Design Dilemma: Cowhide — Or Not? | Home Design Find

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Design Dilemma: Cowhide — Or Not?

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If you haven’t noticed the cowhide trend you must have been hiding under a haystack. Cowhide, and animal skins in general, are everywhere, draped over concrete floors in industrial lofts, over sisal carpets in modern condos, layered over oriental rugs in elegant Victorians. You have to wonder whether, in a few years, cowhide will be regarded with the general disdain of those beige laminate cabinets with the wooden strip that made their way into every apartment, house, and condo during the 80s.

Is cowhide just another flash-in-the-pan decorating trend? Maybe so. But there’s a reason why we think cowhides may never really go away, although they may experience peaks and valleys in popularity over the years.

And to what do we attribute cowhide staying power? Because they help solve several design dilemmas.

1) Having no precise shape, they can help define a seating area in an awkwardly-shaped room. For example, a cowhide rug in a long narrow room is a clever way of defining a seating area without calling more attention to the room’s long and narrow dimensions the way a rectangular rug would. Similarly, a cowhide in an extra-large loft space can manage to define an area without getting lost or looking strange, the way a square, round or rectangular rug might. The best thing about a cowhide is that it can be casually tossed on the floor at a diagonal to help emphasize whatever area needs it.

2) Cowhide rugs bring a note of the organic into a home. This can be especially needed in intensely-modern chrome and glass settings. On the other hand, in more traditional settings like those above, cowhide can offer a surprise. Either way, the texture of a cowhide can bring fresh interest to staid surroundings.

3) Cowhide rugs function as a neutral. Black and white,  brown and white, tan, or just plain white, cowhides work well with many different color schemes.

4) Cowhides are durable. More than many other rugs, cowhides can hide dirt and pet hair.

But even with these advantages, cowhide can still look like a bit of a cliche, especially when it’s used in a predictable setting paired with the usual Barcelona chair. The secret: use cowhide in less expected ways.

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In the two pictures above, cowhide is used in traditional rooms, and one’s a bathroom! The cowhide paired with the feminine stripes and wallpaper adds a hip edge in a room that would otherwise be characterized as “sweet.”

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Use an all-white cowhide. The plus is that you get the undefined shape of cowhide, without the rug shrieking “moo.” White also provides a more elegant feel versus the trendier feel of a black and white rug. Cowhide rugs, incidentally, can be found stenciled in many different patterns (zebra is common) and colors.

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Explore the virtues of a patchwork cowhide rug, above, which can give you the organic feel and texture of a traditional cowhide rug, but in a less conventional way.

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And what if you don’t like the idea of an animal hide splayed over your living room floor but you like the idea of the exotic?  Alternatives exist. Flor makes floor tiles with a cowhide pattern that can give you the funky feel of cowhide without the actual cow. Some flokati rugs come in irregular shapes (kidney-shaped for instance) and can add the organic texture that cowhide offers. And if you’re determined to get a cowhide rug, you can find them at all price points everywhere, from Design Within Reach where they cost $880 each, to Ikea, where they cost $249. And you can find them for less than $200 from online vendors, such as

Images: LivingEtc, Domino, Decorpad, New York Social Diary, Flor.

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2 Comments so far to “Design Dilemma: Cowhide — Or Not?”
  1. Mfundi Vundla Says:

    cow hide has always served as floor cover in African hoseholds from time immemorial to the present. In addition it functions as clothing, Among the Swazi people of southern Africa the dead are covered in cowhide and then buried. Sometimes the cowhide of a cow covers the buried casket.

    A friend of mine makes sculptures from cowhide. So you see cow hide is indeed whether its the in thing or the out thing, it always has been with us. Those of us not consumed by concrete.

  2. Martina DeWaard Says:

    One large factor in regards to price is where the hide was processed. Brazilian hides are generally recognized as being the highest quality – no chemical smell leftover from the tanning process, less likely for the edges to curl. I've had a <a href=">Brazilian cowhide rug</a> in my bedroom for 5 years now and I can vouch for the quality, just as soft and supple as the day I got it.

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