Animal instincts

Animal instincts

Features - Hard Goods

People of all ages are wild about décor depicting birds, woodland creatures and more.

July 16, 2014

Browse any home décor retailer in the store or online, and you’ll likely see birds. Whether they are represented as black silhouettes printed on textiles, sculpted into marble figurines or depicted in colorful paintings, avian themes are sprinkled throughout many collections.

Bird really is the word. Or as Margo Tantau, vice president of design and creative for Midwest-CBK likes to say, just “Put a bird on it.”

“As a product development person, you know you can always sell a line if you [incorporate] birds,” says Tantau. One feathered creature that has dominated the home and garden market in the past few years has been the owl. The explosion of that trend followed the same pattern that many fads do, she says, starting on Etsy and trickling out to the mass market, and staring “somwhere in the middle with millennials,” often people who are decorating for the first time.

Owls have ruled the home décor kingdom for a while, and there are a few other animal trends hitting the market that independent garden centers should watch for in 2014.

Woodland animals

Owls led the way in this group, but other animals you may find in wooded areas like squirrels, foxes and deer are catching on, too. Kate Simmons, editor at Decoist, says woodland animals and themes have dominated the independent craft movement.

“We’ve seen a lot of artists embrace more whimsical representations of animals, and the woodland creatures have been front and center of that movement,” Simmons says. “Anything you’d find the woods —owls, foxes, wolves —they went through a really big revival. Woodland creatures have been steady stalwarts in animal décor.”

Tantau has noticed this as well in recent years on both Etsy and Pinterest.

“There were a couple of people who had fox boards on Pinterest, and we would talk about it, and now foxes are showing up," she says. “I think people are drawing cuter, cartoony, animals.”

Part of that trend is due to the DIY movement. Tantau found artist Casey Stippick on Etsy, and Stippick has since created designs for Midwest-CBK’s Weekend Retreat Collection, which is filled with feather icons, fox faces and birds in flight. Now her paintings and drawings are on pillows, lampshades and more.

“It's not kitschy, but it still spoke to that woodland trend in a way that I felt was right on,” Tantau says.

But owls are still prominent because they are still popular. And like any new trend, you have to mesh the new fad with the familiar to ease customers into it, or as Tantau says, “move people along with you.”

Exotic influences

On the opposite end of the animal décor spectrum is the popularity of exotic creatures like lions, elephants, rhinos and tropical birds. Flamingos, parrots and other tropical birds that reside in warm places are making their way back into fashion, home furnishings and garden décor. Even the pink plastic yard ornaments popular in the ’80s are cropping back up, Simmons says.

“Birds are one of the top leaders because they are evergreen animals with endless possibilities of updates,” Simmons says.

“In some ways it’s a kitschy retro, in other ways it’s elegant ... almost what you’ve seen in the ‘Golden Girls’ living room.”

Safari animals and patterns have also held steady in popularity. The animals have also been a favorite for new parents decorating nurseries, Simmons says.

Common creatures

One animal that will never go out of style, a pet that people will continue to adorn their homes and gardens with are dogs. Another favorite, espeically among gardeners, are frogs.

“You can’t have a garden line without a frog,” she says. “Those can tuck under a plant outside or by your front door. Who doesn’t love a frog?”

Often, Tantau says she goes with her gut to determine what people will like and incorporate what’s trending in several pieces.

“Garden gift is something we always pay attention to,” she says. “If it makes you smile and it feels like it could have a good place in a garden or the home, then somebody else is going to want that, too.”