Canine Chic

By Karen Parr-Moody

 

If there’s one item that adds instant personality to one’s décor, it is a canine. Perhaps it’s their association with royalty (King Charles II loved toy spaniels so much that a breed was named after him. And who could forget Queen Victoria’s menagerie of pups?). Or perhaps it’s that hint of quirkiness a dog imparts to one’s décor, even if the rest of the interior’s design is clean and neutral. Or perhaps it’s simply that dogs are so darn cute.

 

Dog-themed items can always be found at GasLamp, from the tiniest of tokens to the grandest of pieces. Take this tiny wire fox terrier, for example (photo, right; $38 at GasLamp Too Booth T-140). This diminutive little fellow reminds me of that famous terrier, Caesar, the beloved companion of King Edward VII (upon the king’s death, Caesar walked in the funeral procession).

 

This wire fox terrier would look darling next to some tiny pups on an occasional table. Even better, he would look snazzy as part of a collection of tiny pooches, grouped by breeds and placed on several shelves.

 

The ceramic Staffordshire spaniel, seen as a pair in the photo, left, emerged from the pottery kilns of Staffordshire County, England, in the mid-1800s ($398 for the pair at GasLamp Too Booth T-140). While the potters of Staffordshire produced enough dog breeds to fill the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, the King Charles spaniel was the most sought-after. This was likely due to the popularity of the Queen Victoria’s well-known and beloved pet spaniel, Dash.

 

Staffordshire dogs were produced in Staffordshire County until the early 1900s and remain highly collectible today. Anyone who has owns pair will have something in common with interior designers from Dorothy Draper, of Hollywood Regency fame, to today’s hot Australian designer, Anna Spiro.  

 

One design theory that was built to last is that of putting together a collection of similar objects to create a stylized vignette. This gorgeous iron door stopper of a Boston terrier, photo right, would be a charming way to prop open a door ($285; GasLamp Too Booth T-140). But why not get creative? Find a couple more metal dog doorstops and put all three on a living room mantel. This will bring a touch of humor to an otherwise classic room.

 

One reason decorating with dogs is easy is because these items exist in such a wonderful array. Take, for example, this cast iron card holder festooned with Scottish terriers (photo, below left; $248 at GasLamp Too Booth T-140). Before texting or Tweeting became all the rage, business owners kept their desks lavishly decorated with ink wells, fountain pens and a card holder. Fortunately for the well-appointed desk, the card holder still lingers on. These terriers would remind any worker bee that playful days are right around the corner.  

 

The Chinese have loved the little creatures called foo dogs for two thousand years — and decorators simply swoon for them (photo, below right, pair of foo dogs; $168 at GasLamp Too Booth T-140). But with its bugged eyes, fangs, and roaring mouth, the foo dog is not a dog, but actually a protectoral lion figure that dates back to the Han Dynasty of China (206 B.C. to 220 A.D.). Known as "Imperial Guardian Lion," "Stone Lion," or "Lion of Buddha,” the Chinese word for this figure is “Shishi.” Since such lions resemble certain Chinese dog breeds, such as the Chow Chow (called "puffy-lion dog") or the Shih Tzu ("lion dog"), some experts believe they were misidentified long ago by other cultures.

 

The beloved dog has ancient bloodlines, but its image happens to be a thoroughly modern object of décor. Today, by simply adding a few dogs to one’s home, the atmosphere is readied for a barking good time. 

 

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