Bringing home a trophy is no longer about the thrill of the hunt. Antlers-on deer, on moose, or on their own-were the motif this year, to the point where the Milan and New York furniture fairs began to look like modernist versions of Ted Nugent's living room. Designers just can't stop playing with the iconic form, casting it in every material imaginable in an attempt to imbue ornamentation with irony. To the annoyance of design snobs and the delight of post-grad bachelors everywhere, the synthetic-trophy trend has even reared its disembodied head at mainstream emporiums like Urban Outfitters.
It would be easy, but not really fair, to lay the blame on Jason Miller, whose porcelain antler chandelier was a massive hit from the moment it debuted at Brooklyn design outpost The Future Perfect in 2003. But Miller was part of a larger movement that David Alhadeff, the store's owner, believes started percolating around the turn of this century. "The -90s were all about tech and the explosion of the internet,"explains Alhadeff, who personally owns Miller's chandelier, not to mention Alexander Taylor's antler-shaped steel-wire coatrack. "Then we hit the millennium. In fashion, techno fabrics started going out, and there was a return to cotton and, of all things, knitting. The design version was to get more homey and back to nature, so we saw birds, bunnies, and deer."
Augustin Scott de Martinville of the Lausanne-based design studio Big-Game, on the other hand, relates the antler boom to the decoration revival and the tongue-in-cheek reclamation of decadence. "Antlers used to be considered uncool; they're linked with hunting and rednecks, or dusty bourgeois stuff," said the designer, whose plywood Moose, Stag, and Doe heads were introduced last year in Milan. "But now the redneck universe is considered cool, like camouflage patterns and Johnny Knoxville. As is the trend for neo-Baroque. So it's not surprising that antlers, originally objects of status, are also in fashion."
There is now an antler for every taste, from the kitschy blow-up Moose offered by DecorCraft-which appeared refreshingly ahead of the trend in 2001-to the hand-carved solid wood version by Roost, Maybe Design's mirror in the shape of a bull, and Science and Sons clear plastic kit of parts (which, when put together, is frankly a bit spooky). Often the designer interpretations are even more beautiful than the real thing, such as Trophee by the Beirut-based Cai Light, a life-size illuminated epoxy resin deer head.
The simplest reason for the proliferation of the new, politically correct taxidermy-no animals killed or maimed, no hunting involved-is that it's still selling like crazy. Miller, who is best known outside Brooklyn for his antler wares, estimates he makes 35 chandeliers a month, leading one to wonder whether he might be tired of the very trend he helped propagate. "No way, man," he exclaims. "It pays the bills!"
Rima Suqi is a Manhattan-based freelance writer and Best Bets editor at New York magazine. There are no antlers-real or otherwise-in her apartment.