At Decorator Show House, An Unpleasant Surprise for Dog Lovers

 |  Apr 29th 2011  |   14 Contributions


Wednesday night saw the opening of the Kips Bay Decorator Show House, on view through May 26. Now in its39th year, this is arguablythemost prestigiousof American designer show houses, spotlighting the work of the country's most exciting talents in interior and landscape design.

This show houserichly deserves its reputation, for it's a charity fundraiser that raises money and awareness for the excellent work of the Kips Bay Boys & Girls Club, whose mission is to improve and enhance the quality of life for all young people, with special emphasis onkids in needbetween ages 6-18.

If design is your eye candy, the show doesn't disappoint: Room after room in this four-story, 10,000-square-foot mansionreveals splendid artistry and ingenious lifestyle solutions. My twin passions are dogs and design, soI enoyed thehouse immensely. Making your way up the stairs, investigating every decorated inch ofthis meticulously decoratedhouse- no surface is left un-designed, not even the hallways - is a delightful experience.

Then youreach the room at the top, and you see something like this ->

It's awolf skin rug, complete with taxidermied head. The poor creature's jaws are permanently forced open to revealgleaming, whiteteeth. The pelt is backed with black felt - so fashionable! Not.

The room this abomination is displayed in was "designed" - if you can call it that - by someone whose name I won't mention, because I don'twish to give himthe publicity he seeks.

Seeing this made me feel like I waswitnessing one of my relativesturned into a decorative floor covering. Or Taylor in "Planet of the Apes," when he sees one of his fellow astronauts stuffed and mounted in a natural history diorama. It doesn't help that the specimen looks an awful lot like my beloved dog Tiki.

This experience ruined my day. I was riding high on my appreciationfor the ingenuity of contemporarydesigners. Butseeing this "rug"was a serious downer. "I'm sorry they did this to you," I said to the wolf. Then I walked back down the stairs and left the house, thoroughly deflated.

All dogs - from the tiniest Chihuahua to the most giganticGreat Dane - share a common ancestor: Canis lupus, the wolf. How can we value dogs and have so little concern for the noble creature that spawned all canines?

For a person into taxidermy, a black wolfpelt is a prize. But if you love dogs, here's some depressing news: Genetic research from the Stanford University School of Medicine and UCLA revealed that wolves with black pelts owe their distinctive coloration to a mutation which occurred through wolf-dog hybridisation. Which means this "wolf rug" is half dog. Just like Balto.

As I point out in my book "Animal House Style," many of the world's greatest designers are dog lovers. These talented spirits wouldn't dream of displaying a wolf skin rug in their homes or anyone else's.

Design can and does do so much good. Kips Bay is a brilliant example of the good design can do, raising money and awareness for at-risk children.Two other design organizations that promote veryworthy causesare DIFFA, the Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS, and Housing Works, whose "Design on a Dime" show house opens May 5. (I sincerely hope I won't see a wolfskin rug there.)

Designers' mission is to show us life at its most beautiful. Theyteachus by example howto live our best lives. Cruelty to dogs - whetherour domesticatedpets or wolves out in the wild - is not beautiful; it has no place in a decorator show house. And anyone who flaunts such cruelty is not a real designer.

Dogsters, are you with me? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

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