and figure out how to make it work for both of us. The main issue I run into is we have an organic modern design style, which I find hard to mix with deer taxidermy. This is really going to stretch both of us to get creative and make the style and the taxidermy items work for us!
SarahFebruary 1, 2022 at 2:04 pm
Thanks, Emily! I love hearing that. Home ownership and compromise is something I definitely had to get used to as well. It definitely helps having more space, so Emmett can do what he wishes with the garage or his office, etc. I feel like over the years our style just kind of eventually melded together, but we weren’t always totally aligned. I never would have guessed that I’d have an electric recliner in my house, haha! But hey- compromise. Maybe you can find a way to insert one piece of your partner’s taxidermy somewhere. It definitely takes some creative thinking. I have no doubt you’ll make it work and everyone will be happy :) Thanks for chiming in!